Liberty University names acting leader with Falwell on leave

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2018, file photo, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks before a convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Falwell has agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of Liberty University, the school announced Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2018, file photo, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks before a convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Falwell has agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from his role as president and chancellor of Liberty University, the school announced Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

RICHMOND, Va. – Liberty University in Virginia announced Monday that its board had chosen an interim president to lead the school days after Jerry Falwell Jr. began an indefinite leave of absence after one of his posts on social media created an uproar.

Jerry Prevo, who has served as chairman of the school's board of trustees since 2003 and recently retired as the senior pastor of a Baptist church in Alaska, will assume the role of acting president immediately, Liberty said in a news release.

Prevo expects to work from the Lynchburg campus starting Aug. 17 and will step aside from his position on the board for the duration of the new role, according to the news release. The board's executive committee appointed Prevo, Liberty said.

Prevo, who spent 47 years as the pastor of Anchorage Baptist Temple before stepping down last year, was known for his opposition to LGBT rights and his influence in Alaska politics. He also partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian relief charity run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, a prominent conservative evangelical allied with Falwell and President Donald Trump.

"Please pray for us as well as the Falwell family as we embark on our academic year and so we may continue to be united in our common purpose and our faith in Christ,” Prevo said in the news release.

Falwell, who is also a high-profile Trump supporter and ally, has led the private evangelical university founded by his evangelist father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, for 13 years.

The university announced in a one-sentence statement Friday that Falwell was taking a leave of absence. The statement didn't elaborate. But Falwell's departure came after he posted a photo showing him posing with his pants unbuttoned, stomach exposed and his arm around a young woman who was not his wife.

Falwell apologized for the photo, which he said was taken during a costume party while he was on vacation.