Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ergun Caner, Integrity in Ministry, and a Rationale for Caring

Integrity of character is the infrastructure of the soul - there is a lot that hangs on it.

Integrity is like the frame of the car.  It's the 2x4's inside the walls of the house.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  So much hangs on the integrity of a person - their word, their reputation, the reputation of others who know them, etc.  This is particularly true in ministry.

Which is why this post is happening.  I just haven't been able to let go of something that's rumbling in the evangelical world but may very well go Iceland-volcanic on us and have ash on a lot more than the key players.  The issue is a guy named Ergun Caner, specifically whether or not he's living with integrity in regard to his testimony.

Ergun Caner is the president of the seminary of Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell and Elmer Towns.  He has an islamic background and has been become a very popular speaker on the evangelical circuit regarding Islam.  The problem, allegedly, is that he appears to have told different stories in different places that are irreconcilable.  After a brush-off last week by Liberty, it appears now that there is an internal investigation into the situation led by the Provost.  If you want more timeline details, just google Ergun Caner and there is plenty of info.

As a minister, I know I've said things that I shouldn't have from the platform.  Once, when I was in college, I fabricated a story at a retreat - it was on the fly - and had to wake up the next morning and repent to the group.  I'm not throwing stones here.  My wife and another friend even asked me, "Why do you care?"  Here's why I care...

If true, it is ammo in the guns of Muslim apologists.  "See, you can't trust those converts to Christianity.  They'll tell you absolutely anything to get you to forsake Islam."

If true, it never sits right with me for a charlatan of any stripe to steal resources from the Kingdom.  And that's precisely what he's doing - taking money for fabrication - if this proves to be true.

If true, I've lost a lot of respect for Elmer Towns and Liberty.  While I have some significant theological issues with LU, I do respect them for trying to train students to think like Christians as they head to the workplace.  His brush-off (it's not a moral issue?) and subsequent turn-around doesn't bode well.

If true, everyone in ministry takes a hit.  We all get some ash.  It was true with Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard.  It will be true, to a lesser degree probably, here.  But the conversations I have with unbelieving neighbors and others who know about the situation will have to first be sanitized with the "I'm not like that guy and neither are most of the ministers in the world" caveat.

Lastly, if true, why did LU wait to take action until the Washington Post, et al, came snooping around.  The provost specifically mentioned the pressure from the press in the rationale for starting the internal investigation.  Why not when a few bloggers brought it out?  Why not when Christianity Today inquired?  Why wait until bigger names in the media get involved?  Where is the integrity in that?  It's one thing if it's not on your leadership radar but another thing completely when you brush it off at first then reverse course.

I long to be the church to one another.  Speaking the truth in love, receiving rebuke in love, taking correction in love, encouraging in love, and so forth.  Integrity matters.  It really does.


  1. Interesting--and weird(?)timing. I went to a funeral yesterday at a Catholic church and the priest presiding the service was Indian or Pakistani or something similar. It was very difficult to understand his english with his accent at some times. It was a VERY strange experience to say the least! They used a lot of great Scripture and hymns, but things said just didn't sit quite right in my mind and it was a SAD service. All the talk of Jesus' resurrection, but still asking prayers for the deceased to be granted entrance to heaven because of the baptismal water? :(

  2. Your blog brings to mind the lyrics of a very popular song from a few years ago...
    "Honesty is such a lonely word
    Everyone is so untrue
    Honesty is hardly ever heard
    And mostly what I need from you"

    Even though I know this kind of thing upsets, and mostly understand why, I mostly quit apologizing for guys like this a long time ago. For a two or three reasons, first, they have always been around and will always be around and DO NOT, let me repeat, DO NOT represent me. You can't apologize for all of them all of the time. Too time consuming. Second, they are human, and therefore sinful, and also therefore deserving of the same grace I enjoy. Their sin, though more public, is still the same as mine. Third, the people that know me know that these guys don't represent me and therefore don't need my apologies and the ones that don't probably won't accept the apology or caveat that I'm not them anyway. Bottom line, the only valid reaction I've found for these guys is to pray for them and for the H.S. to use these events to draw folks to Him. This approach almost makes me welcome these events as it opens doors for witnessing that might not have been opened otherwise.
    P.S. Please don't read this as a criticism of your post, just my own observations and thoughts, that wouldn't have bubbled to the surface without your post to begin with. :-D
    P.P.S. It was great seeing you today. Looking forward to our next, and hopefully longer, "seeing". :-)