Liberty University is pushing back against claims that its motto of “largest Christian university” has been taken over by Grand Canyon University. The school says it all depends on how you define Christian.
After a Religion News Service inquiry, Liberty University began removing the “largest Christian university” reference from its websites and promotional materials giving deference to Grand Canyon University which has a larger student body. Len Stevens, executive director of external communications for Liberty, said, “We are focusing more on quality than the sheer size of our university.”
According to the latest verified numbers (2016), Grand Canyon tops Liberty by roughly 1,200 students with the former at 111,211 and the latter at 109,921, with Liberty seeing a slight decline in enrollment over a two year period.
Now, however, Liberty says it defines “Christian” differently than GCU. In a statement to RNS, the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., said, “Our definition of a Christian university only includes universities who hire faculty who adhere to fundamental Christian doctrine. GCU does not. Liberty does.”
A rebuttal statement from GCU declares that its officials have the “utmost respect for Liberty and its mission as a Christian university,” but claimed that it, too, was “distinctively Christian.” Their statement reads: “As a Christian institution, GCU is committed to distinctively Christian approaches toward education that are grounded in theological conviction, development of sound character, and the capacity to live in ways that honor God, benefit others and contribute significantly to the common good.”
GCU does not require teachers to be “born again Christians,” but does have them sign a statement declaring their understanding of the school’s Christian values.