Ergun Caner to lead Ga. Baptist college
Trustees of Brewton-Parker College voted unanimously Monday evening to elect a controversial former Muslim as president.
By Bob Allen
Ergun Caner, former head of Liberty University’s seminary found guilty three years ago of “factual statements that are self-contradictory” in a popular testimony claiming he received terrorist training before converting from Islam to Christianity, has been named president of Brewton-Parker College, one of three colleges affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Caner, 48, comes to the post in Mount Vernon, Ga., from Arlington Baptist College in Texas, where he served as provost and academic dean since 2011. Before that Caner was the dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va., named by the school’s founder, Jerry Falwell, in 2004.
Controversy arose in 2010, when bloggers questioned written descriptions of Caner's academic credentials and apparent embellishments in recorded versions of his “Jihad to Jesus” testimony popular with evangelical audiences in the aftermath of 9/11.
"Jesus strapped a cross on his back so I wouldn't have to strap a bomb on mine," Caner said in a sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention pastors’ conference in 2004. He preached in high-profile pulpits including First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, claiming he came to America to do what the 9/11 terrorists did before being saved from a martyr's death by accepting Christ.
Bloggers investigating the story found documents indicating that Caner in fact grew up in Ohio the son of a divorced Muslim father and Lutheran mother. After viewing online videos, Liberty trustees found “discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence” but “no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager.”
An unnamed Brewton-Parker trustee quoted in a press release summarized the unanimous vote: “We didn’t consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks. We elected him because of them. He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president.”
Outgoing President Mike Simoneaux predicted that Caner’s appointment “will excite Georgia Baptists and Southern Baptists who will sit up and take notice that Brewton-Parker College and its trustees are serious about its stand on the infallibility of the Scriptures and its decision to honor Jesus Christ in every area.”
In June, Caner sued two bloggers for posting video of him, claiming copyright infringement for reproducing, uploading and maintaining his intellectual property without permission.
One of them, Jonathan Autry of Virginia, filed court papers Nov. 26 claiming fair use of 42 videos of Caner he posted on YouTube intended to expose dishonesty by a public figure. Autry said he attempted to resolve the case, but Caner “has continued with the lawsuit for apparently no reason other than to seek attorney fees that I cannot afford to pay.”
The other, Jason Smathers, asked the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth, Texas, to dismiss the case for failure to enjoin the federal government, which gave him videos of Caner speaking to U.S. Marines that he requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
Caner, a graduate of Criswell College with both a master of divinity and master of theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, is author of books including Unveiling Islam, an award winner co-written with his brother, Emir, who is president of Truett-McConnell College, also affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
© 2014 Associated Baptist Press, Inc.