The board of Liberty University has accepted the resignation of its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., after a roller coaster day in which Falwell resigned, then withdrew his resignation, then resigned again late Monday night (Aug. 24).
The board announced it had accepted Falwell’s resignation from his roles as president and chancellor of the university and from its board of directors after meeting Tuesday morning (Aug. 25).
“I am so encouraged by the unity of Christ that I saw exemplified by our Board today,” acting board Chairman Allen McFarland said in a written statement.
“Liberty University’s future is very bright and in capable hands of leaders who are committed to being good stewards of what the Lord has entrusted!”
The university and board did not adjust the severance compensation in Falwell’s preexisting employment agreement, according to the statement from the school. Liberty’s latest tax filings show Falwell made just over $1 million in 2018.
Jerry Prevo remains acting president of Liberty.
Day of revelations
Controversy escalated Monday (Aug. 24) around Falwell, as multiple news outlets reported he had agreed to resign his position as president of Liberty University — and Falwell then denied the reports, calling them “completely false.”
Reports of Falwell’s resignation came from outlets, including the Washington Post and Religion News Service, amid allegations that he condoned an affair between his wife and a man described by Falwell as a family friend. The man, who was also a business partner, told Reuters that he had a sexual relationship with Becki Falwell from 2012-2018, and alleged that Jerry watched their encounters.
But in an interview with Virginia Business, Falwell called the allegations “90% false,” and said he had not agreed to resign.
Falwell then told the “Wall Street Journal” Monday night (Aug. 24) that he had decided to resign from his position because he wants “what’s best for the university, and I don’t want to harm the future of the university.”
“The board put me on leave, took away my duties as prez, and that’s not permitted by my contract,” Falwell told the newspaper. “And they put me on leave because of pressure from self-righteous people.”
In the meantime, the Liberty University executive committee announced it would meet today (Aug. 25) for a conference call, the school said.
“I call upon the University community and supporters to be in prayer for the University and for all its leadership, past, present and future, as we walk with the Lord through this stormy time of transition,” acting President Jerry Prevo said in a statement.
Scott Lamb, Liberty’s senior vice president of university communications, told Baptist Press: “Board (of trustees) leadership have been in discussion with Jerry Falwell and expect to be able to make a statement on Tuesday.”
Trail of accusations
Falwell, son of Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr., had been on indefinite leave since Aug. 7 after criticism for posting a photo to social media that showed him on a donor’s yacht with his pants unzipped and his arm around a female Liberty employee. He told a local radio station the photo was taking during a costume party while he was on vacation.
Sunday evening, Falwell released a statement to the Washington Examiner claiming Becki had an “inappropriate personal relationship” in the past with a family friend who had threatened to go public. Falwell said he and his wife had faced “increasingly threatening behavior” including extortion.
In the statement, Falwell also denied being involved in the sexual relationship. He described the situation, even after the relationship had ended, as “like living on a roller coaster” and a “‘fatal attraction’ type situation.”
“Over the course of the last few months,” Falwell said in the statement, “this person’s behavior has reached a level that we have decided the only way to stop this predatory behavior is to go public.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Reuters report was published. Hours after that, several news outlets reported Falwell had agreed to resign — and shortly afterward, he denied it to Virginia Business. (TAB, BP, RNS)