Reflections on Emir Caner’s Tweet & Apology

On May 16th Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell College, tweeted, “The military discovered a large stash of pornography in bin Laden’s compound. I was unaware that Islam had its own Acts 29 Network.”

This tweet created quite a storm on Twitter with many calling for Caner to apologize for slandering other brothers in Christ (including Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition blog).

Dr. Caner has removed the tweet and made this statement about it, “I have come to realize over the past few days that Driscoll’s vulgarity is far too serious an issue to simply put out a satirical tweet.  While it is easy to find Driscoll crossing the line (see articles by John MacArthur and Cathy Mickels) it should not be likewise with me, and for that I apologize.

I have known Dr. Caner for a long time. I love him and have learned from him, but sadly, I found Dr. Caner’s tweet shameful and his apology inadequate, as it did not address the real issue on the table.

There are many possible items to discuss with regard to this situation but space will not allow them. Chief among my complaints would be that the Acts 29 Network is a growing and diverse body of churches that is by no means monolithic. To smear Acts 29 because you feel like one pastor or church in that Network has done something you disagree with is like condemning all Southern Baptists because one SBC pastor has an affair.

My intention with this post is not to stir up more controversy or dissect Caner’s apology, but rather I want to simply reflect on this fiasco and what it’s taught me about life and ministry in the SBC.

1. Will the SBC continue to divide sins into lists of respectable and unrespectable?

We like to hold our double-standards. Talking too bluntly (vulgarly?) about sex in a sermon is over-the-line and needs to be called out publicly, but deceptive “hyperbole” in a sermon can go without being called out? Is unrepentant, prideful judgmentalism a sin that we are happy to overlook, but vulgarity is not?

My prayer is that we will not look with disdain on sins that we see in others while continuing to give ourselves passes for the sins we struggle with…and that leads to my second reflection.

2. When will the SBC view confession and repentance the way that God views it?

Why is it that we want to continue to attack someone for a past fault when they have repented of that fault publicly and made steps to rectify them?

Caner wants to criticize Driscoll’s vulgarity. Driscoll has admitted publicly that there are times that he’s crossed the line. He has repented, and he has taken content down.

Driscoll wrote the following:

“…I received two emails from an older pastor whom I respect very much. In love, he brought to my attention a piece of content from me online that some of my critics have picked up on. It was a message I did out of the country a few years back on the more controversial sections of the Song of Songs…Allegedly, some of my critics were concerned by the older content, and I think there is wisdom in some of their concerns. So we have pulled that content…I want to thank my critics for teaching me that I have multiple audiences and that in addition to the room I speak to I am often also speaking to the world and need to keep repenting, learning, and growing in this skill for the sake of the gospel. In that way, my critics are helpful, and for them I am grateful.”

Baptist21 was started in part because we want to see gospel-centrality permeate the SBC. Part of gospel-centrality is recognizing that we are all in need of the grace of the gospel not just for justification, but also for sanctification. The Christian pilgrim makes progress down the road of holiness through confession and repentance.

Our prayer for the SBC is that we will look upon humble repentance, contrition and confession in the way God does and forgive it. Our prayer for the SBC is that it will be a convention of churches where we are all humble enough to be open to correction and willing to repent when faced with our sin.

That is mainly what I hope to take away from this. I am an arrogant sinner who easily gravitates towards judgmentalism, arrogance, pride and more. When I am confronted with a sin, even when it is done lovingly, I bow up and harden my heart. My prayer is that God will give me the grace to respond to correction with contrition and also to extend grace to the contrite.

I am grateful for every example of that kind of life, even when it comes from a pastor outside of the SBC.

Comments 0

  1. Good thoughts, yet, why is everything an SBC issue? What if it’s just Caner’s perspective? I guess I fail to see how one tweet from one person is an SBC issue. It would equivalent of taking everyone of my tweets and making it about the church I serve.

    Also, is everyone so nieve not to think the Caner’s don’t like to stir things up? Come on. Why is there not such a firestorm when FakeJDGreear takes shots at TBN, Benny Hinn, and Osteen. Double standard?

    Finally, accept A29 as having some black eyes. We all understand repentance, but there are consequences. Just accept it and move on. The SBC is not perfect an neither is A29.

    Thanks for the post and thoughts. People take shots at the SBC all the time and I don’t get bent out of shape. Just shrug your shoulders and do your best to live out the Gospel. Not everyone will “get it.”

  2. Hi Paul, Aiken is the head of an SBC institution, talking about the head of another SBC institution.

    This is like a Senator trying to correct a Representative for the way he treated a government official from another country, it would be a Government issue (in addition to a personal one).

  3. Paul,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I think they’re very helpful.

    Only reason I addressed this as an sbc issue is bc I see the prevalence of this kind of thing in the sbc, and certainly in me as well.

    My perspective is no doubt limited and others may not have experienced this as much as I have.

    Thanks again.


  4. Good thoughts, that’s the same issue that concerns me most about the whole situation as well. It’s easy to get defensive and blame others when we sin. I hope more and more we’ll see authentic repentance and apologies when those kinds of things are necessary.

  5. A couple of thoughts by someone who has been caught up in the midst of this thing because I chose to blog on it:

    1) To Paul – the issue would be silly to bring up if it weren’t for the fact that Emir Caner is the President of Truett-McConnell College, an institution that receives about $1 million a year in support from the CP. His status and influence can in no way be compared to a fake twitter persona whose purpose is to create satire and as such no one takes too seriously. However, when such an influential leader as Dr. Caner seeks to denigrate an entire Church Planting network (some of whom are considering affiliating with the GA Baptist Convention, but have reservations about their acceptance in the convention), then indeed the proper response is a true and humble apology.

    2) Having spoke with an Executive with the GA Baptist Convention and having heard from DOM’s in GA, I am convinced that the GBC feels that this was inappropriate as well. So it’s not just a bunch of bloggers in their bathrobes and basements who are blowing this out of proportion.

    3) Whenever a Christian leader does damage to the unity of the Body of Christ, they ought to seek to reconcile with the offended to at least a reasonable level and at least to the satisfaction of the majority of those offended. A Trustee of Truett-McConnell suggested to me that no matter what Caner does, everyone will not be pleased. I agree. But I suggested back to him that it would be nice to try to please at least a few of those who are offended. After all, it’s supposed to be an apology, not a negotiation.

    Finally, thank you to those at B21 who took the time to address the issue publically. We in GA are hoping to do more of the same in the next few days should Caner not seek any real reconciliation.

  6. Jon,
    I see where are coming from, I personally just don’t see how that jump could have been made from a 140 character tweet. It’s all good though, you are entitled to your opinion and conclusions. I respect that.

    1) If your logic is true, then the same exact tweet by “FakeEmirCaner” would have been perfectly okay. Just doesn’t make logical sense to me.
    2) Who cares who he works for. He has his opinions and he apologized. Isn’t that really what you are asking him to do for Driscoll? I would be careful not to talk out of both sides of the mouth. He doesn’t work for the SBC, he works for a school that receives money. Again, you’re basically saying, the tweet would have be fine if a non-SBC tied person made it???
    3) With all do respect, give me a break. I am all about owning up to your actions and taking responsibility, but that’s just ridiculous. The irony here is that he didn’t say anything about a person, but about a network. Do you attack everyone who says ANYTHING negative about the SBC in a derogatory way and make them “seek to reconcile with the offended to at least a reasonable level.” I seriously doubt it.

    I appreciate B21, I really do. I just think this blog is trying to do the same thing that Caner was – spark thought and conversation. Yes, different means, but same purpose. If no one said anything, I assume that would have really stuck it to him.

    I know that some people want A29 to be the SBC, but it’s not. At some point, some will have to choose between the two. It will really get interesting when that happens…. Until then, just remember that neither A29 or the SBC (or their affiliates) are infallible. Let it go and move on. All this whining really makes A29 look desperate and weak, which really take a shot at their masculine physique. Just take the shots and keep doing the good things you are doing and let your actions speak louder than your words (or tweets). 😉
    Just my two cents.

  7. Paul S.,

    1. “FakeEmirCaner” is not or would not be Emir Caner (as far as we’d know).

    2. For what did Emir apologize exactly? Scott Thomas the Acts 29 Network director is on twitter and Emir could have easily addressed him. Just as Emir does not work for the SBC, Mark Driscoll is not the Acts 29 Network. It might be argued that the guilt by association tactic used in Emir’s libel in associating the Acts 29 Network with Driscoll may be used to associate Emir with Truett-McConnell which receives SBC money. And his whole twitter profile points to his position at Truett stating, “President, Truett-McConnell College. (Ana)Baptist by conviction.” Also, should the “apology” be good enough for the Acts 29 church planters’ wives who took offense and said so to Emir on twitter?

    3. And a network of Christian church planters is made up of? He essentially said something about a group of people who are Christian brothers. But then he equivocated in his apology which lended itself to being no apology at all to the offended party. Isn’t that who really deserves the apology is the one whom the offense is aimed?

    It is interesting that you call “whinning” what others see as real concerns.

    Here is one cent back. 😉

  8. Paul,

    I think you may have missed my point. The issue is not that the tweet is “O.K.” if someone else said it, but rather that it is worse because a person who is a leader in the GBC and SBC said it. Scripture is pretty clear that leaders (particulary teachers) are held to a higher standard. Just as some might be offended if I were to make a derogatory joke about say . . . another race, but if the President of the United States made the same derogatory joke people would be livid. Why? Because people expect leaders to know better and to be more careful with their words. They also expect leaders to not influence people in a negative way. Whereas I might influence a few, a person like Caner has much more influence. As such he should be held to a higher standard and expected to no behave in this way.

    I don’t know if you are a Church leader or not, but I think you could understand that there is a difference between a Church member saying something inappropriate in a Sunday School class and a pastor saying something inappropriate from the pulpit. The same principle applies. Both are wrong – the leader’s error, however, is much more detrimental and thus as such should be handled with much more seriousness.

  9. Mark,
    I appreciate your comments and understand you are ticked. You have a right to be. It’s your feelings. Just because you are ticked doesn’t mean you deserve an apology. Mark Driscoll can crack jokes about the SBC all day long for all I care, and I consider it dear to me. I could just care less about what he says.

    Let’s really get to the issue. A29 has pushed the ethical boundaries so far that it was believable that porn was okay or acceptable. I know it is not and never believed it was. I was smart enough to pick up on the satire. Yet, A29 have pushed the lines so far, they had to address it. This is their most disappointing quality in my opinion. Just my opinion. A29 has many great qualities, but are overshadowed by alcohol, language and the Song of Solomon fiasco. But, as I have said, none of us are perfect. Yet, if Driscoll pointed out one of the SBC flaws and satired it, I could really care less. In fact, I’m sure he has. You won’t see me running around whining about repentance and all that sillyness. He apologized. Move on just like you ask everyone to do with Driscoll.

    Honestly man, that sounds ridiculous and I hope that is not the way B21 OR A29 feels. For all the talk about cooperation, it’s not really modeled. Sounds like people are just waiting for someone to mess up and the call for a resignation because they don’t like them or their theology. Not very cooperative either. Seriously man, let it go. It was wrong. Some people got a chuckle others did not. It definitely wasn’t worth it. He apologized. Move on.

    I’ve heard pastors say inappropriate things in a pulpit. They did in a college revival service. It was uncalled for, yet I didn’t think that is how this man’s church behaves or go blog about how wrong I was or call people to stir up crap. It just made me think less of him and I was embarrassed for his wife. The college didn’t think this way either. It was simply someone making a joke that was off-color to get attention. Same here. By giving him attention, he won. I hope you can see that. P.S. Knowing the Caner bros, it probably won’t be the last. Just some future advice there… 😉

  10. Paul: It should be the last. And in a way Emir does work for the SBC if his college is receiving Southern Baptist funds. He may just find those funds drying up if he doesn’t think before he tweets or speaks.

  11. Paul,

    First let me echo Aaron’s question in regard to what exactly you believe Acts29 has ever done to suggest they endorse porn? Seriously, I think you are terribly misinformed.

    As for my comments being ridiculous, what exactly is so ridiculous – that leaders should be held more accountable and be expected to not make comments like Caner did? Perhaps you have a bigger problem with the Bible than with me, since again you seem to ignore that the Bible teaches that leaders (especially teachers) are to be held to a higher standard. I’m wondering why you don’t get that.

    As for comparing what a pastor in a pulpit does (in regard to going off and blogging about it) to what Caner did (in that he sent his message out to 2000 followers on a public forum), I think again you miss the point.

    Finally no one is waiting for anyone to mess up – Caner put himself in this situation and there’s an easy fix for it – a real, true, humble apology that indicates that Acts29 doesn’t equal porn. And if you’d check twitter you’d see exactly how broad the agreement is that Caner was wrong. When Southern Baptists (particularly its leaders) do something this silly it alienates us from the rest of Evangelicalism and makes us look foolish. You might not care how our denomination looks to the rest of the world and the rest of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but I do.

  12. I’d like a link that shows where Acts 29 portrayed porn as acceptable, even satirically. If you cant do that, then quit saying they did.

    Bottom line? The Driscoll haters will never forgive him for his early mistakes and they will continue to lob grenades. When they get confronted, they’ll play the Caner card and just claim that they’re not as bad as Driscoll, and they’ll repeat that cycle endlessly.

  13. Point of clarification. Truett is NOT an SBC school, not really. The SBC has absolutely NO authority over the school. They are officially a GBC institution. They are funded in part by the CP dollars of Georgia Baptist congregations. In other words, the college is supported by the portion of CP that stays in state before going on to Nashville.

    I am not redirecting the conversation, but I’m curious how you guys feel about Dr. Akin’s response. Though I love and appreciate Dr. Danny Akin. I was surprised by his public response to Dr. Caner’s tweet. He obviously weighed costs and benefits of such a public response, and it is obviously his right to do so. But I think it will be unfortunate if entity heads begin publicly correcting each other. This may shock you, but I think they all disagree on a lot of issues.

  14. Paul S.,

    Let’s not move from what I said to motives i.e. asserting that I am ticked. I am not ticked. And regardless of what my “feelings” are they are not the topic of this discussion. Whether you realize it or not your new assertions about me attempt to shift the conversation where it should not go.

    For example, you claim something about my feelings and then move to talk about my feelings and how they do not warrant an apology. It’s sort of like poisoning the well. This is also not about a hypothetical comment that Driscoll may or may not make about the SBC. So lets stick with the issues, okay?

    Your charge that, “Let’s really get to the issue. A29 has pushed the ethical boundaries so far that it was believable that porn was okay or acceptable.” is a serious one. Can you show how you came to that conclusion? Please explain to us how the whole Acts 29 Network have pushed the ethical boundaries too far.

    And for what did Emir apologize exactly?

  15. As I said, I believe A29 would NEVER endorse porn. That’s not my point. My point is that they have pushed the line so far in other areas, it made it believable. That is sad. If GA Baptists want to stop funding the college b/c of this I say go ahead! You are autonomous. I simply believe you will be laughed off the convention floor.

    Honestly, I like A29. I wouldn’t join it, but I doesn’t mean I don’t like it or have friends that are in it. I honestly think Driscoll an I would make good friends. I could care less what he does b/c I am not in A29 and have no ties to him. Therefore I don’t have to “forgive” him. Lol.

    Look, here’s what SBC people see from these blogs: they see young guys who are upset with the SBC, blog about it and love on the A29. You are definitely entitled to your opinion, but if you want to be listened to, provide solutions to the problem. But, the solution is not become A29. It’s fix the SBC. Just an opinion, I would blog about some of the issues in the A29. Make it even. If you complain about the SBC, complain about A29 as well. Neither are perfect.

    About teachers being held to a higher standard and my understanding of Scripture (LOL): I know what James 3:1 says. I apply that to teaching, not tweeting. It is one man’s opinion and did not teach it. Seriously it makes me sigh. I know sone of you think highly of yourselves, but you are not the one to judge. Work on your own planks right now. Honestly, think about how people perceive this. You won’t get a feather in your hat or a pat on the back for “bringing down a Caner.” just move on already, it begins to look pathetic. Seriously.

  16. Somewhat unrelated, but if we are discussing A29 vs. SBC then I’d like to comment: I think that the A29 Network says one thing in their Mission Statement, but does something completely different with their church plants. They say that they want to plant churches in areas that are not being reached, but I’ve seen their plants in areas swarming with churches. That’s not to say that these churches are doing the evangelizing to their respective communities, because I’ll admit I’ve seen my share of SBC-affiliated churches that are run more like a country club with membership dues instead of tithe dollars being used in the community for outreach. My church has recently lost a Youth Minister to an A29 church plant, in one of those places not being reached by churches, 4 miles from the campus that he served at. My issue with the A29 mentality is that it’s “Let’s plant cooler churches, that are more edgy, to reach people who like edgy cool churches” rather than their publish mission, “Let’s find communities that aren’t hearing the Gospel, and take it to them”. If this Youth Minister truly felt like we weren’t reaching a certain people group in the area, maybe instead of jumping ship one year after he was called to youth ministry, he could have used his position to enact change, and show a new generation how to reach out to these people groups. Youth Ministry is about building relationships, being a mentor in developmental times, and discipling your students. What a perfect opportunity to mold young people and show them how Jesus loved the tax collectors and prostitutes of the world, not just the grey-hairs that complain about Mighty to Save.

    I started off saying that it’s a debate of A29 vs. SBC. In a perfect church world, They should be working together. Same team here, guys. I think that maybe SBC churches in general should work on reaching outside their walls more than keeping your big tithers happy, and those with the A29 mentality can help to enact this change within their SBC church, rather than planting a church within earshot of six other churches.

    As a media guy, it is tempting to jump ship and work at a church with the latest and greatest sound, lights, and video equipment. To think of huge media budgets that could be used to innovate and create rather than update from 15 years ago is sooooo tempting. But, that’s not what I was called to do. My church has such an opportunity to reach the community where we are, and my challenge is to use the resources provided to me and use technology to reach a broader group of people. It has been an uphill battle and I have won and lost fights along the way, but God’s calling isn’t supposed to be easy. A29 is a very cool movement, and I would like to think that I would align myself with their mission, but apply that to where I’m at, and possibly spark something within a group of people to go out and reach the unreached, rather than divide the church even more.

    I like Driscoll’s preaching, and I applaud his public stance on liberal-theology-inviting topics such as homosexuality and Rob Bell. I even applaud his A29 ideas, as it’s something that ALL churches should be doing. And they ARE planting churches in areas that are unreached, and that’s wonderful. But I look at the churches in their network and know of other churches on the same block. And there’s things that the SBC does that I agree with, and others I don’t (for instance, the stance on alcohol is not completely biblically-based. We should have a firm stance on drunkenness and alcoholism, and even preach that we shouldn’t drink because it leads to those things, but do it according to scripture.) My point is that there are things we can do to work together instead of bashing each other publically. We are more similar than we are different, but it’s those differences that we will attack each other viciously on. And we should hold each other accountable, since, SBC or A29, we are globally known to the world as Christian. When we take to public forms of disagreement, we weaken the view of Christianity to the world. Think of the lost person that sees these divisive tweets between Christian leaders. If we can’t even agree on Christianity, then why would they want Christ? So they can argue too? If one Christian leader has an issue with another Christian leader, it should be addressed in an email or a phone call, not on a public medium.

    I typed this on my iPhone, so I apologize for any typos.

  17. Paul,
    > Couple of items:
    > 1. I don’t know that anyone has called for a resignation or defunding the school, just a real apology. He has not apologized at all. He simply said yeah a29/Driscoll are every bit as bad as I said but sorry for the bad joke & stooping to their level. Not an apology, that’s another attack.
    > 2. This isn’t about young guys criticizing sbc and loving on a29. A29 has plenty of faults (and they’re willing to admit that). I think young guys were upset at the slanderous cheap shot and rightfully so. It has never been stated that a29 is perfect and sbc stinks. Plus you wanna talk bout cooperation. In many places there is good cooperation bt the 2
    > No 1 has said the solution is to become a29. It is to fix sbc. We’ve written plenty on that and this was another instance that’s proved points we’ve tried to make.
    > 3. Let’s be clear that this situation has zero to do with theological differences. It was slander concerning a29/Driscoll morality.


  18. “My point is that they have pushed the line so far in other areas, it made it believable.”

    It’s believable because that’s what the anti-Driscoll establishment says is happening from Driscoll down through A29. His critics want him and every planter under him labeled as drunk foul-mouthed sailors who watch porn so that they can steer people away from their movement. I have yet to see anything brought forward by Caner defenders that would even REMOTELY suggest A29 has done things to give his joke even remote credibility.

  19. Jon,
    1) Define “real” apology. It seems that everyone here wants an apology on their terms and will never truly accept it. Its sad. I believe Emir was brilliant in his apology. He apologized for the tweet, but not his dislike for A29. Should he apologize for not liking Driscoll or the Network? That seems to be the consensus here…

    2) It’s sad that guys jump to defend A29 and not the SBC. It shows real/true loyalty. That’s the issue that many are having right now. I could care less what people like/don’t like, but that’s how it is perceived. Take it with a grain of salt then. I do agree though that there is some good cooperation. Let’s leave it there and not try to make A29 the SBC. It will never happen and some just need to accept that. It seems the “fix” is to become A29.

    3) I really don’t consider this slander. It was a satirical joke. Everyone quickly got their panties in a bunch and called for “repentance.” It’s just amusing. I honestly believe it is about theological differences. People keep bringing up the Bible and the standard of teachers, etc. Isn’t that theological?

    Also, if it is SUCH a big deal, why hasn’t A29 network themselves lashed out. I assume it because they understand and don’t care. Why does everyone here, who is SBC and NOT A29, care that much????

    I have stated this already. It is their acceptance of alcohol and their crude language and views of sex inside marriage (Song of Solomon). I KNOW that A29 does not accept porn, but by their recent behaviors it opens the door as a believable statement. Just my “feelings.” Why not construct a document of all that Caner should apologize in your opinion that would be “good enough” and post it. Maybe he will address your concerns. If not, who cares? Move on with your life. Hate the SBC if you want. Love A29 if you want. I don’t care. That’s up to you. You will be disappointed a lot in life if you think everyone is going to live up to your standards.

  20. Paul,

    I can see dialoging with you is not going get move this discussion very far forward. You can’t seem to follow the ideas that are being put forward.

    I’m not sure who the “their” is in your comment here, “I have stated this already. It is their acceptance of alcohol and their crude language and views of sex inside marriage (Song of Solomon).

    One of the issues is that Emir’s tweet specifically mentioned the Acts 29 Network not Mark Driscoll. Then, he equivocates the two in his “apology”.

    FYI, I am not affiliate with Acts 29, but I am a Southern Baptist who lives in Georgia. So I don’t hate the SBC in any sense.

    Whose standards should Emir be held to and live up to? And what should these standards be based on?

  21. A real apology is when you are sorry for the harm you did to someone, even if you didn’t mean to hurt them. Dr. Caner did not address Acts 29 in any way and did not apologize for the correlation he made between pornography and Acts 29. He apologized for succumbing to the temptation to be like Mark Driscoll, which obviously implies he believes Driscoll makes statements like this all the time– hence, the false image that A29 pastors are habitually crude and crass.

    Paul, Dr. Caner could end this in one paragraph. Your frustration towards the continuation of this debate is pointed in the wrong direction.

  22. Maybe there is an issue of the “apology” and whether or not forgiveness should be granted thus far. For example, reading Dan Phillips review of Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns it would seem that if forgiveness is accurately described that forgiveness may not be warranted right now. Below are a few pertinent quotes to think about.

    Brauns affirms the Biblical teaching that our forgiveness should be patterned after God’s forgiveness. That is, it should not necessarily be instantaneous and unconditional, eradicating all horizontal consequences.

    Rather, like God’s forgiveness, our forgiveness should be conditioned on repentance, and may involve temporal consequences . As our Lord said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

    The offer of forgiveness is unconditional (p. 55), but the granting is not.

  23. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the easiest thing to understand of.

    I say to you, I definitely get irked at the same time as
    other people consider concerns that they just don’t recognize about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the
    entire thing with no need side-effects , other folks can take a signal.

    Will likely be again to get more. Thanks

Leave a Reply