Taft University graduate, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, is the new pastor of Lynchburg's Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Falwell, 40, succeeds his father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the 21,000-member church nearly 51 years ago.
The elder Falwell, who died May 15, was the only pastor the church had ever known. He was the founder of the church and Liberty University. Several thousand church members who gathered for a business meeting elected Jonathan Falwell pastor yesterday evening on a unanimous vote.
Jonathan Falwell has been Thomas Road's executive pastor since 1994, a position that gives him considerable experience in handling the church's day-to-day operations. The late Falwell, who was senior pastor, had groomed his son to replace him one day.
"Obviously, I'm excited about the future at the church," Jonathan Falwell said. "I'm excited about carrying on Dad's vision. I certainly, in no way would ever presume that I could fill his shoes. Those are shoes that can't be filled. But I will commit to do everything I can do. The abilities that God has given me, I will use them to my fullest to carry on the vision and the mission of this church, which is to reach out across the city and around this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The Rev. Jerry Falwell started the church with 35 charter members in 1956 and watched it grow to a membership of close to 21,000 members.
Jonathan Falwell received his undergraduate degree from Liberty in 1987 and graduated from the university's seminary in 1996. He also earned a Juris Doctor degree from William Howard Taft University in California in 2004. Due to his church responsibilities, he has not taken the bar examination.