Like many of you, I was startled to learn of Jerry Falwell’s sudden death yesterday. I didn’t follow his ministry all that closely, but being a Baptist Bible College dropout, I was certainly well aware of his existence.
You see, back in ’91, when my first wife and I moved up to Springfield, Missouri to study missions, my then-pastor told me that his father graduated in 1955, the same year that Jerry Falwell graduated from Baptist Bible College. In fact, I was told, when I get to the school, and go into the W. E. Dowell Fieldhouse, I should look for the framed class pictures. I don’t know about today, but back then they had pictures of all the graduates from 1950 to the present. Sure enough, I found Jerry’s picture, right next to my then-pastor’s dad’s class portrait.
Now, keep in mind that independent, fundamental Baptists organizing into what they called fellowships were their way of disassociating themselves from the Southern Baptist Convention, from which so many southern fundamentalists declared their independence. This detail will be important later. . .
After I dropped out the next year, and moved back home, I eventually joined a church that was not associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, or Baptist Bible College. It was not long thereafter that one of the banes of my existence became the seeming dyslexia which overcomes those who’ve heard of the Baptist Bible Fellowship and Baptist Bible College, but have also heard of churches that call themselves Bible Baptist Church. Whenever my then-new pastor would refer to my old fellowship or school (they came up a few times over the space of nine years), he couldn’t help but call it the “Bible Baptist Fellowship,” or “Bible Baptist College.” It wasn’t malicious on his part, but still this tendency simply would grab me by the spine and squeeze really hard! And he wasn’t the only person with this problem. In fact, most of the people I ran into who didn’t belong to the BBF or go to BBC, suffered from the same case of dyslexia. My way of “helping” my brethren remember the right order was to insist, “With Baptist Bible Fellowship, being Baptist comes before the Bible!” Sorry if my sarcastic humor offends you.
Well, anyway, now that Jerry Falwell has passed away, I was reading some of the write-ups on his life in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I found a nice little article under the heading of “Local Perspectives,” and read about local folks who either met or knew Jerry Falwell. The last of these episodes is the inspiration for this post. The article was entitled, “Falwell’s impact a point of debate.” Here’s the story:
“One unusual circumstance occurred in Fort Worth in 1982. A woman protesting his anti-abortion stance threw a pie at Falwell as he preached at a Bible Baptist Fellowship convention. (!) ‘He just took off his jacket and kept on preaching,’ one of Falwell’s assistants, told the Star-Telegram then. During Falwell’s closing prayer, he asked God to forgive the woman.” (emphsis added)
I give up.