Jerry Falwell
Across Pacific Magazine

Tributes for Rev. Jerry Falwell ’a general of the faith’

From Coral Ridge Ministries, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Brian E. Fisher, Executive Vice President of Coral Ridge Ministries, the broadcast outreach of Dr. D. James Kennedy, released this statement today on the death of Dr. Jerry Falwell.

"On behalf of Dr. Kennedy and the Board of Coral Ridge Ministries, I want to express our heartfelt condolences to the family of Jerry Falwell who died today at age 73. Our prayers are with his wife and his children, as well as those mourning his death at the institutions he led, Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University.

"His death today has brought to a sudden close the life of one of the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century. For more than 50 years, Dr. Fallwell has been an uncompromising ambassador for the Gospel in the community of Lynchburg, nationally via the broadcast airwaves, and in American public life. Best known for launching the Moral Majority in 1980, Dr. Falwell also built one of the nation's largest churches, the 24,000 member Thomas Road Baptist Church, and Liberty University, which has over 20,000 students.

"Dr. Kennedy held Dr. Falwell in the highest regard for his Christian witness and moral leadership for the nation. Dr. Falwell was both a friend and co-laborer with Dr. Kennedy, who served on the initial board of directors of Moral Majority and spoke at Liberty University. Dr. Falwell addressed Coral Ridge Ministries' Reclaiming America for Christ conference in 2000.

"Infectiously good-humored, witty, energetic, and an unapologetic advocate for the return of biblical morality to American life, Dr. Falwell was a true Christian statesman. He leaves an enduring legacy of leadership for the Gospel, Christian education, and Christian moral engagement in American public life.

"He fought the good fight, he finished the race, and he kept the faith. Now, for this man who relied on the merits of Jesus Christ alone for his hope of heaven, that faith has become sight in the presence of God in heaven.

"We shall miss this great man."

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell issued the following statement about Rev. Falwell:

"Rev. Jerry Falwell gave his heart and soul to his family, his faith and his country. This is obvious when one looks at the decades of work he completed to grow his ministry, nurture his university, and advance the conservative movement throughout the culture and in politics.

"Rev. Falwell was a great leader who helped organize grassroots conservatives across America, and who was instrumental in the presidential election of Ronald Reagan. His inspiring presence and moral insight will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and closest friends. May God bless them and Jerry Falwell."

In Atlanta, Mark DeMoss, former chief of staff for Jerry Falwell and current chairman of the Executive Committee of Liberty University's Board of Trustees, remembers Dr. Falwell as a close friend and complex man, who impacted DeMoss' life and the lives of thousands of others with his love for God and people.

"Yes, he's controversial; but from tens of thousands of hours of observing him in the rear of a plane, in a quiet hotel room, in his home . . . I came to see what he knows: namely that people matter most," said DeMoss in his recently released The Little Red Book of Wisdom (Thomas Nelson, March 2007)."

After graduating from Falwell's Liberty University in 1983, DeMoss served as Falwell's chief of staff (1984-1991) and was integral in the Moral Majority movement of the 1980s-roles that gave him intimate perspective on Dr. Falwell's life and character.

"From my near-total control of Jerry's calendar and schedule, I learned that nothing took priority over his wife, daughter, and two sons . . . or his wife's brother and his children, or her sisters or parents.

"Birthdays, even grown-up family birthdays, trumped an invitation for Jerry to go to the White House, appear on Nightline or Larry King Live, or be anywhere else. I learned a lot about priorities from someone who had them in order, and those eight years in the company of a man twenty-nine years my elder have made me a better husband and father."

"Throughout nearly five decades of public ministry, Jerry Falwell has conducted virtually every wedding and funeral he's been asked to do, often officiating several ceremonies in a single day," said DeMoss of his dear friend who officiated his wedding, had an influential presence in the lives of his children, and prayed with him at the death and funeral of his younger brother.

On Falwell's tireless service to others, DeMoss wrote, "The Virginia preacher is notorious for being the last person to leave the building after every service, staying to shake hands and speak with anyone and everyone who wants his ear. He even does this when he's preaching in another state, knowing the practice will delay his return home by an hour or two."

>From Redmond, Washington, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who is president of Toward Tradition, the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, mourned the passing of long time friend Jerry Falwell with these comments: "Like Noah, Jerry Falwell walked with God and found grace in His eyes,. He was a friend to all Americans, he was a friend to the Biblical values that he believed America needed, and he was a wonderful friend to me."

"Of his gigantic accomplishments in making a place at the political table for Bible-believing Americans, little needs to be said. Both friend and foe granted his towering prestige. However, one needed to know him personally to marvel at his humility and graciousness in everyday encounters, whether momentous or minor," Rabbi Daniel Lapin says. who is president of Toward Tradition, the American Alliance of Jews and Christians. "Dr Jerry Falwell's kindness and warmth were seen to match his courage and wisdom but his loss leaves us all a little numbed. His influence in the destiny of our nation was desperately needed in the past and perhaps will be needed even more so in the future. May God grant consolation to his family."

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in Jerusalem, expressed great sorrow at the death of The Rev. Jerry Falwell. He offered these words of condolence:

"Rev. Jerry Falwell is a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and a man that I was honored to call a personal friend. He will be deeply missed.

"When I started The Fellowship, he was among the first Christians to step forward and express interest in being involved in our bridge-building work. And, over the years, he proved his solidarity repeatedly. His involvement helped break down the barriers of mistrust that characterized the relationship between Jews and evangelical Christians at the time.

"There were those who remained skeptical of Rev. Falwell's support. I recall on one occasion nearly 30 years ago, I invited him to speak at my synagogue, and he was criticized by many in the Jewish community who questioned his motives. But this did not deter him one bit in his unfailing support for Israel and the Jewish people. Very directly, but always graciously and lovingly - I never saw him behave otherwise towards people - he would remind those who questioned him that, as a Christian, his support of Israel was based on eternal biblical truths and, because of that, it would not falter. I am happy to say that he managed to win over many of his skeptics through the consistency and obviously genuine quality of his love for Israel and the Jewish people.

"The Rev. Falwell once said that 'the Bible Belt is Israel's safety belt.' Over the years, he helped me realize the truth of that saying. Wherever there are faithful, Bible-believing Christians, I can be assured of finding true friends and supporters of Israel. And the Rev. Falwell himself did much to ensure that 'safety belt' remained strong as ever.

"My prayers go to the many friends and family of Rev. Falwell, and all the staff and students at his school, Liberty University, who mourn the loss of their leader and are now left to carry on his great legacy."

Tammy Faye Messner, the former wife of televangelist Jim Bakker and co-hosted "The PTL Club," has been waging a long, tough battle against cancer.
She told CNN's Larry King how she learned about Reverend Falwell's death.

"Well, you are not going to believe this. I was sitting in a restaurant eating, trying to eat, I should say. I weigh 66 pounds, so I'm not eating much. And I went to eat. And my son heard it somehow -- because Jamie is here -- and talked about it.

"And when he said, 'Jerry is in the hospital,' I mean immediately my heart just -- I just couldn't believe it. And then he said, 'They think he might be dead.' And then he went on to say, 'He is dead.'

"And when he said Jerry had died, I just broke into tears."

King asked Messner why Falwell's death hit her so hard?

"I think I wish we could have cleared everything up. I wanted to talk to him and settle things with him. And I tried to do it many times and I tried to do it nicely. And I wanted just so badly to just give him a hug and say, hey, you know, it's all right. It's OK. We're all human. We all make mistakes. Let's just start over again and -- and go forward from here.

"Yesterday is yesterday. Today is today," said Messner.

Larry King read a statement from President George W. Bush: "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family and freedom as the founder of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Jerry lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in god and serve their communities. One of his lasting contributions was the establishment of Liberty University, where he taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon god's word throughout each stage of their lives."

Rev. Robert Schuller, Founding Pastor, Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California, told Larry King: "I was never close to Jerry Falwell because he had his ministry, I had mine. And we came from different theological training and from a different psychological education.

"And, you know, interesting -- I'm shocked he died and I want to say my condolences to his wife, his family and I'm very saddened today. I really don't know why, because I wasn't a close friend. But he -- he was an American icon."

Franklin Graham, President/Ceo, Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: commented: "Oh, Larry, he was a giant. We lost a giant today in the Christian world.

"One thing I appreciate about Jerry Falwell, Jerry believed very strongly that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, who died and rose for our sins, and that if we would confess and repent and ask Christ into our hearts, into our lives, that Christ would make a difference immediately in our life. And Jerry believed that.

"Now, Jerry could disagree, but he would do it always with a smile and he did it with grace. And I appreciate Jerry and his ministry. The university is one of the largest -- is the largest Evangelical university in the world -- 27,000 students. I think they have 10,000 on their campus. They have another 17,000 -- 16,000 that are doing it by the Internet.

"But the Thomas Roads Baptist Church is one of the largest churches in the country. And, Larry, this man is going to be missed. He was a giant. There's nobody to replace him."

Graham was asked if he agreed that Falwell was very controversial?

"Well, he was very strong on his moral convictions and what he believed. He would not back down. And that was controversial, especially in a world where everybody has to be politically correct.

"Jerry stood by what he believed. And that's what I appreciate about the man."

Dr. Robert Schuller commented about a conversation he had with Falwell about four months ago: "Larry, let me tell a story that I think is very important. Jerry and I had different teachers, a different education, from different cultures. And so we were never on the same page. We each had, I think, dynamic ministries.

"But about only a few months ago, I was watching the news and I saw Jerry Falwell and he looked terrible. And I thought he could die. And I have really never talked to him. I think I should talk to him before he dies.

"I picked up a telephone, got his number, rang the office. It was late. And the next morning he called me back. And I said, 'Jerry, you know, you don't look well'"

"And I said, 'In fact, I think you look deathly ill with something and I wanted to know what it was.'

"And when I said, 'That really is a matter of something else (ph). You have spent your life -- you are an icon confronting what you perceive to be sins and evils in the world today. And you have a vast majority that support you and agree with you.

"And I have never been with you... we've done our own thing. But I couldn't let you die, Jerry. I'm calling you because I couldn't let you die, Jerry, without telling you that I admired your courage.'"

What did he say? asked King

"Oh, he thanked me for calling and he sounded very humble and most appreciative for my concern for him and expressing the fact that a lot of things that he was doing I'm interested -- we're interested in morality, all of us."

King then read a statement from Pat Robertson, who said: "Jerry's courage and strength of conviction will be sadly missed in this time of increasing moral relativism. I join with the tens of thousands of his friends to mourn the passing of this extraordinary human being."

Did Franklin Graham share Fawell's view, that this is a Christian nation?

Franklin Graham replied: "(And so) there are missionaries today, there are educators today, there are lawyers today because of Jerry Falwell. And there will be thousands and thousands of people in heaven because of Jerry Falwell and the impact that he has had on this nation, but not only this nation, but around the world.

"He was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. He was an example to me, Larry. I will miss this man. He was a friend to me and a great help to my work."

The panel was joined by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, the Republican strategist; and in New York by Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, a Civil Rights activist and a former Democratic presidential candidate.

Reed commented: "Well, you know, Larry, I think even though we knew that Dr. Falwell had experienced some health difficulties, as you know, he went through a real scare in 2005, even so when you hear the news, it's a shock. And I worked with him and knew him as a friend for 24 years. He had a huge influence on me. I think he had a huge influence on the direction of the country. And tonight our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and with the Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist family and Lynchburg community. I know they've lost a dear friend and a leader. And our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them."

Rev. Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network, said: "Well, you know, I met Jerry Falwell many years ago. Reverend James Coldwell, who heads our organization over in Lynchburg, brought us together. And we didn't agree on anything. I mean we really debated. We used to do a lot of TV debates, even 'Meet the Press.' We used to do a weekly debate on another show.

"But he was the kind of person, as you got to know him, you couldn't dislike. He was a genuinely kind person. And it was to the point where he would take personal interest. I remember I was going through a family crisis once, and he said, 'Send your daughter down to Liberty.' And he would call me and inquire. We would tease each other about our weight.

"I think that one of the things that always struck me about him is that you would never see him never pass a guy in the studio, if he was a cameraman or a doorman in the hotel; he was a regular guy who had a phenomenal ability to organize. Even though I was against all of what he organized for, he really showed an iconic level of putting people together in this country. You had to appreciate his ability even if you feel they were misused."

Former President George H. W. Bush, in a statement read by Larry King said: "I had a great deal of respect for the Reverend Falwell even when we disagreed. I admired his convictions and faith. We were proud to call him a friend."

Ralph Reed commented: "Well, you know, I think that, first of all, his heart was that of a pastor. I would second what Reverend Sharpton said. That was certainly my experience. I mean I got to know him when I was a young buck coming up politically in my 20s and he was then at the peak with the moral majority, friend of the president of the United States, a man friend to presidents and speakers and prime ministers and some of the most powerful and wealthiest people in the country. And yet, when I interacted with him, I never felt like he was looking past me at somebody who was more important.

"I mean you know Larry, I think we can learn something from his life which is it's important to stand up for what you believe in. It's important to stand up for your convictions and to make a difference while you're here on earth. But there's a lot more to be said than we often give credit for today in our public discourse for treating other people with respect and dignity, including and especially those with whom we occasionally disagree. I always saw that in him. I never saw him as somebody who had any enemas in his heart towards anybody with whom he disagreed politically or theologically.

"And I think that was a big part of it. If you were around him, you liked him. He was fun to be around. He had a great sense of humor. He didn't take himself too seriously. And yet he took seriously the cause of Christ to which he had been called."

Joining the panel of Larry King's guests from Denver, Colorado, Dr. James Dobson founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, who is also a syndicated radio commentator and best-selling author.

How did he hear about Reverend Falwell's passing?

"Well, I was on a long plane flight, 13 hours, and I got a radio message brought to me saying that I needed to see the agent at the gate. And when I stepped off the plane, I was told that my friend Jerry Falwell was gone.

When did Dobson last see or speak with Falwell?

"It's been a couple of years. I have known him for almost as long as I've known you, Larry and I considered him a very, very good friend and a man that I respected very highly. And I just regret his loss today more than I can say.

"Well, there wasn't a whole lot I disagreed with. You know I see the social issues very much the way Jerry did and appreciated the fact that he had the courage to stand up for them.

"You know, I really, frankly, resented the caller who talked about Jerry being a man of hate. I never heard him one time say anything mean or hurtful to anybody. He had strong views and some of those views were not politically correct. But I never heard him try to wound or hurt anybody. That's just not who the man was."

King read a statement by Senator John McCain: "I joined the students, faculty and staff of Liberty University and Americans of all faiths in mourning the loss of Reverend Jerry Falwell. Dr. Falwell was a main of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country."

What's Falwell's legacy? King wanted toknow.

Dr. Dobson replied: "Well, his legacy is his commitment to Jesus Christ. Everybody talks about what he had to say about the Pro-Life Movement and the defense of marriage and the family and his opposition to pornography and the other things.

"But ultimately what he cared about most was his relationship with Jesus Christ. And I really do believe that he has had a profound impact across this nation and around the world by having the boldness and the courage to stand up for the things that he believed.

Would Falwell be remembered as pastor or politician?

"Well, I think the answer is yes. I think he was a pastor and a minister and a university president who had great influence on politics. So I don't know why we have to choose between the two. With the moral majority and his awakening the evangelical community the way he did, I don't know anybody that had a greater impact, especially during the '80s and early '90s, than Jerry Falwell did."

"Well, you know, I mentioned before, he had such courage and boldness, and that's what he did. He was not afraid of political correctness. And as a result, he just got skewered by the media and by, you know, the print media trying to make him out to be something that he never was.

"We were in London last night, as I told you, and I saw a special on him, either on CNN or the BBC, I can't remember which one and they really did a number on him, whoever it was. It was on global warming. And he didn't say he didn't believe in global warming. He said the jury is out. And because of that, they tried to make him look like a clown. And they brought the camera right in so that you could see the pours of his face.

"There was an effort to marginalize this man because he had such political influence. And as a result, people saw him in a way that was simply not accurate from my perspective.

"He was not (a namby pamby). I mean he would say it if he believed that he said it. But he did not, Larry, he did not say it with hate. I don't know. Did you ever hear him say anything hateful?

King commented: "I never thought he was hateful. You could disagree with him but he was never, never -- in fact, he was so likable, it was hard to hate him."

Dr. Dobson concurred: "Well, that's it. I regret that he didn't take better care of himself. And I don't know that he didn't, but he was overweight. And I tell you, the world lost one of the generals and we're poorer for it."

**Comments taken from the CNN program Larry King Live have been culled from a rush transcript from the CNN website. Every effort has been taken to maintain the accuracy of these quotations.

** Michael Ireland - Chief Correspondent for ASSIST News Service of Lake Forest, California. 

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