A decade ago, Jerry Falwell was the most visible preacher in America. He led the Moral Majority, which had thrust religious conservatives into politics; he headed what he called “the world’s most exciting university”; his Old Time Gospel Hour aired on 200 television stations; and he was about to become chair of PTL, the nation’s largest cable satellite network.
Yet, in five short years, Falwell all but disappeared from the national stage. The Moral Majority folded, Liberty University was $110 million in debt, his television show temporarily left the air, and PTL had gone bankrupt.
Today, however, at 63, Falwell is staging a national comeback. In September, he embarked on a 52-week patriotic God Save America national tour. In addition, his independent Thomas Road Baptist Church has started giving monthly contributions to Virginia’s new breakaway conservative state association of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant body. And Falwell: An Autobiography (Liberty House) hit the bookstores this month in time for Christmas shoppers.
This year marked important milestones in Falwell’s ministry. It is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 14,000-student Liberty University and the fortieth anniversary of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church. And 40 years ago this month, Falwell took to the airwaves with the Old Time Gospel Hour.
In a lengthy interview with Christianity Today, Falwell reflected on his ministerial achievements. While financial burdens at Liberty have kept him out of the limelight for most of the 1990s, Falwell aspires to return as a leading evangelical player. (An edited transcript of the interview is accessible at http://www.christianity.net/ct/extra. ...1
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