Falwell praised for his activism
Falwell later disbanded the organization, saying its work was done, but he continued to speak out on the issues of the day. The first mourners at the church he founded, the Thomas Road Baptist Church here, began to arrive at 4 a.m., said Chief Charles W. Bennett Jr. of the Lynchburg police. Before the doors opened seven hours later for the 1 p.m. service, the line of students and the elderly, toddlers and parents had wrapped around the building and extended for blocks. The Bush administration sent a representative – Tim Goeglein, the deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House – and evangelical leaders active in Republican politics, including Pat Robertson, streamed into the church. There were few politicians, however, and none of the current presidential candidates attended. At the service, the fond intimate memories of Falwell’s old friends mingled with grand assessments of his legacy offered by his political allies. “He was controversial – Jerry’s goal wasn’t to be popular,” said the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham and the president and chief executive of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Speaking of the new generation of evangelical pastors that has taken up issues like AIDS, poverty and global warming, Graham said: “I pray to God that these new leaders will be champions of those values that made him controversial. He believed in the Gospel; that’s controversial. He believed in the inerrancy of the Bible; that’s controversial, the sanctity of life.” Falwell had said he accepted Jesus as his Savior in January 1952, and within a few months, decided he wanted to become a minister. He began Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956, in Lynchburg, his hometown. Shortly afterward, he started a 30-minute daily radio broadcast, and six months later, a televised version called the “Old-Time Gospel Hour.” Falwell’s congregation grew, and by the early 1970s, he established Liberty University, originally Liberty Baptist College, hoping to make it a national university for evangelicals. About 10,000 people watched the service at the church and other venues at the university, where it was televised. The eulogy was given by Vines, who, in 2002, called the Prophet Muhammad “a demon-possessed pedophile.” Falwell defended him and then drew criticism himself for calling Muhammad “a terrorist.” He later apologized. Once the last songs finished, the family walked behind the pallbearers who brought the rose-covered coffin to a waiting hearse. Macel Falwell, Falwell’s widow, wept quietly and leaned on her older son, Jerry Jr.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Rev. Jerry Falwell was eulogized Tuesday as a daring critic of American life, called by God to his role as a clergyman and political activist. “He was called at this particular time to raise high the Gospel banner in America,” Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said at Falwell’s funeral. “He understood that as Christians, we cannot hide our light under a bushel. He said, `I was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to confront the culture.’ And did he ever confront it.” Falwell died May 15 at age 73. He founded the Moral Majority almost 30 years ago, seeking to create a mass movement of evangelical Christians and people of other faiths, united by a conservative agenda on abortion, gay rights, patriotism and moral values. In 1980, the Moral Majority was credited with playing a role in the election of Ronald Reagan as president and in dozens of congressional races.