LYNCHBURG, Va. – LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — A Baptist minister who toured the country to talk about his conversion from Islam to Christianity is no longer the dean of Liberty University's theological seminary following allegations he fabricated or embellished facts about his past, the school said Friday.
The university founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell said that a board of trustees committee concluded Ergun Caner made contradictory statements. Although it didn't find evidence that he was not a Muslim who converted as a teenager, it did discover problems with dates, names and places he says he lived, a statement said.
Caner will remain on the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary faculty, but won't be dean when his term expires on June 30.
"Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review," the school said.
A phone number listed for Caner in Lynchburg, where Liberty is located, was not in service.
An unlikely coalition of Muslim and Christian bloggers, pastors and apologists led the charge to investigate the preacher with video and audio clips they claim show Caner making contradictory statements.
Caner has been a celebrity in evangelical Christianity since 2001, when he and his brother began appearing on news shows and other venues to discuss Islam in the aftermath of 9/11.
The author and charismatic speaker became dean of the seminary at Liberty in 2005. Since then, enrollment has roughly tripled to around 4,000 students.
He told The Associated Press in 2002 that he was born in Sweden to a Turkish father and Swedish mother, who brought the family to Ohio in 1969, when he was about 3 years old. He said he accepted Christ as a teenager at a Baptist church in Columbus, and then pursued ministry, getting a degree from Criswell College, a Baptist school in Dallas.
Since questions arose about contradictory, he changed the biographical information on his website and asked friendly organizations to remove damning clips from their websites. But the questions didn't go away, leading to the Liberty investigation.
While few doubt that Caner was raised as a Muslim, they question changing biographical details in his speeches and whether he was a believer to the extent he told audiences.