NASHVILLE (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources has announced a deal to sell a financially-troubled conference center in New Mexico to Olivet University.
But first, Lifeway is conducting what it calls in a statement “a comprehensive review of the theological compatibility of the organizations.”
The Tennessean reports that critics say the San Francisco-based Christian school and its denomination have great websites but little substance. And questions remain about Olivet founder the Rev. David Jang, a Korean immigrant who was investigated for his teachings in Asia.
Lifeway previously offered to sell its 2,100-acre Glorieta campus to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico for $1. That group rejected the offer over concerns about deferred maintenance costs, according to the SBC’s Baptist Press.
Olivet, which is currently renting space for about 200 people at Glorieta, is affiliated with the Evangelical Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in America. The denomination has about 100 churches overseas but only a handful in the United States, some of which have only two or three members, said denomination Moderator Tom Cowley, who is also an Olivet professor.
The school recruits its students from new converts in China and Korea and only accepts undergraduates with ties to its denomination. Many Olivet students go on to work at for-profit Internet companies run by the school’s alumni, which donate some profits to fund the denomination’s missionary work overseas.
Olivet President Bill Wagner said the organizations do good work despite the unconventional way they work together.
“Everything we do is driven by a desire to glorify God,” Wagner said.
The school’s financial reporting also has raised questions about how it works.
Its 2007 tax return shows $1.41 million in revenue for operating the school and about $900,000 in net assets. But a report from the same year filed with the Association for Bible Higher Education, which accredits the school, showed $9.7 million in revenue and $3.37 million in assets.
Olivet spokeswoman Kristin Cole said the reports to the accreditation group include overseas locations with no official ties to the school.
And Olivet founder Jang has faced scrutiny in the past for his work in Asia. He has been accused of having ties to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, and his followers in Korea and China were investigated after reports that they taught that Jang was the second coming of Jesus.
The Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the World Evangelical Association, which shares several offices with Olivet, said Jang was cleared of any theological wrongdoing and that he had done great work with churches in Asia.
Jang was not available for comment.
Marty King, spokesman for Nashville-based Lifeway Christian Resources, said he didn’t know of any specific concerns his organization has with Olivet. No financial details or timeline for the negotiations have been made public.