The school that went from 0 to 4,332 in 13 years.

If you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television this month, you’ll see the band from America’s fastest-growing college march across the screen.

The Marching Flames Band from Liberty Baptist College (LBC) is one of 12 bands selected from 350 that competed for the honor. The band’s success is impressive. But at a college commited to building “champions for Christ,” the accomplishment is just one of many.

The college’s men’s basketball team finished first in its district and fifth in a national small-college tournament this year. The 1982 college yearbook received a first-place ranking from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. And members of the debate team took first-place honors last summer at the Arizona Debate Institute.

The 12-year-old Lynchburg, Virginia, school has not always received such recognition. In fact, when the college first held classes in 1971, it was barely visible. The school’s 141 students lived in small houses in the neighborhood surrounding Thomas Road Baptist Church. Classes were held at the church, and the faculty was made up of church staff. The college owes its beginning and its tremendous growth to the 20,000-member church, and to the vision of its pastor, Jerry Falwell.

“We’re trying to build a fundamentalist Harvard here,” Falwell recently told several hundred pastors and others attending a conference at his church. And he’s not kidding.

This year the college is offering 44 majors in two schools and five divisions. It confers graduate degrees in religion and education. The school’s undergraduate program was accredited in 1980 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Liberty has applied for accreditation for its graduate program.

The school’s enrollment has climbed to 4,332. Two hundred acres of the 4,200-acre campus are being developed, with nearly 40 buildings completed and more on the drawing board. Students come from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries, with nonwhite students making up 6 percent of the total enrollment.

Falwell says America is on the verge of a “third Great Awakening.” And he sees Liberty Baptist College as a major force in training leaders to spearhead that awakening. Already, 650 Liberty graduates are pastoring churches. The college is challenging its graduates to start 5,000 new churches in North America by the end of the century.

About 1,000 of Liberty’s students are studying for the ministry. But the college doesn’t intend to influence the nation only from the pulpit. A majority of its students are pursuing degrees in such majors as education, business, journalism, music, drama, math, nursing, political science, telecommunications, sociology, anthropolgy, and psychology.

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In an era that is seeing a decline in America’s college-age population, the school posted a 16.8 percent enrollment gain over last year. And in a time when many private colleges are tightening their belts because of higher costs and declining revenues. Liberty Baptist is gearing up for a massive building project.

Next year the college will launch Project Liberty, a $120 million fund drive to pay for construction of a new library, a 12,000-seat convocation center, a seven-story student housing complex, and a sports stadium. Completion of the construction—projected for five years—will enable the college to serve 12,000 students.

Falwell is responsible for raising most of the money that pays for the school’s continuing growth. Len Moisan, Liberty’s director of development, said more than half of the college’s funding comes from donors who send in monthly contributions of $15 to $20. Most of those donations are solicited through Falwell’s “Old Time Gospel Hour” television program.

The college’s operating expenses totaled more than $18.7 million during the 1981–82 school year. That amount was expected to increase to $21.5 million during the 1982–83 school year. A study conducted by Moisan found that the college is responsible for at least $24.3 million annually in local business volume. And that figure excludes new building construction.

Liberty Baptist prides itself on its fundamentalist, separatist, local-church-oriented position. All students are required to attend Sunday and Wednesday services at Thomas Road. All first-year students enrolled in seven or more credit hours take a course describing the ministries of Thomas Road Baptist Church. During their second year, they do volunteer service at the church. After that, they can serve at Thomas Road or at other approved churches.

Like many Christian colleges, Liberty Baptist accepts only born-again students. However, the college frowns on applicants who speak in tongues. A few students have been denied admission based on their belief in a present-day gift of tongues.

Students also are expected to comply with a code of conduct and personal appearance. Men are not allowed to grow beards or mustaches, or to wear hair that touches their shirt collars or covers the tops of their ears. They also are expected to wear ties to classes, to the cafeteria, and to chapel. Women are expected to dress modestly. Students are not allowed to dance or attend movies.

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Falwell thinks big, and his goals for Liberty Baptist College are no exception. Plans call for a student population of between 10,000 and 12,000 by 1990, said LBC president A. Pierre Guillermin. By the turn of the century, the college hopes to have an enrollment of 25,000. Falwell’s ultimate goal is to build a university that serves 50.000 students.

The college plans to offer doctoral level studies by 1986. Long-range plans call for the creation of schools of law, medicine, and engineering.

“One day we hope to see LBC graduates on the [television] networks as anchormen, anchorwomen,” Moisan said. “We hope to see them be lawyers, doctors. We hope to see them have some of the strongest and best churches in America. We want them to be contributing professionals, and yet at the same time having an impact for Christ.

“That’s the vision of LBC. Kids hear that, learn that, internalize it, and believe it.”

If a homosexual denomination is in, the Greek Orthodox church is out. That’s the message Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, the spiritual leader of some two million Greek Orthodox people in North and South America, gave recently to the National Council of Churches. The archbishop finds it “inconceivable” that the NCC is even considering admitting the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church.

Georgians Terry and Vickie Roemhild have won the right to educate their three children at home. A superior county court in Georgia found the couple guilty last January of violating the state’s compulsory attendance law. But the Georgia Supreme Court overturned that judgment in October. The Roemhilds’ cause was backed by constitutional lawyers John Whitehead and Wendell Bird, who together filed an extensive friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Rutherford Institute.

A federal appeals court has upheld a state’s right to deny money to private family-planning groups that provide abortions or abortion counseling. Acting on a case in Arizona, the appeals court overturned a lower-court judgment that found unconstitutional a 1980 rider to an appropriations bill denying state funds to Planned Parenthood. The federal court ruled that the state has “no constitutional obligation to fund or promote abortion.”

Several students in Kentucky’s Webster County public school system are literally wearing their religion on their shirts. To protest a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments, a Kentucky physician bought $1,700 worth of shirts on which the commandments are printed. The doctor, Wayne Cole, then distributed the shirts to students interested in wearing them.

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Southern Baptist congregations in Virginia are forming an association of conservative churches. Organizers, who met recently in Lynchburg, said the congregations’ status with the Southern Baptist Convention would not change. Paige Patterson, president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies in Dallas and a leader among conservative Southern Baptists, was one of the principal speakers. He called for a “sweetness of spirit” among conservatives and he warned against a “trend toward centralization of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

A $3 million damage suit against Jerry Falwell has been settled out of court. The suit was filed last November by Lynn Ridenhour, a former teacher at Liberty Baptist College who was fired after writing an article for Penthouse magazine about his experiences in Lynchburg. Ridenhour alleged that Falwell defamed him and that college officials conspired to ruin his professional reputation. Ridenhour said he was pleased with the agreement but could not discuss amounts.

The Christian Action Council has called for “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” to be observed in Christian churches on January 22, the eleventh anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized abortion on demand in the United States. Norman Bendroth, director of communications for the council, is organizing the event. The council is based in Washington, D.C.

The Center in Religion and Society will open in New York in January. It will be headed by Lutheran theologian Richard John Neuhaus. By means of conferences and a monthly report entitled Religion and Society Report, the center will examine the role of religion in modern life.

The American Civil Liberties Union and several other organizations and individuals have filed a lawsuit asking that the 1981 Adolescent Family Act be declared unconstitutional. It permits the federal government to make grants that “promote self-discipline and other prudent approaches to the problems of adolescent premarital sex.” The suit alleges that money is being spent to teach religious doctrines opposing teenage sex and abortion.

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