Thanks to its pioneering on-line schooling platform, Liberty University gives the most important theological research software in u. S. A .—through ways. Its Rawlings School of Divinity enrolls several times as many students as longstanding seminaries, which have only recently begun to transition their degree applications online.
And Liberty’s divinity faculty, housed in a tower erected in the center of the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus, is likewise on its way to accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the gold wellknown for seminaries in the US and Canada.
But a brand new report this week in Inside Higher Ed describes the decision to reduce a dozen divinity school faculty, its falling enrollment, and a brand new strategy to fight what it refers to as Liberty’s broader “struggles online and a shrinking applicant pool.”
Top officials on the faculty dispute claim that the college is on a trajectory of decline, in particular, one stemming from its ties to President Donald Trump.
Instead, they advised Christianity Today that the layoffs and different hits are taken by means of the divinity faculty stem from the evolving ministry panorama, the same form of demanding situations confronted with the aid of fellow Christian universities, missions corporations, ministries, and churches throughout the united states—and that the Trump affiliation has honestly been a boon to the faculty.
“Really, it’s a signal of the instances,” said David Nasser, senior vice president for nonsecular development and campus chaplain at Liberty. “The panorama of the way churches are staffing is changing, the panorama of the manner venture organizations are staffing is converting, and I assume that’s why we’ve seen some decline in the college of divinity in that experience.”
According to figures obtained by using Inside Higher Ed, the college of divinity had gotten smaller in variety of college students and proportion of overall enrollment, each online (from 19,727 in 2015 to 13,688 in 2017) and on campus (from 1,078 in 2015 to 992 in 2018).
Officials at Liberty said while graduate-level programs to the divinity faculty have climbed during the last few years, ensuing in regular enrollment in its master’s and doctorate programs, a hobby at the undergraduate aspect has declined.
The divinity faculty gives 11 bachelor’s levels in extra than forty specializations, from “pastoral leadership” to “sports activities outreach.” But a brand new generation of Christian college students, administrators say, take a greater holistic view, seeing theological schooling as coaching for their destiny careers throughout fields, now not necessarily in full-time ministry positions.
They plan to reconfigure the divinity school because it has come to be an extra popular option for undergrads as a double main, minor, or attention with other paths of having a look at, in preference to as a stand-alone essential.
“Being entrepreneurial approach we’re very enterprise-orientated. We’re going to be efficient and powerful approximately how we method the marketplace, and that’s biblical. We see that inside the Bible in numerous locations about how we invest our talents, approximately how we make investments our time, energy, and efforts,” said Provost Scott Hicks.
“We’re trying to make smart commercial enterprise selections that set the faculty of divinity up for fulfillment long-term and make it a sustainable entity long-term.”
A few present-day school participants declined to comment to CT regarding the latest cuts within the divinity school. A 2018 graduate known as the changes “eyebrow-elevating” on account that “they’re putting on the core of what Liberty is supposed to be.”
Houston pastor Garet Robinson, who holds 3 ranges from Liberty, consisting of a Ph.D. from its divinity faculty, tweeted about a sense of intimidation on campus.
“The disconnect between executives at LU & the faculty is widespread & intense. As an alum, I don’t accept as true with the executives at LU to understand what it takes to do theology training,” he stated.
“So many would love to voice their disapproval of leadership however fear for their families, their jobs, & their peers. Perhaps some of us can be a voice for them, or as a minimum help make others privy to the problem. More than this, praying for them is simply as crucial.”
Liberty leaders told CT they did now not understand any anxiety, but as a substitute felt a healthful degree of engagement with school and personal, with provost Hicks pronouncing, “I assume they’re absolutely comfortable with what we’re doing.”
For the past few years, Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. Has been regarded for his friendly courting with outspoken protection of President Trump, and a few have speculated that his coziness across the arguable president will harm Liberty within the lengthy-term.
“The Trump era has absolutely released Liberty University onto the national stage in lots of methods which have been very beneficial,” said college spokesman Scott Lamb. “LU is thriving in methods it genuinely couldn’t have without the prominence that came from that President Trump issue.”