Liberty University, the
Baptist school founded by the late Jerry Falwell, will investigate claims that
its seminary president lied about his Muslim background to make his conversion
to Christianity seem more dramatic.
Ergun Caner was named dean
of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005, when he became the first
former Muslim to lead an evangelical seminary, according to Christianity Today.
Bloggers and online activists say Caner, 43, has misrepresented key parts of
his biography, including where he was raised.
Liberty Chancellor Jerry
Falwell Jr. said May 10 that the school “does not initiate personnel
evaluations based upon accusations from Internet blogs.” But, he said, “in
light of the fact that several newspapers have raised questions, we felt it was
necessary to initiate a formal inquiry.”
An investigatory committee
will issue conclusions by the end of June, according to a statement from
In a statement, Caner said: “I
am thrilled that Liberty University is forming this committee, and I look
forward to this entire process coming to a close.”
With nearly 4,000 students,
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lynchburg, Va., is one of several
flagship schools for conservative Baptists. Enrollment has tripled during Caner’s
tenure, according to Christianity Today.
But critics say Caner has
misrepresented several aspects of his past, including claims he was raised in
Turkey, rather than Ohio, in a devoutly Muslim home, rather than a nominally
They also dispute Caner’s claims he was involved in Islamic
jihad and has debated dozens of Muslims about religion.
Caner’s current biography on
Liberty’s web site says he was raised a “devout Sunni Muslim” and converted in
high school, but doesn’t say where.
In February, Caner released
a statement saying he had “never intentionally misled anyone,” but said he may
have “misspoke” during his more than 20 years in the pulpit.
He also admitted “referencing
a Muslim scholar that I have never met.”
“Sin is sin,” Caner said, “and
if I am dumb enough to say something like that, I should be man enough to deal
with it and never make such a grievous error again.”