Newsweek bought by IBT Media, company with relationship to controversial Korean pastor David Jang

The sale of Newsweek to IBT Media, announced Saturday is generating some interest in media and evangelical circles.

David_JangChristianity Today published an investigative series last year,  The Second Coming Christ Controversy, tying a shadowy and controversial Korean pastor named David Jang to the owners of IBT Media, Olivet University in California, the World Evangelical Alliance and various media outlets. Christianity TodayThe Second Coming Christ Controversy: Company with Ties to David Jang Buys ‘Newsweek’

But few sites are noting that IBT has significant ties to David Jang, the Korean pastor hailed by some of his followers as a messianic figure, a “Second Coming Christ.”

Christianity Today published two major articles on Jang last year, quoting multiple sources who described an international network with Jang as its spiritual—and sometimes even operational—leader.

Jang has been a controversial figure in Asia since 2008, when a committee of Hong Kong theologians and church leaders “unanimously expressed its serious apprehensions and concerns.” His views and influence continue to be debated in South Korea and in the U.S. And last year, the National Association of Evangelicals appointed a committee to determine “theological compatibility” between the Jang-founded Olivet University and the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources. The findings of that committee have not been publicly released, but after reviewing the committee’s report LifeWay officials withdrew from plans to sell a 2,100-acre New Mexico conference center to the school.

IBTimes has no public or formal ties to Jang. According to CT sources, IBTimes CEO Etienne Uzac owns 55 percent of the company and chief content officer Johnathan Davis owns 45 percent. Jang does not appear on the company’s “leadership” page—nor on any of its other pages.

But in CT’s reporting for the earlier two stories, several sources said that IBTimes was very much a part of Jang’s network. IBTimes leaders took part in internet chats with Jang (usually weekly) where the pastor laid out his plans for various business units, like Olivet University and the Christian Post.

The CT  investigative series last year generated some bizarre backlash from The Christian Post and it’s readers. The New York Observer:  Moonies, Messiahs and Media: Who Really Owns Newsweek?

After the Christianity Today articles were published, The Christian Post—a newspaper (allegedly) controlled by Mr. Jang—attacked the magazine and smeared one of its reporters, spuriously linking him to child pornography.

Ken Smith who assisted CT in the Jang investigation, and who was viciously and childishly attacked by The Christian Post, had written about Jang and his connections at his blog. While The Christian Post took some shots at Christianity Today (bizarre shots IMHO), Smith was the key target. Among other things, Smith had pointed out how the World Evangelical Alliance websites appeared to be run by David Jangs IT people.

There are Canadian connections to Jang. The World Evangelical Alliance is headed by Canadian Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe. Dr. Brian Stiller (formerly with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, former President of Tyndale University) and current Global Ambassador for the WEA is a Senior Editorial Advisor for The Christian Post.

The New York Observer notes a troubling Canadian connection. Ann Brockhurst was an independent journalist when she investigated IBTimes (part of IBT Media).

Mr. Jang’s friends also appear to have silenced a reporter who looked into the connection between the church and IBT. Ann Brocklehurst—now an editor at the Toronto Star, but then an independent journalist—investigated IBT’s funding and eventually discovered its close connections to Olivet University. She wrote a series of posts suggesting that Mr. Jang was funding IBT, then abruptly deleted every post referencing IBT, presumably after being pressured. (Fortunately, one post was copied before being deleted.)

Etienne_Uzac

Etienne Uzac

Christianity Today has documented Olivet U, WEA and The Christian Post ties to Jang, as has other publications.

The ties of IBT Media founders to Jang are well documented from several sources.

Christianity Today:

IBTimes has no public or formal ties to Jang. According to CT sources, IBTimes CEO Etienne Uzac owns 55 percent of the company and chief content officer Johnathan Davis owns 45 percent. Jang does not appear on the company’s “leadership” page—nor on any of its other pages.

But in CT’s reporting for the earlier two stories, several sources said that IBTimes was very much a part of Jang’s network. IBTimes leaders took part in internet chats with Jang (usually weekly) where the pastor laid out his plans for various business units, like Olivet University and the Christian Post.

In a May 21, 2009, transcript someone identified as “[IBTimes] Thomas” reports that his company had just signed a foreign exchange deal and would be bringing in brokers. “So I would like to give strength to the new projects pastor [David Jang] talked about,” he said. “We came up with almost enough money last month to cover for both [New York] and [San Francisco]. This month we just need a little more. So if Pastor gives us 1 more month I think IBT can level up to break-even.”

In a September 21, 2010, email obtained by CT, Johnathan Davis declines an invitation to become vice president of a new organization called Christians in Media. The organization was created by several members of other Jang-affiliated media organizations, including The Christian Post, Christian Today (a UK website), Gospel Herald, IBTimes-affiliated Medical Daily News, and Jang’s Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches. And an email earlier in the thread indicated that Jang was consulted in the decisions of this new organization as well.

“My commission is inherently covert so I’ll have to respectfully decline,” Davis wrote.

Johnathan Davis

Johnathan Davis

Jonathan Davis was the journalism director at Olivet University, and is married to Olivet President Tracy McBeal Davis. IBT Media co-founder Etienne Uzac is married the former  PR director for the World Evangelical Alliance.

New York Observer:

After the Newsweek sale was announced, Mr. Uzac and Mr. Davis told Buzzfeed that Mr. Jang had no involvement in IBT and that the two of them alone owned IBT Media. Mr. Uzac did admit, though, that he has met with Mr. Jang on multiple occasions. Mr. Davis acknowledged that IBT recruits heavily from Olivet, but claimed that Olivet’s relationship to IBT Media was no different from the relationship between Stanford and Silicon Valley tech companies.

Will the Jang ties matter as IBT Media attempts to resurrect Newsweek? I think it would be foolish to assume otherwise. Christianity Today:

Multiple sources told CT that Jang and his senior associates had described how his organizations were divided into three categories: Body, Soul, and Spirit. (These were to be a model community for the new Kingdom of God, and were alternatively described as representing three levels of a new “Noah’s Ark.”) The spirit level was populated by churches and spiritual ministries like the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches, Apostolos Campus Ministry, and the Youth Evangelical Fellowship. The soul level was the domain of groups like Olivet University and Jubilee Missions. Moneymaking businesses were part of the body level. Multiple sources told CT that IBT is a major part of the “Body” level, along with web design firm Verecom.

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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