The good news was they had a buyer.
Glorieta Conference Center, owned by the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources, is one of the largest and best-known Christian conference facilities in the country, sitting on 2,100 acres near Santa Fe, New Mexico. But for 24 of the last 25 years it has drained money from the organization.
"There's just not a demand for the kinds of things that we do and used to do at Glorieta," said LifeWay spokesman Marty King. So, last September, LifeWay's trustees decided to investigate selling the campus. The plan was to sell to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico for the nominal price of $1. However, the convention said the cost of upgrading Glorieta and potential environmental liability made acquisition unattractive.
Then came an offer from San Francisco–based Olivet University. (The school has no connection to Illinois-based Olivet Nazarene University.) The school, founded by Korean pastor David Jang in 1992, has several affiliate ministries and Internet businesses that reportedly helped it to raise enough funds to buy and run the Glorieta campus.
The bad news for LifeWay was that Jang is a controversial figure who, according to credible reports, has been hailed by some of his followers as the "Second Coming Christ."
Over the last five years, ministries and organizations founded by or connected to Jang have gained influence in American and global evangelical ministries, including the World Evangelical Alliance. Yet in the same period, a number of mainstream Christian organizations in Korea and China have severed relationships with his affiliated organizations after investigating such claims and finding them credible. Other groups have reconfirmed their ties after their investigations cleared him. Now, as Jang's businesses and ministries have sought greater recognition and expansion in the United States, Christian leaders and ministries here are asking similar questions about Jang, his affiliated organizations, and their theology.
The 'Second Coming Christ'
The details of Jang's early life are in question, and multiple efforts to contact him for this story's publication were unsuccessful.
Critics in Korea, Japan, and China say he was involved in Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. They point to his appearance in a 1989 student handbook for Moon's Sung Hwa Theological Seminary as an assistant professor of theology, teaching systematic theology and Unification theology. They also cite a 2002 history of Sun Moon University praising him for helping to fund the school.
Jang's defenders, on the other hand, say the critics have fabricated evidence and that Jang merely joined an anti-Communist club that also included Unification Church members.
News N Joy, a Korean Christian website, reported in 2004 that it had four conversations with Jang about his career in the Unification Church after Jang objected to one of the site's articles. In the interview, Jang said the description in the Sun Moon University history book was inaccurate, but acknowledged that he had worked for the school until 1995 (he did not officially resign until 1998). "He explained that the reason he was involved in Sun Moon University was to teach orthodox theology to Unification Church members," the site reported. "In addition, he added that he led a lot of deluded people to the way of truth."
Both sides agree that Jang has long had more orthodox ties. According to a résumé Jang submitted to the Christian Council of Korea, he received his M.Div. from Hanshin University in 1990 and a Ph.D. from Dankook University in 1992. That same year, he was ordained as a Korean Presbyterian minister, and by 1999 he was moderator of the Hang Dong Presbytery.
But according to several sources with experience in Jang-associated organizations and communities, many members of the movement believed that the key event in Jang's early missionary endeavors is not in his résumé—nor, indeed, in any written source. It was believed, these sources said, that in or around 1992, early follower Borah Lin told Jang that she believed he was the "Second Coming Christ"—not Jesus Christ himself, but rather a new messianic figure that would complete Jesus' earthly mission. According to several former members, Lin became an important spiritual figure in Jang's closest circles.
Documents from teaching sessions indicate that Jang and his followers look to October 30, 1992—Jang's 43rd birthday—as the precise date of the start of their own movement. Beyond that, affiliated groups including Apostolos Campus Ministries and Olivet University look to 1992 as the year of their founding.
The years that followed were busy, as Jang recruited followers and commissioned missionaries to work on college campuses throughout Asia. The first missionaries to China arrived in 1996 and formed the core of the Young Disciples of Jesus. The Christian Post and Christian Today have dated their founding to 2000 (on its website, The Christian Post recently changed the founding date to 2004). The Gospel Herald and the American body of the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches (EAPC) launched in 2004, and the International Business Times in 2006. By 2002, Jang had recruited adherents in key cities throughout China, Japan, and Korea, and had begun expanding into the United States.
In a paper written for the Evangelical Missiological Society in 2008, Olivet University president William Wagner wrote, "[M]inistries created by the Olivet movement occupy four of the top-ten ranked Christian websites in the United States—including the position of number one … . [M]arkedly successful websites produced by Olivet College of Journalism affiliate ministries have been developed in over 40 languages around the world … . In almost every case, these websites are top-ranked in their countries of origin." In addition to the businesses and ministries listed above, Wagner included organizations such as Crossmap, Verecom, IB Spot, Deographics, Jubilee Mission, BREATHEcast, Good News Line, Bible Portal, and the World Evangelical Theological Institute Association as "affiliate ministries" of Olivet University.
In a May 2008 interview with Christianity Today, Wagner said Jang worked with college students to "target top universities"—especially those in the University of California system—to build the student body at Olivet through transfers. Wagner said Apostolos Campus Ministries (since renamed Apostolos Missions) at the time had more than 30,000 students in 120 countries. That number didn't include another 10,000 students in China, where the organization is known as Young Disciples of Jesus.
These campus ministries would approach students who seemed to be interested in Bible studies and encourage them to take a course of 40 private "history lessons." (Wagner characterized them as intensive courses in discipleship and leadership.) Former members say that it was generally believed that these lessons had originated with Jang himself.
"These messages," a former student of the lessons in the United States said he was told about a decade ago, "are so precious that we can't give them out to just anyone, even other Christians." The lessons were only given by senior members of the community, former members said, and sometimes the final key lessons would be given by Lin herself.
The precise goal of these lessons is in dispute. Several former members of the Jang-affiliated groups told CT the lessons seemed to be designed to lead new members to a confession that Jang was the "Second Coming Christ," though such a goal was never stated outright by the instructors.
"There were many obvious implied hints for getting people to confess," said a former member of the movement in China. "As one brother said, 'As long as you're not a fool, you can use logic to hint and imply.' But no one said directly in the sermons that 'Pastor David Jang is the Returning Lord.' Usually, even in private, this will not be mentioned. It seems to be top secret."
Former member Ma Li, who says she began the lessons in China in 2002, said that when she finished, her instructor looked at her and another new member very seriously and asked, "Have you understood? All the content?"
"I answered firmly: 'Yes,'" she said. "Then she asked me separately: 'Who is Pastor David?' I answered without thinking, just followed what I heard just now and answered: 'The Second Coming Christ!' She said, 'Shhh,' calmly, and then, 'Don't tell others.'"
A former member of the U.S. branch of the movement described a similar experience:
When [my teacher] asked me, "Who do you think Pastor David is?" I was very shocked, and didn't know how to respond. At the time, I shed tears, because I didn't believe what I was hearing. I was so shocked. But then a thought crossed my mind, and I asked, "Is he the Second Coming Christ?" Because I wanted to test to see how they responded to that. But [his] response was even more surprising. "You've made a confession now." So I decided to play along with it for a while. But then he went around telling all the other leaders that I had confessed.
A Central Conviction?
While all of the former members interviewed by CT agreed that some people in the movement believe that Jang is the Second Coming Christ, they disagreed on how central this is to the group's religious identity.
One former member from the U.S. said, "It was never explicitly taught that Jang is the Second Coming of Christ or even a key eschatological figure. If that was ever stated, it was stated as a belief by those who believed. [But] the way eschatology was taught, one could easily come to that conclusion."
In fact, the same member said that although he never believed or confessed that David Jang was the Second Coming Christ, he did for a time believe it was possible that Jang was a "key eschatological figure."* He believed it, he said, "not because it was taught to me, but because there was at the time, in my mind, a fairly compelling case for the possibility. Now, of course—and for several years—I believe this not to be true. Though [Jang] is admittedly further along in many areas than other Christian leaders and pastors, I find his flaws to be too significant to ignore."
Another former member who came to the United States from China said that in the near decade he spent with the group, he had never been taught directly that Jang was the Second Coming Christ. On several occasions stretching back to 2003, he said he even heard Jang firmly deny that he was the Christ: "He always said those who said 'he is Christ' were insane."
According to documents sent to CT by Olivet officials and other Jang associates, Jang issued this denial in 2008:
I give praises for the grace of Jesus Christ. By the grace of Jesus Christ, I accepted Jesus as my one and only Savior, and since I was forgiven of my sins, I have never abandoned faith in Jesus Christ. Also, I have never preached any other gospel other than that of Jesus Christ. Furthermore I have never taught that I am Christ. I clearly confess that there is no other way than through Jesus Christ to receive salvation and gain freedom.
Chris Lee, a pastor at Immanuel Community Church in New York City (the flagship church of the EAPC in the United States), likewise issued a blanket denial that Jang had ever claimed to be the Second Coming Christ.
But several former members who spoke to CT found it implausible that Jang had no connections to the confessions that he was the Second Coming Christ. One said that for several years around 2002 or 2003, it was the tradition for those who had just made the "confession" to write it out and send it to Jang.
One former leader from China said that only the most senior and trusted leaders were allowed to give the eschatology lessons, and that Jang specifically denied ever teaching it.
"During a fierce debate, Pastor David Jang stood up and said that he had never taught that he is 'the Returning Lord.' The problem was that students did not know whether he had taught it or not. But it was a truth within the community. This teaching had been long preached. It was even a condition for joining the group."
A former member from Shanghai said that Jang indirectly encouraged the teaching in a sermon less than a decade ago by claiming that his relationship with Jesus was the same as the relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah, and that he would finish the work that Jesus left incomplete.
However, none of the former members CT talked to heard Jang claim to be the Second Coming Christ. Nor do any of the more than 20 online accounts supposedly written by former members of Jang's organizations (which CT is not including in this report because their authenticity could not be verified) allege that Jang himself made this claim.
Despite the group's reported efforts to keep their lessons private, partial contents of two sets of notes taken by members during training sessions have been made public.
Makoto Yamaya, a Salvation Army official in Tokyo, has been writing critically about Jang and his organizations on his blog since 2006. Shortly after Yamaya began blogging, he told CT, he was contacted by a couple whose son, Munenori Kitamura, had gone missing. They had tried to get him to leave Jang's EAPC and the Jang-owned companies he worked for, but he apparently had abandoned the apartment they had set up for him, leaving behind several months' unpaid rent. Kitamura also left behind documents about the EAPC and several pages of "Bible Lecture Notes."
In the documents provided to CT by Olivet, Kitamura seemed to acknowledge that the notes were his, but explained, "While I am listening to messages, I am used to write down some counterheretical remarks as a comparison to the general teachings, it is a very good opportunity for me to learn about the falsities and contradictions in heretical doctrines."
Meanwhile, Ma Li kept notes she says she took during her lessons in China and turned them over to a group of Chinese critics of the movement.
The two independent sets of notes correspond extensively, and several former members from the United States and China have independently confirmed that many of the movement's members were in fact exposed to the teaching that the notes contain. But one former member, who appeared to be familiar with only the set of Japanese notes, said that it "does not accurately reflect what the large majority believe." It only represents one strand of the community, he said.
The basic content of these messages, both as contained in the notes and as described by former members, bears similarities to the teachings of Sun Myung Moon—that Jesus' work was left unfinished and in need of another "Christ" to complete it. Daniel 12 records a notoriously ambiguous prophecy that refers to 1,260 days ("a time, times and half a time"), "1,290 days," and then finally to "1,335 days." The 1,260 days, the notes say, finished when Jesus was born, and the 1,290 days were completed when Jesus began to preach and teach publicly at 30 years of age (1,260 + 30 = 1,290). His three-year public ministry, they say, advanced the prophecy of 1,290 days to 1,293 days, but because the Cross cut his mission short, Jesus did not fulfill the prophecy of the 1,335 days. There is thus a remaining gap of some 42 "days," which were said to symbolize 42 years. Multiple sources said that this 42-year gap was believed to have been fulfilled by Jang.
The lessons also taught a doctrine of "three Israels." The first was a national Israel, the second was composed of Christians, and the third was constituted by the movement Jang had founded. The 144,000 of Revelation 7 was said to refer to this "third Israel," and the Lamb who redeemed them was said to be "not Jesus, but the Christ of the Second Coming."
Closely associated with this idea of Jang's followers as the "third Israel" is a distinction between the "gospel of parables" that Jesus taught and the "eternal gospel" delivered to Jang. One of the lessons said, "Jesus speaks in parables to preach to us, but to the new era, the gospel will be explained more clearly, that is, the everlasting Gospel." This "everlasting Gospel" will be proclaimed by the Second Coming Christ.
A former member from the United States said that Lin finished her lessons with similar teachings. Among them: "Isn't the kingdom of God the body of Christ? So if someone were to create this body, if they were to start it, wouldn't it make sense to say that this is the Second Coming? And isn't it right to say that the one who does this is the Second Coming Christ?"
Controversy and Consequences
As more people learned of the teachings and Jang's influence on companies, ministries, and media, criticism mushroomed. Posts on Japanese and Chinese Internet bulletin boards warned that the Young Disciples of Jesus was teaching that Jang was the Second Coming Christ, isolating followers from their families, requiring them to donate large amounts of money, encouraging them to lie, and demanding strict secrecy. Similar reports appeared on English-language websites.
These reports led to a number of separate investigations throughout Asia. In 2008, a formal Independent Enquiry Committee based out of Hong Kong, led by a blue-ribbon panel of Chinese evangelical theologians, "unanimously expressed its serious apprehensions and concerns" about the group. The panel said it "could not exclude the … strong probabilities" that the Young Disciples of Jesus "promoted doctrines similar to that of Unification Church, including (1) the first coming of Jesus to the earth was a failure and (2) their pastor is the 'Second Coming Lord' or 'Second Coming Christ.'" The conclusion was signed by 13 well-known Asian theologians and church leaders, including Carver Yu, the president of China Graduate School of Theology, and Rudolf Mak, then Chinese Church Mobilization Director for OMF International.
(The response documents Olivet and Christian Post officials sent to Christianity Today rejected the Hong Kong report as containing "repeated and ungrounded claims," and said it never proved that its witnesses or lecture notes were from Young Disciples. Yu and Mak, meanwhile, told CT that their concerns with Jang and his movement have only grown since the report was issued.)
Following the release of the Hong Kong report, the Beijing Haidian Christian Church, one of the largest churches in Beijing, issued a statement terminating their relationship with the Young Disciples, removing any members from leadership positions in the church, and prohibiting them from seeking membership or baptism. Similarly, two of the largest Korean denominations (both Presbyterian) launched a joint investigation, and in September 2009 both the PCK-TongHap and PCK-HapShin denominations voted to break relations with Jang's organizations.
The Christian Council of Korea (CCK), a member of the World Evangelical Alliance, came to a different conclusion.
A representative of the CCK who declined to be identified by name said that the organization had conducted four different "studies" of Jang since 2004, and that each had exonerated him. "The conclusion of each study is that he is innocent, not guilty."
Sam Kyung Chae, a member of the CCK's Heresy Investigation Committee, disputed the characterization of the investigations as having conclusively proven Jang's orthodoxy. In 2008, he and two other members of the committee wrote to clarify the committee's statement that it "was not able to find any suspicions that David Jang had any involvement with Unification Church since 1997."
"First, he had involvements with Unification Church before 1997," the three committee members wrote. "Second, it does not mean David Jang had no heretic convictions. Therefore, it is not right for him to misuse the decision of the committee to prove his non-involvement with cultic doctrines."
In an interview with CT, Chae acknowledged that in December 2010 the CCK Heresy Investigation Committee announced that "there is no evidence in regards to the doubts associated with Rev. Jang and the Second Coming of Christ and it is untrue, and Rev. Jang is not at all related to the nature of heresy." The documents sent to CT from Olivet also included letters from the CCK stating that an executive committee accepted the findings. But Chae says the "executive committees of a general assembly" rejected the report.
The CCK's report and subsequent fights (some over Jang, some on other issues) have split the umbrella group. More than 20 denominations have broken away to form the Communion of Churches in Korea (CCIK). That group plans to launch a new investigation on Jang, his influence, and his theology.
Teaching on Hold
Whatever their result, the investigations and the publicity they brought resulted in a number of changes within the movement, former members told CT. Chief among these was that Jang directed them to stop teaching the controversial eschatology messages that had implied he was the Second Coming Christ.
"Once, almost every committed member in the group had to agree David Jang was the 'Second Coming Christ' before he or she could be accepted and put in an important position," a former senior member from China told CT. "Right now, such teaching is stopped. As far as I know, they really stopped such teaching. But I would not get rid of the possibility that someone is still spreading the idea or that it went underground. It's like an understood thing in the community—you should know it if you are a core member."
According to this former member, Jang said that as a leader, he [Jang] needed to accept responsibility for the erroneous teaching, but he also said that he was innocent, and blamed one or two misguided followers for the lessons that had intimated that he was the Second Coming Christ. Another member said that Jang removed Lin from her official positions of responsibility amid the investigations in Asia. Her husband, Andrew Lin, is chairman of the board of Olivet University. (Andrew and Borah Lin did not respond to repeated requests for interviews, but through a lawyer Andrew denied ever calling Jang the "Second Coming Christ." Wagner said Borah Lin also denied ever making such a statement.) Former members say that Borah Lin remains very influential in the group, perhaps second only to Jang himself. An April 2012 e-mail from an Olivet student calls Borah "pastor," and said she spoke at a recent major event regarding Olivet's campus planning.
Several former members believe that many of Jang's core followers probably have not changed their views. A former member from China said that at least one current member insisted that their earlier teaching had not been a mistake. A former U.S. member estimates that about 10 to 20 percent of the movement's members believe that Jang is the Second Coming Christ. Yet another former U.S. member put the percentage higher.
"It's higher than 20 percent, at least in the inner circle," the former member said. "It's difficult to say exactly what percentage actually believes it. But they've all been taught lessons where he is compared to the Christ, or he is fulfilling Christ's commission."
The extent of the belief and teaching may vary by region as well. "We all believed that he was the 'Second Coming Christ' when I was in the Shanghai community," said a member who says he left in the mid-2000s after several years. "After we signed a member card, all of the members were told directly that our pastor (David Jang) was the 'Second Coming Christ.'"
In 2005, as the CCK was in its second of four investigations of Jang, it was not yet a member of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). (The WEA's national alliance at the time was the Korea Evangelical Fellowship.) But at the time, the WEA was shifting its attention from identifying and cultivating such partners to solving its own issues with finances and mission.
The self-described voice of some 600 million Christians, the WEA has been a significant part of international evangelical cooperation since the early 1950s. But it had been running deficits for years. Closing offices and cutting costs had failed to stanch the bleeding. WEA leaders planned to change the organization's focus. It would give less attention to creating and sustaining partnerships and more to becoming the "global voice for the evangelical community."
Gary Edmonds, director of the WEA from 2002 to 2005, supported the shift, but said it wasn't a great fit with his gifts or passions. Several months before the end of his tenure, Edmonds was approached by representatives of The Christian Post, who offered to help the WEA's promotional and advocacy efforts. Geoff Tunnicliffe, who followed Edmonds as international director of the WEA and who had previously raised the profile of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada through public policy advocacy, took The Christian Post up on its offer to help.
Five months after Tunnicliffe's appointment in 2005, the WEA opened an Information Technology Center on the San Francisco campus of Jang's Olivet University. Several sources say that organizations started by Jang and his followers began to support the WEA financially, and in April 2007, Jang was accepted onto the WEA's North American Council. Two months later, Olivet University invited Tunnicliffe to be their commencement speaker and presented him with an honorary doctorate. Over the next four years, The Christian Post reporters also began to work for the WEA as press secretaries, and an Olivet graduate became director of communications. The former CEO of Deographics was appointed executive director of the WEA's IT Commission. An Olivet graduate from The Christian Post and Jubilee Mission was hired as their chief of staff. The WEA's website moved onto the servers that host the websites of The Christian Post, Olivet, Young Disciples of Jesus, and other Jang-associated organizations. Soon thereafter, the WEA began sharing office space with Jang's companies. Some 20 organizations associated with Jang have been accepted for membership into the WEA (composing a third of its global partners and a sixth of its associate members). However, none of the former members CT talked to, nor any of Jang's critics, alleged any wrongdoing by the WEA itself; where there was concern it was simply that the WEA had given legitimacy to Jang and his organizations by associating so closely with them.
Seeking Influence and Legitimacy
While The Christian Post was approaching the WEA in 2005, the CEO of The Gospel Herald was asking Thomas Wang to be the Hong Kong newspaper's honorary chair. Wang, president of the Great Commission Center International and former international director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, said he was impressed by the CEO's zeal and energy for the gospel and agreed to lend his name to The Gospel Herald's endeavors. Soon afterwards, Wang began receiving warnings from friends in Asia. After some investigation, he resigned and requested that his name be removed from the website. In 2008 he issued a statement describing his experience with the group, concluding, "I am very much concerned about the deceptive nature of the community and the fact that many evangelical leaders today are still unaware of the true picture."
Wang told CT that he has tried to warn Christian leaders in the United States and Asia about Jang and his organizations, and he is surprised that so many continue to lend their names, especially leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention.
"What they always try to do is get evangelical leaders as advisers or their honorary leaders," he said.
The response documents from Olivet University acknowledge that Wang is "a well-respected pastor in Chinese churches worldwide," and allege that he has been misled by "fabricated materials from [blogger] Yamaya in Japan." The documents also say that Wang's break with The Gospel Herald was sparked by "different standpoints on the state-owned churches in China" rather than the Jang controversies.
Wang is right that Southern Baptists have played a prominent role on advisory boards of Jang's organizations. The Christian Post, which bills itself as "the nation's most comprehensive Christian news website," lists as its chairman Wagner, the president of Olivet University (OU) who ran for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency in 2008. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is the media outlet's executive editor.
Land declined to comment on his involvement and repeatedly referred questions to Post CEO Will Anderson and to Olivet's Wagner. But he told Baptist Press that in his job, "I write at least one column a month on current moral issues, and I'm available to advise and consult with the writers and editorial staff upon their request on issues they should cover and how to cover them." The Tennessean reported that Land's position is paid.
Southern Baptist's Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler is listed among the Post's senior editorial advisers, along with activist Mark Creech; evangelist Will Graham; pastors Joel C. Hunter, Harry R. Jackson Jr., and Samuel Rodriguez; and WEA's William Taylor. James Draper was listed on the advisory board in 2005, when he was president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In 2006, when Thom Rainer stepped into the LifeWay presidency, he similarly replaced Draper on The Christian Post's advisory board. (Neither is currently listed. Southeastern Baptist president Daniel Akin says he resigned from the board in late July.)
Other organizations connected to Jang have similarly formed connections with prominent figures and groups. Other similarities between the organizations also suggest not only common roots but close-knit ties and centralized leadership or influence. But the precise relationship between the organizations (aside from their shared connections with Olivet and their relationship with Jang) remains murky to those outside the network and, at times, former members say, even those within the network.
In CT's May 2008 interview with Wagner and Kenneth Chan (an Olivet grad who was then executive editor of The Christian Post), the two men disagreed about the specific relationship between the two organizations.
"All of these movements are totally independent. They are totally self-supporting," Chan said.
"That may be technically true. But OU specializes in the creation of ministries," Wagner responded. "Our students were used to create many ministries and businesses," he said, and noted that the school ran several of them, including Verecom, as independent businesses. "We have offices in 10 different time zones," he said. "We're doing work for Honda and HP [Hewlettt-Packard]. These ministries then contribute money back to OU."
CT asked Wagner: "So what unites the movement?"
"One is God," he responded. "But another is the spiritual leader; he's the one that has tied it all together. He had the vision for Olivet." He later added passion to the list.
In an August 2012 interview, Wagner said members of the Olivet mission movement treat Jang with reverence, but only in the same way other parts of the evangelical movement adore their spiritual leaders. "We look at Dr. Jang as a tremendous leader, not as the reincarnate Christ," he said. "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 said that Jang has no input on school decisions and denied the rumors about the teaching. "Do I look like the reincarnate Christ?" Wagner said Jang told him. "I'm just a sinner!" Meeting with the members of the Hong Kong committee didn't change Wagner's mind, he said, and now he doesn't even have the tiniest doubt about Jang's orthodoxy. "If I did, I wouldn't be here," he said. And if Jang had ever claimed to be the reincarnate Christ, "he'd have really made a mistake turning his school over to a bunch of radical evangelicals."
One of those evangelicals is Don Tinder, a former CT associate editor and dean of Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam. He now serves as dean of Olivet Theological College and Seminary. "In the years I've been associated with Jang I've seen not the slightest indication of anything I'd consider heretical," he said. He also said he's seen no evidence that the mainstream evangelical teaching in the classroom diverges from anything the students learn in Apostolos Missions. "There's been no suggestion that [they're] learning these things to learn what the mainstream believes and have [their] own teaching."
No one CT talked to for this story claimed that the "history lessons" that allegedly encourage the belief that Jang is the "Second Coming Christ" were ever taught in Olivet classrooms, or that Apostolos or Young Disciples members have encouraged the belief among its members in recent years.
Next Up: A U.S. Inquiry Panel
The concerns which have been raised about Jang have not gone unnoticed by the Glorieta community. Over the summer, Olivet University has been leasing an unused portion of the Glorieta campus while they complete negotiations with LifeWay. Local residents say they were initially excited to learn that a Christian university might be acquiring Glorieta. But research into Olivet caused some concerns. At a recent homeowners meeting with LifeWay, one resident raised her hand and asked, "So who is David Jang, and does he claim to be the Second Coming Christ?"
Marty King, the LifeWay spokesman, said the primary condition of the negotiations between LifeWay and Olivet would be a review by the National Association of Evangelicals to determine their theological compatibility. The NAE says it is keeping the review team members and deliberations confidential. This review, members of the Glorieta community and Olivet University both say, is most welcome. "We are intending to prove our evangelical theological position through the LifeWay review," Wagner said. "I don't think we're going to have any complications."
Ted Olsen is CT's managing editor, news and online journalism. Ken Smith is an independent journalist based in Washington State.
*Note: Due to further reporting, this article has been modified to clarify what one of our sources believed about David Jang. It has also been modified to clarify that the relationship between Southern Baptist leaders and The Christian Post is not the same as the relationship between The Christian Post and Olivet.
Update: A followup article was published on September 12: "The Second Coming Christ Controversy: More Leaders Speak Out."
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.