Purpose and Philosophy of Convocation
Statement on Purpose and Philosophy of Convocation
Convocation is one of the most distinctive features of Liberty University, and it has been an integral part of the student experience since our founding in 1971. From the beginning, the purpose of Convocation has been to support and advance the University’s mission of Training Champions for Christ, and that remains true today. To further that mission, Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on the recommendation of its Spiritual Mission Committee, issues this statement to clarify the purpose and aim by which guests are invited to Convocation.
The key question in determining why a speaker is invited to Convocation is, “What purpose will this speaker’s message serve in Training Champions for Christ?” This criterion is intentionally broad in scope. Many Convocation speakers are Christian pastors or teachers who come to open Scripture and teach. Others are Christian men and women from a wide variety of fields, from business to politics to sports to entertainment, who share their own insight about living for Christ in their respective fields or simply provide social commentary on important, relevant issues in the world today. Some speakers share an inspirational personal testimony or story, while other Convocations are worship–centric where the entire program is an opportunity to pause and worship God. Finally, some speakers do not share our Christian faith but are nevertheless invited because either their perspective or their common alignment with the University on an issue is considered relevant and important for our students to hear. In all such cases, the aim is for students to strengthen their faith through engagement with a wide variety of perspectives and people, including those who might think differently on any number of issues or beliefs.
It is important to note that such a diversity of dialogue is not founded on an egalitarian perspective that presumes truth is relative. Truth is not relative. Rather, at Liberty, we know that Christ is Truth (John 14:6) and that eternal life is found in the knowledge of God that is accessible only through Christ (John 17:3). It is precisely because we hold so firmly to that conviction that we have the capacity to recognize and account for the perspectives of other people, including those who share our Christian faith but differ on certain matters, as well as those who do not share our faith. Since it is true that Christ is Truth, then the presence of another perspective can be treated not with contempt and fear but with the kind of humility and charity that Scripture compels believers to display toward others (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-14).
This is why in Convocation, regardless of who is speaking, the program begins with worship and prayer because it is from our posture as followers of Christ that we can then listen and engage with anyone. To know the truth is to be set free from the fear that truth is subject to a majority opinion or compulsion by a minority opinion. Truth is truth, even if no one recognizes it (John 1:10, Romans 3:4).
We believe this is the foundation on which a correct understanding of the concepts of freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas rests, not because all viewpoints are considered equally valid, but precisely because they are not. As a result, the aim of Convocation is not a gathering where all perspectives are given equal weight because truth is understood to be subjective, but rather an environment where precisely because the truth is understood as objective, it can be pursued without fear or compromise.
Of all places, a University campus should be the kind of place where such pursuit is encouraged. In the face of many University campuses feeling pressure to shield or protect students from the pursuit of truth, Liberty chooses instead to protect the very environment where students can engage with different perspectives in the context of respectful dialogue.
At the same time, this does not mean that in an environment like Convocation, the University believes all speech or all perspectives are edifying or serve our mission. We weigh carefully the expected content of each speaker’s message. That is why there is an expectation on all guests invited to Convocation that they will carefully consider the content of their message and respect the University’s mission and its student body. No one, regardless of the setting, should speak flippantly or loosely. If any guest engages in disrespectful or uncharitable dialogue on the Convocation stage, the University will consider any future engagement in light of such behavior. In the same manner, if prior to speaking in Convocation, an invited guest acts in a manner deemed inappropriate by University leadership or makes public statements that call into question their commitment to respect the University’s mission, their invitation for the upcoming engagement will be reconsidered.
Finally, while this vision of a diversity of perspectives in Convocation sometimes includes those who do not share our faith, it should be equally noted that it especially includes those within the Christian faith. While the University’s doctrinal statement represents its own doctrinal commitment, Liberty recognizes that the student body comes from a wide array of backgrounds, denominations and Christian traditions. As such, we regularly welcome speakers to Convocation who reflect those many traditions while at the same time holding to the standards of orthodoxy that are broadly recognized in the ancient creeds of the church, such as the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed. In all such cases, the presence of a speaker at Convocation does not represent an endorsement by the University of that speaker’s entire catalog of perspectives and opinions, including those on issues of doctrine. Nor does the presence of a certain speaker indicate any shift in the University’s own commitment to its doctrinal position. The criterion for a speaker’s selection is based on the content of what is expected to be shared with our students, and whether that content contributes to our mission of Training Champions for Christ.
*This statement on the purpose and philosophy of Convocation was reviewed and approved by the Liberty University Board of Trustees on October 28, 2022.