Speaking at the first Wednesday night Bible study of Liberty University’s fall semester, David Nasser addressed the controversy surrounding the school’s former president, Jerry Falwell Jr. Nasser apologized to the students for the embarrassment Falwell’s actions have brought to the school, the faculty, and the students. He also said what Falwell needs now is neither extravagant grace nor rigid judgement, but rather the balance of grace and truth that Jesus exemplifies.
“This moment we are in is a mess,” David Nasser admitted during his message to the students. “We opened the semester with a series of revelations about Jerry Falwell that can only be described as shameful,” he said, alluding to the sexual misconduct allegations aimed at both Falwell and his wife, Becki, to which the couple has partially admitted. Later in Nasser’s message, he said “It’s ok to call sin sin.”
David Nasser is the Senior Vice President of Spiritual Development at Liberty. Preaching at Campus Community, a Wednesday night Bible study for Liberty students, Nasser said “neither side” would be content with his comments about Falwell.
He also addressed those viewing who may not be affiliated with Liberty but who tuned in out of curiosity or perhaps for journalistic reasons—people, Nasser explained, who may not share the school’s Christian faith. While he said those people were welcome to watch the message, he also made it clear that the message was intended for Christians, and specifically, the students at Liberty.
Speaking specifically to those enrolled in the school, Nasser personally apologized to them. “I am sorry. In my opinion, you as a Liberty student, deserve better. The embarrassment that has been brought upon you as a Liberty student, and more importantly brought upon the name of Christ, is wrong. I know that many of you are hurting and that breaks my heart.”
You Should Be Concerned, David Nasser Tells Students
Additionally, Nasser brought attention to the gravity of the situation with Falwell and how it reflects poorly on the school Jerry Falwell Sr. founded. “If you’re not concerned, you should be concerned….You and your family have worked hard to pay for a Christian education, and this isn’t what you signed up for.” Nasser went on to say, “As our founder often said, ‘If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.’ Certainly better than this.”
In addition to addressing the most recent scandal surrounding the Falwells (albeit without mentioning any details), Nasser also mentioned another issue that came up earlier this year, one that caused several African American staff members and students to leave the school.
Nasser said the department he works in, the Office of Spiritual Development, has lost “several African American staff members who I love and think so highly of.” One of those colleagues specifically mentioned to Nasser the image Falwell posted on Twitter showing a mask with a picture of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface. Falwell’s tweet was intended to be a jab at the governor, but it ended up offending many for its racist overtones and lack of tact on Falwell’s part. It was that tweet that convinced Nasser’s colleague he could no longer work at Liberty. “I believe he was being obedient to what God was calling him to do personally,” Nasser said of his former colleague. He emphasized that he didn’t fault anyone for deciding to leave, rather wanted to bless them.
The crux of Nasser’s message pertained to the “grace and truth” approach to people that we should take, per Jesus’ teaching. Meaning that while some will want to extend grace to Falwell and potentially gloss over the things he’s done, others might be tempted to condemn him for the lack of morality he’s displayed over the years. What Jesus teaches us, though, is a balanced approach to grace and truth which would embrace Falwell as a fellow fallen human being while also holding him accountable for his actions. Nasser didn’t apply this principle to any specifics in the case with Falwell. For instance, he might have brought up the question of whether or not Falwell had in fact been held to account. Was his resignation sufficient?
Falwell’s $10.5 Million Severance Package
On Tuesday, August 25th, the Board of Trustees for Liberty University announced they had accepted Falwell’s resignation and didn’t see any need to push back on the terms he submitted via his lawyer. Speaking to the Washington Post, Falwell disclosed that his severance package entitles him to $10.5 million, which will be distributed as follows: $2.5 million over the next 24 months and then $8 million in retirement after that. This according to a contract Falwell signed in July 2019 with the school. “The board was gracious not to challenge that,” Falwell said, noting that “there wasn’t any cause” since he didn’t “do anything.”
Following Falwell’s resignation, another set of allegations involving a former Liberty student have surfaced involving Becki Falwell. The couple continues to deny both the details of the allegations leveled against them by their business partner, Giancarlo Granda, and now this former Liberty student.
In a statement, the couple responded to the allegations:
“It is unfortunate that the coverage of our departure has turned into a frenzy of false and fantastic claims about us. These false and mean spirited lies have hurt us and our family greatly and we will respond fully with the truth at an appropriate time. At this time, however, we think it is best to move on and help the Liberty community focus on its very bright future…”