"(I) have been accepted at Liberty University to obtain a second doctorate."When I initially read about his fabricated resume, I wondered if Pastor Flockhart was also lying about his enrollment at Liberty University. It seems The Palm Beach Post may have had similar questions. A reporter called to question Liberty's registrar's office about Flockhart's enrollment for a "second" doctorate. In an article published on August 26, 2006 The Palm Beach Post reported that the registrar's office initially said that they had never heard of Mr. Flockhart, but then they called the newspaper back later and said they had discovered that Flockhart was enrolled and had paid the registration fees directly to seminary President Ergun Caner. The paper then quoted a Liberty official:
"The pastor (Flockhart) is enrolled and has paid in advance," said Ron Godwin, executive vice president and CEO of Liberty University. He added, "I love those kind of students."Granted, the Palm Beach Post could have misreported the initial response of Liberty, as well as the words of Ron Godwin, but the newspaper's published report caused many of us to ask several questions about what seemed to be a peculiar financial arrangement. While several of the financial questions were ultimately answered by Dr. Caner himself, there were two main questions that went unanswered at the time:
(1). Was Steven Flockhart enrolled in an actual doctorate program at Liberty University?
(2). If so, what safeguards were in place to prevent Liberty from accepting a doctoral student who had fabricated degrees?
Though questions to our Christian leaders may bring some discomfort, asking them is not a bad thing. It is not attacking someone's character. It is not assuming someone is evil or wicked. It is a legimitate process through which we Christians can hold each other accountable.
For example, Darrell Gilyard was a rising star among Southern Baptists. He preached at Pastors' Conferences, including the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference in Las Vegas, and his eloquence in the pulpit was unmatched. However, it was discovered that his story of growing up homeless, sleeping underneath bridges, and being converted to Christ out of the rough streets of Jacksonville was all a lie. Baptist Press reported that the Dallas Morning News, in an exclusive July 28, 1991 story, reported that:
Gilyard actually was brought up in a comfortable north Florida home by a woman who reared him as if he were her son. The article included an interview with Barbara Davis, the 65-year-old Palatka woman who said she helped to rear Gilyard from age 8 months until he left home at age 19. The paper also reported Gilyard misrepresented his academic background; accepted a $10,000 "love offering" from Falwell's ministry under false pretenses; and lied about repeated traffic offenses and a suspended drivers license in Florida.
Gilyard is now in prison, not for lying, but for multiple sexual crimes. One wonders why Southern Baptists never asked the tough questions of Darrell Gilyard while he was a Southern Baptist and before he became involved in criminal behavior? Why does the secular press have to do what we ourselves seemed unwilling to do?
It's not hard for anyone to find story after story about Baptist pastors who have lied about their past. Baptist youth pastor Randy Lee Morrow lied about being in a biker gang. He lied about serving prison time. He lied about having terminal cancer. "I lied a lot more than I should have," he says. Why was there nobody asking the tough questions of Randy Lee Morrow?
Now some Christians are asking tough questions to Ergun Caner about the representations he has made to others about his past. These questions are not accusations--they are legitimate queries of a Christian brother to ensure accountability and integrity of Christian ministry. To ask them is not to accuse. To not ask them, however, is inexcusable--particularly when the words spoken publicly are those of Dr. Caner himself. There are some bloggers, like Peter Lumpkins, Tim Guthrie, and others who personally blister anyone who asks tough questions of Dr. Caner. One of these days they will learn that attacking the character of those who ask legitimate, tough questions of our leaders will only ultimately backfire on their intended purpose.
In His Grace,