Liberty U. Announces Investigation of Caner Claims

We recently noted the energetic conversation on Muslim and Christian blogs about documented discrepancies in the dramatic “Jihad to Jesus” life story told by Dr. Ergun Caner, head of Liberty University’s seminary.

Just last week, Liberty broke its months-long silence with a dismissive waving away of the controversy. Christianity Today magazine reported that Elmer Towns, dean of the school of religion, “says the Liberty board has held an inquiry and directors are satisfied that Caner has done nothing theologically inappropriate.” Furthermore, Towns said, the questions raised about Caner were neither moral nor ethical issues, a claim that had the opposite of its intended effect among Baptist bloggers who had been calling for Caner and Liberty to come clean. How can publicly and repeatedly lying not be a moral or ethical issue, they asked? Towns’ response also generated a damaging story by the Associated Baptist Press. Early this week, I wrote a piece for Alternet noting that Liberty University had dug in its heels and asking why Caner wouldn’t take advantage of the path from public repentance to redemption that has been well-worn by misbehaving evangelical leaders
Yesterday, Liberty changed its tune and announced that Ron Godwin, the university’s provost, “is forming a committee to investigate a series of accusations against Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.” The brief official statement included a quote from Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. dissing the very bloggers who have documented the holes in Caner’s story. “Liberty does not initiate personnel evaluations based upon accusations from Internet blogs,” Falwell said. “However, In light of the fact that several newspapers have raised questions, we felt it necessary to initiate a formal inquiry.”
But didn’t Towns say that the university’s board had already looked into it? Well, it turns out that the board “inquiry” that Towns described to Christianity Today was just a “passing discussion” at a March meeting of the board’s seminary subcommittee. It “wasn’t an inquiry or anything like that,” says Liberty spokesman Johnnie Moore.
 Liberty says it will complete its investigation by June 30. Stay tuned.