NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LifeWay Christian Resources is awaiting results of a theological study of Olivet University before deciding whether to sell LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center to Olivet, even as media outlets debate whether the California-based university has heretical ties.
The potential sale of Glorieta, a 2,100-acre Southern Baptist conference center in New Mexico, is receiving added scrutiny on the heels of media reports of longstanding accusations that Olivet’s founder, David Jang, promotes the heresy that he is the “second coming Christ.”
Marty King, LifeWay’s communications director, said LifeWay is well aware of accusations against Jang and Olivet.
“Those concerns are precisely why we engaged the National Association of Evangelicals to conduct a thorough review of their theological views to determine compatibility with ours,” King said in a statement to the media Aug. 16. “We anticipate completion of the investigation this fall at which time it will be reviewed by our leadership and trustees.”
At issue is whether Jang teaches beliefs contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also spotlighted is the fact that several Southern Baptist leaders have established relationships with organizations seen as affiliated with Jang, although R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Daniel Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president, both have resigned as advisers to The Christian Post online news site.
The Post and Christianity Today have reported on several investigations conducted in Asia to determine whether Jang’s church, the Young Disciples of Christ, promotes Jang as the “second coming Christ” and whether Jang has ties to Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Christianity Today, in an Aug. 16 article, summarized results of several investigations of Jang’s activities:
– In 2008, the Hong Kong-based Independent Enquiry Committee, which included Chinese evangelical theologians, “unanimously expressed serious apprehensions and concerns” about the group and “could not exclude the … strong probabilities” that Jang’s followers “promoted doctrines similar to that of the Unification church, including … the first coming of Jesus to the earth was a failure and … their pastor is the ‘Second Coming Lord’ or ‘Second Coming Christ.’”
– Following the Independent Enquiry Committee’s findings, the substantial Beijing Haidian Christian Church in China “issued a statement terminating their relationship with the Young Disciples.”
– In September 2009, two of Korea’s largest Presbyterian denominations, the TongHap and HapShin, “voted to break relations with Jang’s organizations.”
In an article today (Aug. 17) The Christian Post summarized investigations by the Heresy Investigation Committee of the Christian Council of Korea during the past decade. In four different investigations, according to reports in both the Post and Christianity Today, the CCK found Jang innocent of all charges.
Jang courting Protestants
Christianity Today has accused Jang of building at least an image of credibility by associating with reputable Protestant leaders, including Southern Baptists William Wagner, Olivet’s president and chairman of the board of the Christian Post, and Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Christian Post’s executive editor.
Wagner has said he is confident the accusations of heresy against Jang are false.
“We look at Dr. Jang as a tremendous leader, not as the reincarnate Christ. I’ve worked with him for about eight years. I’m firmly convinced that they are not lying. I’m firmly convinced that our Christology is solid,” Wagner, formerly a longtime SBC missionary in Europe, told Christianity Today.
Wagner has said that before he accepted the Olivet presidency, he researched the university’s theological beliefs.
“I wanted to be certain that I would not be associated with a cult or a university that had a false theology. After my extensive study, I am thoroughly convinced that the purpose of Olivet University was to win the world to Christ, and that they were missional, they were evangelical and they had a very deep love for Jesus,” Wagner said.
Land was quoted by the Post as saying, “Upon meeting with Christian Post leaders I found them to be earnest, sincere followers of Christ who were interested in using new media to reach a new generation with the gospel. And during the months of relationship with The Christian Post, I had nothing but positive experiences that confirmed their Christian and evangelistic Great Commission emphasis.”
Regarding The Christian Post relationship with Southern Baptist leaders, Land said, “It would be odd for The Christian Post to be a significant news organization in North America and not be involved with the largest Protestant denomination in the United States – the Southern Baptist Convention. That would be an odd strategy indeed.”
LifeWay told Baptist Press in July that, in addition to the theological review, a potential sale of Glorieta to Olivet would entail:
– “Significant protections for individuals and churches that lease land from Glorieta for houses and conference facilities
– “Permission for LifeWay to continue using Glorieta for summer camps
– “Accommodation of use by New Mexico Baptists
– “Preservation of memorials associated with rooms and structures, and,
– “Prohibition of re-selling the facilities in the future without LifeWay’s permission.”
Any sale also would require approval of LifeWay’s board of trustees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)