The Rev. Jerry Johnston refers to himself as “Dr. Jerry,” and the title is prominently displayed on a large sign at First Family Church’s entrance.
But the “degree” that Johnston holds is an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He received it May 8, 1998, when he was the speaker for the baccalaureate service, a university spokesman said.
Johnston calls the degree “one of the greatest honors of my life.”
But critics and some educators say using such a title raises ethical issues.
“I am deeply offended when people use that title and don’t have legitimate credentials,” said the Rev. Rusty Waller, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Gordonville, Texas, and an assistant professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Johnston told The Star he attended Kansas City Christian High School in the 1970s but did not graduate because he spent much of his senior year attending a Bible institute and traveling the country as an evangelist.
He instead earned a general equivalency diploma. Johnston now attends Midwestern Baptist College in Kansas City, where he says he will receive a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies in May.