Some stories take longer than usual to see publication.
Five years ago, we began to receive reports of a new network of ministries rapidly expanding in East Asia. Given our many global partnerships with international Christian media, we were intrigued. However, our contacts warned us that the group seemed to have ties to the Unification Church and taught that its leader was the “Second Coming Christ.” When we asked representatives of one ministry whether such ties existed, they threatened to sue and ended the conversation.
Over the next few years, we continued to monitor the controversies in Asia, conducting interviews along the way. As David Jang’s Olivet University and its related ministries grew in the United States, so did our interest in the story. Once Olivet tried to purchase the Assemblies of God’s Bethany University in 2011 (the deal eventually fell through), we knew it was time to move. When Olivet was one of several organizations competing for Dwight Moody’s former campus in Northfield, Massachusetts (that didn’t work out, either), we were discussing publication plans. Now the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay is wondering whether to sell a prominent property to Olivet.
Meanwhile, a Bethany University alumnus had been blogging about the questions he had about Olivet and the answers he was finding. We had seen some of Ken Smith’s posts, and it wasn’t long before he contacted us to ask if we were aware of the claims some people had made about Olivet founder Jang. At first, Smith acted as an independent journalist on this story. His eagerness to consider fresh information and change his views accordingly impressed us. We saw him look for counterevidence, acknowledge when evidence was weak, and attempt to verify claims—responsible conduct that set him significantly apart from other bloggers who have discussed Olivet and Jang over the years. Eventually, we asked him if he would be willing to write the story with us, as we had the resources to deeply fact-check every part of the story that appears in CT. (To be clear, we don’t fact-check any of our writers’ independent blogs.)
In the weeks leading up to the publication of this story, Smith and CT have received threats of lawsuits by people associated with Jang. We have also been accused of reporting this story with predetermined conclusions. But the story took so long to report precisely because we had no predetermined conclusions. Read the story, and you’ll see many questions still unanswered. We held off publication because we are committed to running stories when they’re ready and when we can fully stand by them.