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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Daniel Vestal Responds to Death of Jerry Falwell

Daniel Vestal, National Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has issued a statement following the death of Jerry Falwell.

You can read that here.

Vestal writes...

The death of Jerry Fallwell means the "homegoing" of a brother in Christ and a Christian leader. It also marks the end of an era where Christian faith, and the evangelical tradition in particular, will be controlled and domesticated by one political party. It is no accident that the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, the emergence of the Moral Majority and the election of Ronald Reagan all occurred at the same time. Jerry Falwell was a significant player in this convergence, and for the past 27 years has been an influential presence on the American religious and political scene.

At times Falwell spoke and acted like a biblical prophet challenging the presumptions and presuppositions of secularists, relativists and hedonists. This led to his active engagement in the political process where his power reached all the way to the White House. I personally appreciate and respect his prophetic and political influence. Where I have had serious problems with Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority is the partisan nature and use of their influence. They so identified evangelical Christian faith and party politics that they have become inseparable in the minds of many. As I see it, a kind of degeneration took place where prophetic witness evolved into harsh partisan rhetoric and raw partisan power.

We are living in tumultuous and tense times. Perhaps it has always been so, but I feel keenly the stress and strain of the world that is ever present and ever pressing upon us. In reaction to these times there has been this rising tide of fear and fundamentalism that offers partisan politics as the solution to long standing and complex problems....

Bruce Gourley of Mercer University's Center for Baptist Studies also responded to Falwell's death in the latest edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin.

For more read:

Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority Leader, Dies at 73 (New York Times)
For New Generation of Evangelicals, Falwell Was Old News (Washington Post)
Falwell, Symbol of Religious Right's Influence and Excesses, Dead at 73 (ABP)
SBC Leaders Voice Appreciation for Falwell (Baptist Press)
Falwell Leaves Mark on American Religion, Politics (Ethics Daily)
The Next Jerry Falwell (Ethics Daily)

And a few noteworthy quotes:

"Anywhere you stick a pin in Jerry Falwell, he would bleed Jesus Christ."

- Dr. James Merritt, former SBC President

"It is ironic and a bit sad that the man who stayed on the sidelines during the civil rights movement – saying pastors needed to preach Jesus, not politics – became the leading person marketing Jesus for political ends in the '70s, '80s and '90s, and that he will be remembered not as a great spiritual leader but a powerful political one."

David Kuo, former Bush official in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

"He established the Moral Majority as one of the most significance vehicles of the New Political Religious Right during the latter decades of the 20th century. From sheer force of will he moved into the American political sphere accumulating great influence and exercising significant voice in matters religious and political."

Bill Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School

"Over the years we became friends; sometimes we had polar opposite points of view. ... I have many fond memories of him. He leaves a great legacy of service and a great university behind. He's left his footprints in the sands of time."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"He was very pastoral and he had a great sense of humor. He never lost his cool in the midst of a debate. He often won debates simply because he maintained his calm."

-- David Key, director of Baptist studies at Emory University's Candler School of Religion


Blogger texasinafrica said...

Daniel Vestal is nothing if not tactful. Thanks for the collection of quotes.

Oh, and I met your mom at Calvary the other morning. It's such a small moderate Baptist world!

4:02 PM


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