If Celebrity Were Integrity the Southern Baptist Convention Would Be Morally Blameless: Why the SBC Can Be Faulted for Ergun Caner's Rise and Demise
We began to value celebrity more than we did integrity.
For this reason, we barely blinked when told SBC leaders had given a pass to various sexual predators. We kept quiet about the credible whispers that an SBC power broker desired the company of young males more than he did the Holy Spirit. We lauded those who could mesmorize an audience with their stories and putdowns, and stopped paying attention to our missionaries who were on the field actually giving their lives for the cause of Christ. We acted this way because ...
We turned celebrity into integrity and reaped the rewards.
Enter Ergun Caner. By all accounts Ergun Caner is a personable, likeable, and friendly person. He was a Southern Baptist pastor in Colorado prior to 9/11 who went by the name Michael Caner. But shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York City , Michael Caner became Ergun Caner, the Istanbul born, jihadist trained, Arabic speaking terrorist who converted to Christianity after years of being trained to do what the terrorists did to us on 9/11. No doubt Caner had a Muslim father and was taught Islam by his dad, but the lies Ergun began to tell at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, and others in our massive Southern Baptist churches in the days after 9/11 created the dilemma that resulted in Caner's removal as President of Liberty Seminary this week. Sure Ergun Caner profited from his lies, both in speaking fees and books. But Ergun Caner is not all to blame. The climate that we began to create in 1979 is also to blame. We bought his books because ...
Celebrity became integrity in the Southern Baptist Convention 30 years ago.
Southern Baptists applauded Caner when he told his embellished story. We oohed and ahhed as he spoke jibberish claiming it was Arabic. We were mesmerized by his jihadist story telling because we stopped seeing the exposition of the Scriptures as the role of our preachers and pastors and vaulted homilies full of anecdotes above the infallible Word of God. I am hopeful that in the Internet age, things are now changing in the SBC.
Now, for some closing thoughts on the "official" report of Liberty's investigation.
(1). "Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory."
The attorney who wordsmithed the above sentence is worth every dollar Liberty paid him. The committee is saying, in obfuscated English, that Ergun Caner lied. It just sounds better to say he made "factual statements that are self-contradictory.' Notice, it is impossible to make "truthful statements" that are self-contradictory, for truth doesn't contradict. One can say "I'm making a statement of fact (i.e. "a factual statement")" and lie while making it. That's what Ergun Caner did. So, Ergun Caner lied about his past.
(2). Dr. Caner is listed as "President' of Liberty Seminary on the official biographical sites, but no longer.
The committee publicly stated "his contract" as "Dean" will not be renewed. Again, the attorneys involved are so soft-pedaling the decision of Liberty they could be McDonald's ice cream salesmen. Ergun Caner is President of Liberty--but no longer will be. Ergun Caner has been removed as President of Liberty Seminary. The committee chose to soft-pedal the decision when announcing it.
(3). Dr. Caner will continue as a professor at Liberty.
According to the sources who have emailed me, this was purely the desire of Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr.
(4). Dr. Caner's embellishments have placed him in an awkward position.
I believe he can continue in ministry, particularly teaching and speaking, but two things will have to occur. First, he will need to speak to set the record straight once and for all. This will include acknowledging he embellished to make his life more interesting and to make his status as an expert on Islam more believable. And second, he will have to relearn how to preach. It can no longer be story after story, putdown after putdown--he will actually need to exposit and exegete the Word of God. Were both things to occur, I would be thrilled to have him preach at Emmanuel.
(5). The Southern Baptist Convention is rediscovering our past as a populist Convention.
It is quite interesting to me that Southern Baptist bloggers took the lead in exposing the lies of Ergun Caner. In the beginning, those bloggers were ignored. Only when a few of the national media started paying attention did Liberty take notice. I think the day has arrived when Southern Baptists truly have the voice they lost over the past few decades. No longer will this Convention be run by a few. The smallest voice can be heard if truth is being spoken.
Just maybe celebrity is being seen for what it is in the SBC -- nothing.
And maybe integrity is making a comeback in our beloved Convention.
In His Grace,