CNN reports that Jerry Falwell Jr. has taken an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University, at the request of the university board’s executive committee.
Everything I have read to date suggests that this is an overdue move, and not just because of questions about Falwell’s private conduct and repeated posting of inappropriate photographs.There have been quite a few problems reported at Liberty in recent years which mostly seem to be to be due to Falwell’s personal ambitions for the school.
It seems to me, however, that for a board to take an action like this (effectively suspending Falwell) after having looked on for years without taking action as these problems developed, is a bit of a scapegoating operation: genuine care and concern for the university on the part of the board should have prompted interventions long before all of this became a public embarrassment.
There is in our evangelical sub-culture an unfortunate tendency to not just respect leaders’ authority but to fawn over them and give them free reign beyond what is wise, and not taking necessary action until there is some public embarrassment. Falwell is only the latest in a whole string of leaders who had to be removed from their positions for a variety of shortcomings ranging from creating or tolerating a toxic work environment to various types of abuse and behaviour unbecoming to financial malfeasance, and I am afraid he won’t be the last until we take the concept of servant leadership more seriously.
Thus this is not meant to be finger pointing at Falwell or any of the other fallen leaders of the last couple of years but rather a call to all of us to hold leaders accountable BEFORE they commit the unforgivable blunder.