Politics Aside, Local Leaders Laud Falwell's Devotion

Article excerpt

Byline: James Fuller

jfuller@@dailyherald.com

Be it moral issues, social evils or religious callings, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was never afraid to speak his mind.

For that reason alone, local watchers of Christian evangelism noted Falwell's death Tuesday as a landmark event.

Wheaton College Chaplain Stephen Kellough said Falwell's faith was something all evangelicals could agree with. Falwell's political positions and sometimes audacious comments on issues such as the civil rights movement and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were what pushed the gamut of evangelical belief, Kellough said.

"As far as Jerry Falwell spoke concerning the essential Gospel of Jesus Christ, he would be embraced by Evangelicals across the spectrum," Kellough said. "But his participation in political issues is seen as especially controversial. He certainly represented one end of the spectrum there. He was not shy concerning his faith."

Even those who counted Falwell as a personal friend, such as Willow Creek Community Church Founding Pastor Bill Hybels, felt the need to create some distance between the evangelist and the politician Tuesday.

"While we sometimes felt differently about how to approach many of the great challenges of our day, Dr. Falwell gave his life to his family, his church, his beloved university, and the country he sought to improve," Hybels said in a written statement.

Falwell's political activity stood in stark contrast to Wheaton College alum Billy Graham, another evangelical icon of the same generation.

Graham has never treaded far into the political world, said David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, which Graham founded. …