LYNCHBURG, Va. (ABP) – Never a stranger to controversy, Seattle mega church pastor Mark Driscoll is causing a stir with an upcoming visit to Liberty University.
The conservative Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., is next up on a tour by the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church promoting his new book, Real Marriage, co-authored with his wife, Grace. Some believe the book’s explicit advice on bedroom practices between a husband and wife wouldn’t sit well with Liberty’s late founder Jerry Falwell or with many of the school’s donors and alumni.
Baptist blogger Peter Lumpkins reported April 4 that sources told him Liberty University trustees voted unanimously objecting to Driscoll’s invitation to speak in chapel April 20 and lead a seminar on campus April 21. Liberty posted a website message labeling the blog false and defamatory and demanded a retraction. As of April 9 the demand no longer appeared on Liberty’s website and Lumpkins added that he spoke to a longtime university trustee who told him nothing in his post was inaccurate.
Meanwhile, an online petition titled “Hey Liberty University, Drop Driscoll” closed in on its goal of 300 signatures to be delivered to Jonathan Falwell, Liberty’s vice chancellor for spiritual affairs. Started by a blogger who moderates a forum for former members of Driscoll’s church recovering from what many call spiritual abuse, the petition demands that the university cancel the upcoming event and warns failure to do so “may result in a public protest on the Liberty University campus.”
Liberty, a partner of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and with a number of Southern Baptists on its board of trustees, isn’t the first campus to see concerns over Driscoll’s impact on young and inquiring minds. Invitations to speak at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary prompted a series of motions at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention warning against Driscoll’s growing influence in the denomination, mainly through Acts 29, a trans-denominational church-planting network started by Driscoll and supported by Southern Baptists including Ed Stetzer, vice president for research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm recently caught attention in the Baptist blogosphere with the Gospel Project, a new curriculum developed with advice from both Southern Baptists and non-Southern Baptists connected to Acts 29. Some fear the movement’s embrace of the new Calvinism and unconventional approach to soul-winning that is culturally relevant could become divisive in the nation’s second-largest religious body.
Endorsements for Driscoll’s Real Marriage, which is subtitled “The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together,” include Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. In February Akin penned a blog that was picked up in Baptist Press explaining why he wrote the endorsement. Akin said he didn’t agree with everything in the book, but concluded “I think Real Marriage is a book that will help many in spite of certain flaws.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.