For several months and years, there has been speculation about Ergun Caner, Dean of Liberty University’s Seminary. Caner rose to Baptist fame under a flag as a Muslim extremist convert. It is clear that he was a Muslim, but not the hardened terrorist he made himself to be. FBC Watchdog and others have a cornucopia of audio sermons and facts that prove Caner was not engaged in “jihad” but was a normal American Muslim for a time. If you want the whole saga go here.
Secular media outlets reported on this story and The Washington Post posted this report this past weekend:
A Baptist minister who toured the country to talk about his conversion from Islam to Christianity is no longer the dean of Liberty University’s theological seminary following allegations he fabricated or embellished facts about his past, the school said Friday.
The university founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell said that a board of trustees committee concluded Ergun Caner made contradictory statements. Although it didn’t find evidence that he was not a Muslim who converted as a teenager, it did discover problems with dates, names and places he says he lived, a statement said.
A June 30 date was set to release this information but it appears that Liberty wanted to do this on a weekend where it would not get as much press. Liberty’s statement regarding the timing of Caner’s dean duties and deciding on administrative action is interesting:
After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory. However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence. Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review. Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010. Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.“
It looks as though that the seminary wanted to take action because Caner’s contract was was up for review anyway, which allow the seminary to not renew him as dean, but stay on as a faculty member. What is shocking is SBC Today’s response to this news:
This matter is behind us and we praise God that Dr. Caner is exonerated as he is retained at Liberty on faculty.
Like blogger Wade Burleson, I’m left scratching my head because of SBC Today’s statement that Liberty’s administrative action exonerates Caner. If the guy never did anything wrong, why is he being removed as dean? Clearly, this is a case of misinformation and spin commentary. If Liberty followed its own internal student guideline for lying, Caner would be in trouble. To tune of at least $25,000. (Liberty places fines on students for lying. See the breakdown here.)
I really do not think that Liberty’s action went far enough. He made his career, ministry, and identity on facts that were not accurate and in some cases were not true. The credibility of Caner has been lost. In ministry, your creditability as someone as honest, trustworthy, loving, and accountable is key for the Gospel.
Christianity Today was on point about the credibility of Caner and use of embellishments (or lies):
Caner is right that every minister makes pulpit mistakes. But embellishing or exaggerating one’s testimony is very different from misattributing a quote or other frequent preaching blunders… But the larger problem with embellished testimonies is that they inevitably shift the focus away from God. Unfortunately, this is a problem even for those of us who don’t falsify our conversion stories: We can still forget that we are bearing witness to the work of God, not the change in our own lives or the evils of life without God (or of a false religion). It’s not about how blind we were or how well we now see. It’s not about how lost we were or how great it is to be found. It’s about who God is, and how his grace is so amazing that he would save even us.
In the end, I pray that Caner has support and I pray that he can recover from this. No doubt he is a gifted preacher but by his own action, he has shown that leadership is not one of his better qualities. This goes to show you that the pursuit of fame can lead you down a path that you never thought possible. In the end, truth will come out. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or the next day… but sooner or later the truth will surface.