Two of the stained-glass windows removed in April from the chapel of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have a new home in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the Jerry Falwell Museum at Liberty University.
University President Jerry Falwell Jr. unveiled windows depicting his late father and former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines at the school’s baccalaureate service on Friday.
Introducing Vines, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, as the baccalaureate speaker, President Falwell criticized removal of a series of windows designed to honor heroes of the SBC “conservative resurgence” from MacGorman Chapel at the seminary located in Fort Worth, Texas.
Falwell said Vines, a longtime Liberty University trustee, “was instrumental – along with several others like Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Bailey Smith – in reforming the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1980s to make it more accurately reflect the conservative values of the members of most Southern Baptist churches.”
“Unfortunately, a new generation has taken the convention away from those values in many ways,” Falwell said.
Falwell said Liberty University paid for the window honoring the senior Falwell – the university’s founder – a few years ago at the request of Dorothy Patterson, at the time First Lady at Southwestern Seminary.
Patterson, whose tenure ended abruptly last year with the firing of her husband, Paige Patterson, as seminary president, said at the time she intended for the windows designed by Don Young Glass Studio to document the 20-year history of the movement spearheaded by her husband and Houston layman Paul Pressler to steer the denomination sharply to the right.
Falwell said members of First Baptist Jacksonville donated funds to include a window honoring Vines, who served as SBC president in 1988 and 1989 during a succession of leaders committed to using the office’s appointive powers to advance goals of the conservative resurgence.
“Well, now both of those windows have been removed by the new regime,” Falwell said. “I guess Southern Baptists have their own deep state.”
Falwell said he sent a plane to Fort Worth to retrieve the windows and is asking the seminary to return the donations that bought them.
“They’re going to be displayed in the museum here on campus and will continue to honor the conservative leaders who reformed the Southern Baptist Convention,” Falwell told the graduating class. “We place our hope in your generation to be the ones to step up and provide better leadership for the future.”
Jerry Falwell Sr. was not a Southern Baptist when the conservative resurgence kicked off in 1979, but he and a number of other independent fundamentalist Baptist leaders shared many values with the new SBC leaders.
In 1996 Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church gave $1,000 to the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia – a breakaway group from the Baptist General Association of Virginia recognized by the SBC. Two years later Falwell and seven members of Thomas Road Baptist Church registered as messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
When Falwell died in 2007 at age 73, Vines preached at his funeral.
Jerry Falwell Jr. – an evangelical defender of President Donald Trump – tweeted on Monday that since Friday he has been told the new president of Southwestern Seminary, Adam Greenway, is not part of the “SBC deep state regime trying to subvert the will of the church members.”
“Deep state” is a term used in political messaging to describe collusion and cronyism in the political system. Early in his term, Trump supporters began using it to describe government workers leaking information in an attempt to sabotage his administration.
Falwell identified his SBC deep state equivalent with Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who in the past criticized evangelical leaders for supporting Trump.
Southwestern Seminary officials did not say why the windows, in place just a few years, were removed.