Friday, October 4, 2013

New York Times article on Olivet University and David Jang

Lately, Olivet University (the university associated with David Jang that managed to get an undue amount of my attention last year), has been expanding. IBTimes, their sister media organization, recently purchased the remains of Newsweek, and Olivet itself recently purchased the campus of a psychiatric hospital in the Town of Dover, New York.

Somehow, this managed to get the attention of the New York Times. For the most part, Joseph Berger’s article doesn’t break any ground, as it mostly just covers the existing controversy around David Jang. Tracy Davis’ denials may be new – I don’t recall any on-the-record quotes from her about Jang before – but in light of the extensive evidence that (at least before 2006) Jang’s lieutenants taught, and many new converts believed, that Jang was a messianic figure, I’ll confess that I have trouble taking her denials very seriously.

None of that would warrant me commenting on the New York Times article, were it not for the fact that the author managed to get one crucial detail quite wrong. Berger writes:

Although the school says it is part of the Presbyterian tradition, it is not affiliated with the mainstream denomination, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., which has 1.8 million members and represents over 10,000 congregations.

Instead, Olivet is affiliated with the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of America, a smaller, more conservative group that broke off from the mainstream Presbyterians in the mid-1980s because of differences over issues like women’s ordination. Olivet leaders said the denomination had 70 congregations, though some have only a small number of members.

Berger is (perhaps understandably) confused here. The history that he ascribes to Jang’s denomination, the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of America, of breaking with the PC(USA) over the ordination of women, is in fact the history of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Jang’s denomination was founded by Jang, back in 1992, and was never in any way affiliated with any other mainstream US Presbyterian denomination. At no time did they ever split away from the PC(USA), since they never had anything to do with them in the first place. That’s all a part of the history of the EPC, a real and honorable denomination whose Christian credentials are unquestioned, not the EAPCA, whose reality, honor and credentials are, well, somewhat less unquestioned.

That’s all. I just wanted to make sure that folks researching Jang don’t get confused by that bit of misinformation from the Grey Lady.

P. S. On a side note, I have no more issue with Olivet purchasing the campus of a defunct psychiatric hospital than I would have had with them purchasing the campus of Bethany University, my alma mater. This is a free country; they are quite welcome to do as they please. My issue with their purchase of Bethany was always their misleading (if not downright dishonest) assumption of Bethany’s identity, not with their attempt to purchase the physical grounds of the school. If they wish to purchase the grounds of a mental hospital instead of a Christian university, and if the good citizens of the area are well informed and wish to sell it to them, Olivet has my blessings; and I will do my best to refrain from any unwarranted comments on the appropriateness of the change in venue.

[Update 10/5/2013] – It looks as if the Times has update the article. The paragraphs in question now read:

Although the school says it is part of the Presbyterian tradition, it is not affiliated with the mainstream denomination, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., which has 1.8 million members and represents over 10,000 congregations.

Instead, Olivet is affiliated with the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches of America, a smaller, more conservative group. Olivet leaders said the denomination had 70 congregations, though some have only a small number of members.

Although I’m still not entirely sure how applicable the word “conservative” is to the EAPC (or the word “Presbyterian” for that matter), at least the confusion with the EPC has been removed.

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