When church leaders trip up: Liberty and the Ergun Caner situation

Last week, Liberty University wrapped up their investigation of an issue that has had bloggers talking for several months now: seminary president Ergun Caner and the contradictory statements he’s made about his personal background and Christian testimony. The investigating committee found that Caner had spoken untruthfully at times, and it declined to renew his contract as seminary president, although Caner will continue to teach at Liberty as a member of the faculty.

Bloggers continue to debate whether the “punishment” fit the “crime;” some believe that Caner engaged in willful deception while others think he is merely guilty of “pulpit exaggerations.” One of the most thoughtful responses I’ve seen is by Tom Chantry, who encourages us to keep the situation in perspective and understand that the Caner controversy is a symptom of deeper problems in American Christianity: time and time again, we put church leaders on pedestals—often with almost no serious examination of their life and character—and then are caught off guard when they inevitably slip up in some way. It’s obviously the individual’s responsibility to behave righteously, but the church “celebrity culture” encourages and enables our leaders to cut moral corners in pursuit of approval.

What do you think of the way this situation was handled? Did Liberty respond to the situation in a responsible Biblical manner? Did the bloggers who raised the initial accusations against Caner act in accordance with Biblical teaching? And most importantly: what can we do to avoid crises like these in the future?

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