Past controversy surrounding Ergun Caner was not a deterrent for one of Georgia's three Southern Baptist colleges in unanimously picking the ex-Muslim-turned-academic as its next president.
Instead, it was an incentive.
"We didn't consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks; we elected him because of them," said a trustee for Brewton-Parker College (BPC) in announcing the "controversial educator" as its 16th president (press release copied below). "He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president."
CT has covered the debate over Caner's biography and whether he exaggerated his testimony in positioning himself as an evangelical expert on Islam. Associated Baptist Press summarizes some past statements.
Here's how BPC summarized Caner's bio in its press release:
"Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1966, Caner is the oldest son of a devout Turkish Muslim leader. The family immigrated to the United States first in 1969 and settled in central Ohio. Through the persistence of a high school friend, Caner converted to Christianity and became a minister shortly thereafter. He is a 1984 graduate of Gahanna Lincoln High School."
CT reported how Liberty University investigated the allegations in 2010 and eventually decided not to renew Caner's contract as seminary dean for making "factual statements that are self-contradictory." Meanwhile, his publisher defended Caner's biography in Unveiling Islam, as did scholar Norman Geisler.
Caner remained at Liberty as a professor until becoming provost and academic dean at Arlington Baptist College in 2011. Most recently, CT noted Caner's legal attempt to take down YouTube videos of past speeches posted by critics.
Outgoing BPC president Dr. Mike Simoneaux stated in the release, "This 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."
BPC is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention. Its enrollment during the 2011-2012 school year was 629.
The full press release:
Brewton-Parker College Calls Caner as President
Controversial Educator Determined to Raise the College's Profile
Mount Vernon, Georgia – On Monday evening, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to elect Dr. Ergun Caner as president of Brewton-Parker College. Brewton-Parker is one of three colleges affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Outgoing president Dr. Mike Simoneaux said, "I am excited about the appointment of Dr. Ergun Caner as the 16th president of Brewton-Parker. Dr. Caner brings a wealth of experience to the presidency with more than three decades in Christian higher education leadership, Biblical teaching, preaching and apologetics. This 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. I have no doubt that the college will grow and strengthen exponentially under his leadership. Bonnie and I leave the college knowing that the school we have loved since our first step onto the campus is in the strong, spirit-led and capable hands of President Ergun Caner. May God richly bless his presidency."
Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1966, Caner is the oldest son of a devout Turkish Muslim leader. The family immigrated to the United States first in 1969 and settled in central Ohio. Through the persistence of a high school friend, Caner converted to Christianity and became a minister shortly thereafter. He is a 1984 graduate of Gahanna Lincoln High School.
Caner received his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies from Cumberland College in 1989, his Master of Arts from Criswell College (TX) in 1992, a Master of Divinity (1994) and a Master of Theology (1995) from the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (NC) and the Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa.
Caner comes to the position from the Arlington Baptist College in Texas, where he served as Provost and Academic Dean since 2011. Prior to that, Caner served as the Dean of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, the school started by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority. Falwell named Caner as Dean in 2004.
In 2010 Caner was embroiled in controversy when religious bloggers accused him of embellishing his background as a former Muslim turned Christian. When those bloggers began uploading videos allegedly of Caner, Liberty University formed a committee to investigate the charges. Though the committee found no evidence of Caner deliberately lying, he stepped down as Dean, though he continued as a full-time professor until he went to Arlington.
One of the most popular speakers on the evangelical circuit, Caner speaks at Christian youth camps and conferences, as well as conventions and academic gatherings. His younger brother, Dr. Emir Caner, is President of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Georgia. Together the brothers have written numerous books on world religions including Unveiling Islam, which won the Gold Medallion Award in Evangelical Publishing in 2003.
Trustee Lynda Yawn, who chaired the search committee, commented, "Having prayerfully considered the job description and the current needs of the college, the search committee implemented a search process considering internal and external applicants. After interviews and deliberation, the committee was led to offer the position of president to Dr. Ergun Caner."
Board of Trustees chairman Rev. Bucky Kennedy also commented, "I am excited about Dr. Caner being the 16th president of Brewton-Parker College and believe our best and brightest days are in front of us. His visionary leadership and passion for students are remarkable and refreshing and his character and love for God are admirable and inspirational."
Another trustee summarized the 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."