Friday, January 2, 2015

A statement from the Spencers

As I mentioned in my last post, Aida and Bill Spencer, two Gordon-Conwell theology professors, recently published an article on their Scriptural Truths blog that resulted in some controversy. This article, written by Martin Zhang, one of Bill’s students, was a thoughtful and irenic but ultimately critical analysis of the various concerns that have been raised about David Jang and his community. Since their blog was hosted by the Christian Post, one of the media outlets controlled by David Jang, it was not at all surprising that not just this post but their entire blog was immediately removed.

I reached out to the Spencers to get more information, and this was their response, which I publish here with their permission.

Dear Ken:

Thank you so much for saving our blog and keeping it on line. Below is a letter that we sent to Ted Olsen that gives you some background information.

The post that you read was an experiment. It was brought to our attention that Christian Post is affiliated with David Jang. We were told that Jang’s group was recruiting orthodox evangelical Christians to give indirect endorsement, in other words, we were legitimizing the movement by our presence on the Christian Post, even though we knew nothing about the group. Several of our students in Korean and Chinese churches mentioned concern about David Jang and cited Christianity Today’s article. Martin Zhang, one of our students, who has now returned to China, wrote a paper on David Jang’s movement for Bill’s class, Contemporary Theology and Theologians. Bill and I guided him through several revisions until we found a version that was kind and fair. We put it on our blog at 5 p.m. last Friday to see how Christian Post would respond:

Would they allow the article?

Would they respond and clarify?

Or, would they strike out the article or the entire blog?

For example, they could have said: “This rumor has been plaguing us for years. We are glad to be able to respond to this once and for all. Neither David Jang nor anyone in our movement is claiming that Pastor David is the Second Coming Christ. Such a statement would be blasphemous. David Jang, his teachers, and his movement simply see him as a faithful servant of Jesus.” This is the opportunity we provided them.

Instead, as you know, in two hours this specific blog and all our blogs have been eliminated. “Manage your blog” no longer comes up when we go on the site. Only David Jang’s face, the picture on this particular blog entry, remains under “Church and Ministry.” They were very thorough.

In an email to us, the blog editor, Stephanie Howell (10:15 p.m. Friday), told us we had violated “The Christian Post terms and conditions.” Under blogs.christianpost.com/faq.html it says:

“Any bloggers seeking to level criticism against a particular pastor, leader and/or ministry cannot be posted on the blog section.” Also, CP Blog “will not tolerate material deemed to criticize pastors’, leaders’, churches’ and ministries’ characters rather than a methodology or system of principals, rules or methods for regulating a given discipline. Materials criticizing the methodologies of pastors, leaders, churches and ministries must cite evidence from an official record and/or source.”

However, over the years, we had already published several blogs about heterodox movements with no difficulty at all, such as: “Is the Holy Spirit Really Walking Around in Human Form Today in Africa?” on Olumba Olumba Obu and his Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (11/10/12) and “Shinchunji Heresy Challenges Church in South Korea and Elsewhere” on Man Hee Lee (by a Korean student, Doo Min Cho).

The benefit of the Christian Post is that they provide promotion of individual blogs. That is why when we had each individually been invited to write a blog on the Post, we had decided to do one together, which we have been doing for the last three years, since Feb., 2012.  I (Aida) am Professor of New Testament and Bill is Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Aida at Hamilton, Bill at Boston campuses). We have numerous Asian students who we encouraged to publish on such topics as “What Should Chinese Christians Do in the Midst of Current Persecution?” (also by Martin Zhang) on our Christian Post blog and critiques of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and Man Hee Lee’s Shinchonji in Africanus Journal which we edit (www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/Africanus-Journal.cfm).

By doing this experiment, we knew we might be risking losing our platform through this massive machine. The cost of losing our blog, which we really love doing, was less important than testing for the truth. We wanted to make sure we were not being used to promote heterodoxy. We were trying to keep another Sun Myung Moon from rising up inside Christianity. A simple denial by the group might have helped put the issue to rest.

By the way, Martin did do original translations of pieces in Chinese. He did extensive work. He has also written a bio on Jang which we did not publish with the Post entry for reasons of length, but Christianity Today might want to do it (see attachment). We have subscribed for decades to Christianity Today.

Sincerely yours,

AĆ­da and Bill

The Spencers also forwarded me an email thread in which Stephanie Powell from the Christian Post offered them this explanation:

Hi there,

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. This evening, your blog "The Mystery of David Jang (Jang Jae-Hyung)", written by Martin Zhang was brought to our attention. Because of the controversial content we unpublished your article. It violates The Christian Post terms and conditions (please view this link to read our terms and conditions http://blogs.christianpost.com/faq.html)

If you don't mind, may I ask who is Martin Zhang and how are you connected to him?

We appreciate you contributing to The Christian Post Blog section us for all these years and hope to have you continue.

After a response from the Spencers that largely repeated what they said above, she responded with this polite but fiirm email:

Thank you for your email. We understand confusion can of course occur when you do not know another organization well enough, and we believe that by conducting some obscure "test" you have come to a further misunderstanding and false conclusion. We will be sad to close down your blog but will of course do so considering there is clear mistrust - which is sad as we are two organizations built in the love and grace of Jesus. And for the record, no one in our COMPANY has ever said or claimed that David Jang is a so-called "Second Coming Christ". Only Jesus is Christ, as clearly indicated by our statement of faith. We hope that in the future you can get to know us more, see the evidence of our fruit (the content on our website) and judge us on that rather than the misinterpretation of an obscure "test", and God-willing, later we can work together as brothers in Jesus for His Kingdom.

I’ve reached out to the Christian Post for additional comment, and will include their response if I hear back.

No comments :