I’ve followed the Ergun Caner controversy the last weeks. Let me say that I have a great respect for Liberty Theological Seminary and Graduate School. They have a great program and do a fine job preparing future ministers and ministry leaders. I also have respect for the job that Dr. Caner has done at Liberty. He has led the organization through phenomenal growth. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of this controversy, these are undeniable givens.
I do find the call for Caner’s resignation and/or termination premature, inappropriate, and even extreme. The overt suggestion of such shadows the perception of an “axe-to-grind” mentality by its proponents. Allow Liberty to conduct their own unbiased investigation, report appropriate findings, and make their own recommendation and decision. The notion of a resolution pertaining to this matter being submitted at the Southern Baptist Convention or the ongoing perceived stalking only further divides rather than resolves. Regardless of the outcome, there are some lessons or reminders the rest of us can glean from claims made in this controversy.
For people who speak for a living, integrity in speech is essential. The stories you tell, the illustrations you use, and the facts you supply must be authentic, genuine, and verifiable. We must be truthful with the stories that surround the message of Truth. Great care must be exhibited in the sharing appropriate and truthful information. It’s too easy to take liberty in embellishment to prove a point or to drive a principle home. Anything less than truth compromises the vehicle delivering the Gospel. If it’s not truth, it’s a lie. How many times have you heard the tag, “Preacher’s Story” or “Ministerially Speaking”? It seems that we give license to error and untruth or at least expect it at some point from our messengers. Maybe our call should be to live above the cultural expectations of the churched. Even if your ministry is itinerant, that is all the more reason to exhibit integrity and truthfulness in speech.
Another lesson is reflected through verifiable online research. Public speakers have to be careful with stories, illustrations, or other online material. In this communication age, many of the things we read online are filtered through prejudice, gossip, and disregard for facts. When we “pick-up” someone else’s story, we need to be careful to verify it before retelling it. If it can’t be verified, don’t use it. Unverified illustrations can negate the effectiveness of the talk, speech, or sermon. Take care in speaking with integrity. You don’t have to sensationalize a message in order to influence; integrity has a greater impact.
Regardless of the validity of the claims or the perceptions of readers and bloggers, the events surrounding the Ergun Caner controversy have become a significant reminder to every teacher, preacher, and speaker to share with integrity, truthfulness, and fact. If we’re giving a message of hope, let’s give hope based on truth rather than false embellishment. The Details do matter!