Recently, Liberty University trustees met on the Mountain and in addition to addressing the regular business to which they attend, they expressed strong concerns that Mark Driscoll is scheduled to not only speak in chapel April 20, but also to hold a marriage conference on campus profiling his book, Real Marriage.
Sources say trustees took a vote, and the vote was unanimous indicating that Mark Driscoll is not welcome at Liberty University. In addition to Driscoll's "potty mouth" approach to pulpit etiquette playing a role in their decision, his "Reformed" theology, Acts 29 Network, and the provocative hedonistic understanding of a___ s__ came up as well (XXX). Trustees were apparently flabbergasted that Driscoll was considered for an invitation in the first place.
After several trustees spoke to the issue, two motions were made. In general, the first motion was to unequivocally express that LU trustees disapprove of Mark Driscoll's invitation to speak in chapel and provide a marriage conference based on his unacceptable views stated in Real Marriage. A second motion indicated the formation of a "vetting" council for future speakers at Liberty University, a council predominately made up of sitting trustees.1 Both motions passed unanimously. We wait to see if LU officials are going public with the full details.
And, though Driscoll is, as of today, still scheduled to speak at Liberty, LU trustees receive our unreserved applause.2 Unlike some SBC leaders who appear to coddle Driscoll (here, here, and here), LU trustees stood when it counted.
What is more, their standing placed Driscoll is a precarious position.
Consider: suppose a pastor invited to his church for a Bible conference a well known provocative speaker. Upon learning of the invitation, the deacons met with the pastor, and, after soberly hearing his reasoning for inviting the controversial speaker, they nonetheless voted to publicly express their unanimous disapproval of this man coming to their church. The pastor refused to "disinvite" his choice to lead the Bible conference.
Now, what if that speaker was you? What would you do? Would you call the pastor and encourage him in his courageous decision and tell him how you're looking forward to standing with him in his pulpit? Would you offer to drop out of the conference? But what if the pastor insisted? Would you go ahead? Or, would you say something like,
"Pastor, I appreciate your tenacity in the face of opposition. I, too, have had to face opposition and know how you feel. But know I insist on dropping out of this conference. You don't need the controversy my presence will cause you. I know we are friends. Yet I'd be a poor friend indeed if I brought upon you hardship I could easily avoid by making a simple decision. It's not your decision. It's mine. So you need to find somebody else"
While not all analogies are so obvious between church and academia, I think the analogy is apt in this particular case. The fact is, the analogy may be apt for any context where controversial speakers are involved.
Mark Driscoll has publicly expressed his appreciation and love for the Falwells. Let's see how deep Driscoll's appreciation is. Will he needlessly bring even more conflict upon the Falwells by going through with the invitation in the face of unanimous disapproval by the entire board of Liberty trustees? What possible benefit could he gain by remaining on the schedule? On the other hand, he'd likely garner conceivable gains by dropping out...by "disinviting" himself.
Time's running out. Let's see if Mark Driscoll is the "man" he ceaselessly claims all men ought to be.
1we must be crystal clear: LU's decision is not related at all to Thomas Road church. Jonathan Falwell clearly distanced himself and TRBC from the decision to invite Driscoll, and that even when he publicly states Mark Driscoll to be a friend
2contractual obligations have apparently been cited as the reason Driscoll will not be "uninvited"