Just 10 days ago, on January 20, we published the news, based on the BPC press release, that Ergun Caner had stepped down as president of Brewton-Parker College in Georgia so that he could heal as a result of the tragedy that had befallen his family. In that article, we asked people to pray for the Caner family during this time as the healing process went forward.
It is now clear, from published reports and information gleaned from trustees and students, that the official story was designed to cover up the facts of the story and the real reasons that Dr. Caner was forced to step aside at BPC. Southeast Georgia Today, a small online journal from Vidalia, broke the story publicly yesterday, and it has gotten wide circulation since.
While I have been aware of the information in that report since the day of Caner’s resignation, it was not my intent to write on this topic. However, since the story has gone into the public domain now, since my good friend C.B. Scott has been unjustly fired as a result of his principled stand, and since I have been told that many other revelations are likely to come out very soon, I decided to write a post on the topic.
Here is the gist of the story:
- Dr. Ergun Caner resigned to avoid termination. The primary reason that has been published, and as I understand it the flashpoint of the controversy, was racially offensive comments made by Dr. Caner. At one chapel, 1/3 of the student body (present at chapel) walked out in protest of Caner’s racially insensitive speech. There were other issues, but this one seemed to be the one that cost the support of trustees who had previously stood behind him.
I am personally angered by this. Not only were we given a deceptive story (which I published as news) about Caner resigning of his own volition simply to heal from his family tragedy, but my friend C.B. Scott, whose integrity, character, and honesty has shined brightly in the midst of deception, manipulation, and scheming that surrounded him, has been fired.
And, as has been reported, the administration tried to buy CB’s silence with a generous severance package. When he refused to sign away his integrity, they terminated him with nothing. He worked countless hours to dig BPC out of the SACS mess they were in. He represented students and was an effective liaison for the college in the community. They fired him because he would not play ball, because (as was reported in the article linked to earlier) he refused to help Caner restore his credibility after the incidents that took place and because he refused to agree to a non-disclosure agreement while facing termination.
Note: while I talked to CB and told him I was going to write this, his only request was that I not reveal any information I gained from my private conversations with him. I have followed that. Any information I am publishing here was gleaned from multiple sources. I am not revealing anything I learned from CB alone. Here’s the irony – CB has such integrity that even though he refused to sign their NDA, he is not wanting to talk about what was done to him.
The actions of the Board of Trustees and administration at BPC are sad and disgraceful. Georgia Baptists ought to be ashamed of what was done to a very good man. I’m not sure what can be done to rectify this, but someone ought to take such steps.
I have a few questions I’d like to ask about this situation.
1) When did deception in the name of public relations become an acceptable norm at Baptist institutions?
The tragedy that befell the Caner family this last summer was one of the saddest moments in recent Southern Baptist history. It was a wake up call in terms of how we relate to one another in the social media arena. My heart continues to go out to the family as a result of those events. When it happened, I encouraged people to pray. Anyone who has lost a family member to suicide knows that one does not recover quickly from that sorrow. It takes decades.
But none of that excuses the use of such a tragedy as a public relations maneuver to cover the truth. A tragedy like that should never be used as a public relations tool. When did it become okay to create and publish a false story to “protect the institution”? Is telling the truth now secondary to putting a good face on things, to institutional advancement, and to covering up uncomfortable facts?
Our values are not shaped by political campaigns and business practices, are they? Politicians “spin” to make cowpies look like chocolate pies. Businesses do the same things to protect their investments. But churches and Christian entities have a duty to the truth and we must not engage in such practices.
It’s simple. Tell the truth. Spin may be okay for Democrats and Republicans, but it is not okay in Christian institutions.
2) When did it become okay to spend God’s money to suppress the truth?
Non-disclosure agreements are standard business practice in the world, but are they worthy in the church and in Christian institutions? We’ve seen reports in recent years of a lot of God’s money being used at Baptist colleges to hush people, to purchase silence and to keep people from reporting the truth.
When did that become okay?
Do people give their money in the offering plate on Sunday so that college administrations can hand it out to buy silence to cover over their misdeeds? I don’t think so.
3) Why aren’t there more men like CB Scott out there?
CB Scott has done nothing that shouldn’t be NORMAL among Christian people. Honesty. Integrity. Christian character. The refusal to compromise. The refusal to sell his soul. These things ought not be remarkable. They ought not be unusual. They are biblical qualities. But they are way too rare.
If the church was doing its job, what CB did would be normal, not heroic. It is sad how unusual and heroic the basic Christian ethics demonstrated by CB Scott are.
4) Is there any value to seeking to crush Ergun Caner into the dust?
I’ve never understood the passions about Dr. Caner – on either side. Some will defend Dr. Caner no matter what he does. Others will not be satisfied until he has been tarred, feathered, and ridden out of the Baptist world on a rail.
To me, the story is that a Baptist institution was willing to publish what it knew was not true to protect its own image. And then it was willing to fire a decent, honorable, hard-working man who did nothing wrong simply because he would not join in their shenanigans. Focus on BPC and the dishonorable behavior that has taken place there.
But Dr. Caner is now out of the picture.
- I have been informed that there may be others preparing to publish more salacious details about Caner’s life and his failings as the president of Brewton Parker. What good will that do? How is the kingdom advanced by grinding Caner into the dust? That might gratify the flesh after several years of war between the Caner/Anti-Caner factions. But it will not serve the work of God. What good might come of that? I would encourage those who want to “tell the whole story” of Caner’s misdeeds to ask what benefit can come from that.
- The fact is that Caner is a man dealing with a serious family issue. I cannot even imagine what he is going through in the loss that he and his family suffered. He genuinely does need our prayers.
5) Have we forgotten Numbers 32:23?
The people of Reuben and Gad had an inheritance across the Jordan, but had committed to joining the other tribes in the conquering of the land. Moses warned them that they should fulfill their commitment.
But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23
When you serve in a Christian institution – a church, a school, or a Board of Trustees for any Christian entity, you hold a sacred trust, given by God. You are not the king of your own little domain, given the freedom to do as you please. You answer to God. When you serve faithfully, God will reward you. When you sin, your sin will find you out.
Eventually, we will have to account for all our actions. We all do well to remember that.
I write this with sadness. I hate writing things like this, knowing that some will gloat with glee and others will be offended. I will close comments because I don’t find the discussion of these issues to be productive, in general. I hope my heart comes through in this.
- I am upset that a Baptist school thought that covering over the truth with a false story was the best way to go.
- I am upset that my good friend, who stood strong with conviction and character, lost his job because he wouldn’t play ball with those who sought to cover up the truth.
- I remain convinced that we need to pray for Dr. Caner and his family. Whatever you think of him, there is pain there. While the tragedy was used as a cover up in this instance, it is a real story and the pain he feels is real. Pray for the man.
- Baptist institutions like BPC need to re-learn their ethics, drawing their practices from the Word of God, not from secular institutions and standard business practices.