Caner’s Conundrum: When The Church Acts Like John Edwards

 “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity”       -Andre Gide


Shhhhh…. I have some “gossip” to “share” with you. Did you know that John Edwards had an affair with a photographer Rielle Hunter and produced a child with her? Did you know that his wife Elizabeth was struggling with incurable breast cancer when he had this affair? Are you aware that Edwards conspired to keep this a secret? He got his campaign manager to pretend the child was his and may have actually used campaign money to pay Hunter?

Yawnnnn… that's yesterday's news. How many of you want Edwards to be prosecuted for any crimes he committed? Do you want him to give back contributions to his campaign because he deceived people? Aren’t you just plain disgusted with politics as usual? Don’t you want honesty back in the government?

So why do you want transparency in the public square but not in your churches? Why is it considered good journalism in the political arena but unchristian backbiting and gossip in the church? Why do we demand more from our politicians than we demand from our pastors? Because we have been sold a bill of goods, folks, and we have collectively been too naïve, trusting, or stupid to realize it. We hear no evil, see no evil, and refuse to address the evil that is being done.

Before I begin, I want to make a statement. There are wonderful pastors and great Christian organizations out there. But, not one of them is sinless. I am addressing how some of the bad guys address the "sin" problem

The Bible’s words can be twisted and turned to justify many things. However, one of the most disturbing trends is to label someone a “gossip” if said person is trying to expose sin in the church. Think about all the Old Testament prophets. Wasn't their focus purity among God's people? 


Here are some actual incidents that have occurred within the church.  When these serious matters are discussed by concerned Christians, they are often accused of being "gossips": 

– A pastor views pornography on his computer

-A pastor leads an excessive lifestyle, which consists of multimillion-dollar homes and  leased jets

-A pastor conceals a pedophile on the pastoral staff

-Pastors show blatant disregard to the aftereffects of child molestation

-A seminary president makes up a significant part of his own history

-A pastor engages in homosexual contact and uses drugs

-A pastor offers immediate forgiveness to a sexual predator while pressuring a family to remain silent and forgive the pedophile for molesting their child

-A pastor double and triple dips his salary from the church

-A woman is told not to tell anyone when her husband left her even though she was destitute

-How about a church that concealed the fact that one of their pastors was beating his wife? And when she sought help she was told to return to her abusive husband and not tell anyone or she wouldn’t receive any help?

I could go on and on and on and on. A good number of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and Sovereign Grace Ministries appear to have covered up a fair number of awkward issues through the years. In fact, it might be safe to say that there has been a “culture of cover up” in some of these ministries. Incredibly, they have had remarkable success in doing so until recently. The Darrell Gilyard story is a case in point.

This man, a protégé of Paige Patterson, had a history of sexually molesting young women. Many, many reports were brought to Patterson and subsequent “mentors” about his proclivities. Patterson said the women needed to bring “witnesses” of their molestation in order for him to “respond.” You can read some of these stories at the Darrell Gilyard link which can be found under “categories.”

However, no thanks to Patterson and his ilk, Gilyard is serving a prison terml. Why? It wasn’t due to the honesty of those who knew of his problems. It was due to Christa Brown’s website called Stop Baptist Predators.      Addendum – 7:30PM Special thanks to our alert commenter, Junkster, for correcting me per the following: "While Christa's blog is very important and did have a role in getting the word out about Gilyard, it was Tiffany Croft’s blog, Let’s Stop Pastor Darrell Gilyard Together, that brought forth the most information about Gilyard’s actions".

In the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, there is a chapter that deals with churches who attempt to silence those who would raise questions. We recommend that you read an article we wrote last year regarding this issue called “Shhh-Don’t Talk.”


Here is the bottom line. There are churches and pastors out there who are knee deep in sin. For years the pastors were able to conceal their transgressions because they held a position of power. They controlled the spread of information and they controlled the discipline.

For example, we mentioned one church that told a wife to return to her abusive husband. That husband is still attending the church. Not a word has been said about his sin publicly. Perhaps it is because he is a pastor and sometimes pastors protect other pastors. However, another man (not a pastor) who left his wife due to a serious issue was disciplined publicly and “thrown out” of the church. The pastors and elders get to pick and choose who gets “punished”.

These types of leaders reinforce their power by misusing Scripture to silence those who would bring up the issue of the abusive pastor. They are told they are “gossiping.” Gossiping is unbiblical, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the average church attendee is cowed by this accusation and shuts up.

When we began The Wartburg Watch, a woman at my previous church said she was praying for me. I asked if she had read what we were writing. “Oh no,” she responded, “I am only to focus on that which is positive.” Poor thing, she has been fooled into thinking that focusing only on the positive is “godly.”


Funny thing about Scripture, though, is that the stories in the Bible often times seem focused on the sin. And sin, by most accounts, tends to be negative. For example, there was that icky issue with David and Bathsheba. Nathan, the prophet, confronted David. Perhaps things would have gone a whole lot better had Nathan focused on the positive. You know, “David loves God and loves to dance”. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed.” “You don’t really know what happened with Bathsheba, do you? It’s just a bunch of gossip. Just be glad that David is a good king.”

I am sick and tired of our churches being run as secular organizations without the oversight by an independent press. I am irritated that people point fingers at Edwards and want him to be prosecuted but will not ask the same of their pastors. Pastors get a pass due to another good story making the rounds – the “touch not the Lord’s anointed” fiction. Who are the Lord’s anointed ones? They are the body of Christ. The pastors do not get a special “dose” of spirituality.

I deplore Christian organizations that “cover up” sin in order to “protect the church. These pastors and organization are protecting no one but their own sorry backsides. These supposed “warriors” for Christ will point fingers at the world but hide their own sins. Their nonsense about “gossip” is to a scare tactic to shut up the truth. Their hogwash about “protecting” the church illuminates their total lack of understanding that Jesus protects the church, not them. Deep down inside they are “hiding their sin” and they know it.

The following is a quote from ExChristian.Net  which is a blog that is dedicated to those who have left the Christian faith. The stories on this blog turn my stomach because they demonstrate the culture of corruption that is seen in many churches around the world. Understand that someone who was in the church for years and left the faith made this comment.


“In fact, given the many adulteries, fornications, lying, cheating, arrogance, theft, sexual and mental abuse that Christians engage in daily (just check the news section of this site, if your own church wasn't enough), having a moral code or belief in a god is nearly irrelevant to actual behavior. It still comes down to a choice of how to behave, even for Christians. This demonstrates that atheists and Christians are on equal ground morally, and relegates the concept of being "born again" to one more fantasy that the church promotes”.

Folks, the world watches our integrity. Does integrity mean perfection? No, no and no! In fact, I think the world is actually looking for Christians who screw up in a big way and live out their belief in repentance and forgiveness. They want to see those who apologize quickly without waiting to have their arms twisted. They want to see us man up and live out our lives as fallen men and women who walk the path towards sanctification instead of plausible deniability.

I believe that God has allowed the Internet to open the doors of our churches and allow the winds of accountability and freedom to blow in. It is time to dust away the cobwebs, to bring light into the dark and dismal corners, and to put Jesus back in the pulpit instead of fawning over preening, self-righteous hypocrites who hide their dirty little secrets.

Here is how the Ergun Caner situation could have been handled. As soon as those in charge at Liberty University realized there was a problem, they should have called Ergun into the office and checked the facts (by the way, didn’t anyone check his resume before he was hired? They need to be fired). Then:

Ergun should have met with reporters, etc. to confess his sin. He could have said something like this. “I have had some issues with lying and it is time for me to get help. I apologize to those who have heard my lies and ask them to forgive me. I am stepping down from my position, taking a leave of absence, and will receive counseling for my problem. Jesus is bigger than I am, and I place myself in His capable hands. Praise God for His death and resurrection.”

Instead, Caner and Liberty did a “John Edwards”.  This is becoming all too common.  Just like Edwards, they ran from the truth by  hiding from reporters and bloggers. Then they lied to the Liberty family and have produced an image of hypocrisy.


Wade Burleson, on his excellent blog, Grace and Truth to You has a wonderful story about how he handled the sin of one of his pastors. Here is the link. Thank God for men like Burleson who show us how to  do it right.


It is time for the Christian community to realize that Christian blogging has come of age. God is calling men and women of every stripe to confront serious issues that are not being addressed regarding the bride of Christ. At long last, the priesthood of the believer has a voice!  It's a voice that will not be silenced by arrogant hypocrites who have hijacked the church for shameless self-promotion. 


Caner’s Conundrum: When The Church Acts Like John Edwards — 8 Comments

  1. Another good series, ladies. I’m thankful for your ministry to the body of Christ.

    A couple of minor points:

    It was due to Christa Brown’s website called Stop Baptist Predators

    While Christ’a blog is very important and did have a role in getting the word out about Gilyard, it was Tiffany Croft’s blog, Let’s Stop Pastor Darrell Gilyard Together, that brought forth the most information about Gilyard’s actions.

    It is time … to put Jesus back in the pulpit

    I’m pretty sure Jesus never stood behind a pulpit, and I believe we’d do well to get rid of them in churches altogether. But that’s another topic altogether…

  2. Junkster

    You are right about Tiffany Croft and I am making the correction immediately-thank yo.

    Agreed on the pulpit. It was my attempt to say that the preaching seems to be focused on the preacher and not on Jesus.

  3. I knew what you meant about Jesus in the pulpit. I was just being my usual smart aleck-y self. What else do you expect from a guy who thinks that big, manufactured ta tas should be considered a sign of genuine spirituality. (No disrespect to General Tata intended.)

  4. Any time a pastor mentions “pastoral authority” or tries to change the church polity to give him/her and the staff more decision-making control or power (e.g., serving to nominate people, removing deacons or replacing elders), it is time to change the pastor. And if the church fails to stand up, then it is not a church any longer, because the people there are not the priests that the New Testament talks about. It has become some kind of self-serving entertainment club, just without the alcohol.

  5. ARCE

    Amen from me. As Simon Cowell is wont to say on American Idol, they are being “self indulgent.”