Are Baptists Covering Up Racism at Brewton-Parker College?

William Dwight McKissic Sr.
William Dwight McKissic Sr.

The Bible says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19).

Three witnesses recently came forth to deliver charges of racially offensive comments from the lips of Dr. Ergun Caner, who recently resigned as President of Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia. Dr. Caner did not resign when faced with the allegations of racist remarks. His trustee board—including Michael Pigg, a Black trustee—all stood by him. They did not consider the testimony of three witnesses reliable enough for them to hold Ergun Caner accountable for his racist speech. When the then chairman of BPC Trustee Board was given testimony of Dr. Caner’s racist and vulgar comments, Gary Campbell’s response was: “Why are y’all making a bigger deal out of this than it is?” according to Dewayne Bynum, Director of Plant Operations at BPC, who also reported to the trustees, racist comments made by Dr. Caner. Bynum further reported that Dr. Caner’s comment to his (Bynum’s) attorney was “It was no big deal”!!! What incredible, irresponsible responses to racist comments of the most vile, vicious, and vulgar sort…“It was no big deal”!

People underreport racism for the same reason women underreport rape. Why? Because there are a great number of people who categorically dismiss, disregard, deny, deflect, defend, marginalize and seek to destroy anyone who would dare reveal to larger circle closeted racism. The way the BPC trustees have handled, or mishandled, the reports of racism on their campus would discourage anybody from ever reporting acts of racism there.

If we are going to root out racism in society, we must gather the intestinal fortitude to gracefully, lovingly, humbly and truthfully confront racism, whenever and whenever it raises its ugly head. We cannot conquer what we do not confront. We cannot fix what we don’t face. In order to defeat racism, we must confront racism.

Gary Campbell became acting President at BPC for a few days following President Ergun Caner’s resignation and before the appointment of Dr. Charles Bass as the interim President. During Campbell’s brief presidency, he fired Dr. C. B. Scott, one of the Vice Presidents at BPC, because Dr. Scott reported to the trustees and the executive staff at BPC the allegations of Dr. Caner’s racist remarks. Seriously, BPC? You would fire a man for reporting racism, at the same time that you want to recruit minorities to your campus? Now that we know for certain how the BPC trustees will handle allegations of racism, we also know that it is not a trustworthy place for minorities to attend, if matters of race have to be adjudicated by the current trustees.

When faced with inappropriate sexting communication allegations, the BPC trustees allowed Dr. Caner to resign. But when faced with allegations of racist commentary, the BPC trustees wholeheartedly gave support to Dr. Caner. The racial indiscretions should have been just as weighty to the BPC trustees as the “inappropriate” communications allegations.

Perhaps if Dr. Caner had been held accountable for inappropriate words in the past regarding women and the Black church, things wouldn’t have ever gotten to the place at BPC where Dr. Caner would have been comfortable communicating irresponsibly, racially and sexually.

In a recorded sermon a few years back, preaching at a men’s gathering in an Ohio church, Dr. Caner shows certain insensitivity toward women:

“Dr. Caner, do you believe in women behind the pulpit? My answer is well, yeah, of course, how are they going to vacuum back there unless they get behind it….[laughter, and hoots and hollers]…..and that’s going to be in half of your pulpits next Sunday. FEEL FREE!!! I LOVE THAT LINE!! But you know one line like that shuts it all up, ’cause they’re not going to talk about it, and they’re not going to talk to you for a while, which is good, which is good.”

I would certainly pause before I considered sending my daughter to a college presided over by a man who reflected the mindset revealed by the statement above. The attitude and mindset behind the above statement suggest that he holds women in less than high esteem.

While preaching in the pulpit of FBC, Jacksonville, FL, several years ago, Caner gave an extremely false caricature of the Black Church. Ergun Caner made condescending and stereotypical remarks concerning the Black Church in a sermon preached at First Baptist of Jacksonville, FL. Caner’s observation certainly would not be true of the Black church that I pastor and the majority of Black churches that I’m aware of. Yet, his remarks were met with approving laughter. I don’t believe that he would have made those same remarks in a Black church. Caner essentially said Black churches do not put the preacher up to preach until about 1:00 p.m. That’s not true. Black churches, according to Caner, take up “twelve offerings”. That’s untrue. Caner further stated:

“… you go to a Black church gentlemen, you are not going to have on a blue suit, you are going to have blue shoes to match, and your handkerchief is going to match your tie, and your whole outfit is going to match your car. It’s BEAUTIFUL. And ladies: when we talk about black church, we’re talkin’ about hats. And I’m not just talkin’ Easter hats as some of you may wear, I’m talkin’ ’bout satellite dish hats. [laughter]. Big enough to receive a signal, with a curtain rod goin’ down the front that you can just pull the curtain across”. [Ergun Caner, The Warrior Church, June 14, 2009]

By the grace of God, I have been privileged to preach over the past thirty six years in twenty seven states, at least seventy five cities, and in over one hundred and eighty pulpits or public venues across the length and breadth of America. The vast majority of those preaching assignments were in Black Baptist pulpits. My point is, Ergun Caner may have had a better opportunity to judge the social mores of the Black church more so than I, but it’s doubtful. I can truly say that what Ergun Caner stated is simply, generally not true. As a matter of fact, I’ve never witnessed what he described. If I stated that White preachers preached in Hawaiian shirts and encouraged married couples in their churches to have sex seven straight days, and wore toupees; that may be true in isolated cases but it would be unfair, inaccurate, and racially stereotypical, without foundation, for to me make such a claim as normative.

Caner owes FBC Jacksonville an apology. Caner owes the Black church an apology. His remarks were damaging to the reputation of the Black church in the minds and hearts of his hearers. One would expect better than this from a college President.

When I read Caner’s untruthful words about the Black church spoken at the major, Anglo FBC, who really couldn’t evaluate whether or not he was being truthful, I don’t find it a stretch to believe that he said the words attributed to him by persons at the Brewton-Parker College that he was President of until recently.

Click here to read more.

William Dwight McKissic, Sr. is a prominent African-American Southern Baptist minister from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He is the founder and current senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. You can read his blog at http://dwightmckissic.wordpress.com/