JD Hall, a Montana preacher accused of cyber-bullying the teenage son of pastor and Brewton-Parker College President Ergun Caner weeks before the youth committed suicide last month, confessed to his congregation at Fellowship Baptist Church recently that he was "crushed" by Braxton's death. The Caner family, for their part, has expressed appreciation for Hall's contrition.
"Let me assure you of this: This terrible, terrible tragedy has accomplished two things (1) I am broken. I am unequivocally, completely broken. I am a crushed man. My spirit is crushed. I am sorrowful. I am hurting. (2) This has forever changed me, in more ways that I can currently comprehend," said Hall according to a copy of his statement published by ABP news.
Hall explained to his church that his overzealous quest to expose corruption in the Baptist church had devolved into an adversarial approach to problem solving that was downright sinful and said he was already in the process of changing his ways weeks before Braxton's death, which was shortly after he had questioned the teen's morality.
"The irony is that about three weeks ago I made known to you, my flock, that I was walking away from these conflicts. It was too late to spare me from the consequences now engulfing me. In one sense, I am reaping what I sowed. When you live by the sword, you die by it," Hall said.
"Let me say this in all sincerity: I am profoundly sorry that Braxton Caner ended his life. Knowing now that this young man struggled with that level of despair, I am even more sorry that my interaction with him was adversarial rather than pastoral," he continued.
"News of his death hit me hard, and I was immediately smitten with shame for the lack of grace in my public interaction with him. All the combined invective that has been aimed my way in recent days does not even begin to equal my own grief and contrition. If these events (and my confession) ultimately end any influence I might ever have, I will accept that as our sovereign God's perfect will," he added.
"I do realize that God never needed me to right every wrong in the denomination. He can settle his own accounts… I've relied too much on my own strength and not solely on the Spirit in my earnest desire to see justice prevail. That's sin, even if the cause is right. I confess it," he further noted.
He also highlighted that many of his church members were probably unaware of his external activities and asked for their prayers and support.
"I've preached to you for more than seven years the depths, the heights, the width of God's free grace to sinners on account of Christ's blood upon the cross. I've preached to you a grace of unmerited favor as Christ Jesus died for our sins. I need you to preach to me, each and every one of you in the coming days, God's grace that's given to all who can say through the Spirit's prompting, 'I am a sinner,'" he ended.
In response to Hall's contrition, the Caners through a spokesman, said they were encouraged.
"We've kept our ears close to the public chatter on social media surrounding the untimely death of Braxton Caner, son of Dr. Ergun and Jill Caner, including the most recent pronouncements of contrition by Montana pastor Jordan D. Hall," Peter Lumpkins, vice president of communications at Brewton-Parker College in Georgia noted in a statement to Baptist Press.
"Know we are encouraged Rev. Hall finally admitted his social media attack on a fifteen year old boy was both inappropriate and sinful," Lumpkins noted.
"We're further encouraged Hall has vowed to back away from his relentless character assassination of Braxton's dad, Ergun Caner. Finally, we hope and pray Hall's public contrition about his sinful harassment of the Caner family will inspire other cyber-bullies in several states including Arizona, Florida, California, Virginia, Georgia, and even foreign countries like Canada to learn from Hall's experience and cease their harmful and sinful attacks upon the Caner family. It's time to stop social media abuse," Lumpkins added.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Friday, however, James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church and one of Ergun Caner's fiercest critics, doesn't seem to be backing off of Caner after Braxton's death.
"This (credibility criticism) has nothing to do with that (Braxton's death). Just experiencing a tragedy doesn't change the historical reality of who you are. All I've done for four years is to speak the truth about a man who claims to do what I do," said White.