Something troubling happened recently, and it could be a sign of things to come for evangelical churches and organisations across the world. It’s getting harder for orthodox, Bible-believing Christians to reach people on the internet.
In April this year the Evangelical Times page was deleted from Wikipedia. Yes, I know, Wikipedia isn’t exactly a trusted source of accurate information. Yes, schoolteachers and university lecturers throughout the world roll their eyes in disillusionment when they see students cite it as a source. But it is the largest encyclopaedia on the internet, and the starting point for many people’s online searches. It can be a powerful driver of web traffic.
Added to this, Google will rank a website’s search results more highly if it is associated with the Wikipedia entry. It will even style the search results by placing a Wikipedia summary box at the top of the screen. Whether we like it or not, this has become a default benchmark of credibility for search results.
So why was the Evangelical Times page taken down? There is a suspicion that it was done by a small group of activists who are hostile to evangelical Christianity. On the surface, their justification for nominating the Evangelical Times page for ‘speedy deletion’ was that ET was not ‘notable’ enough to have its own entry on Wikipedia, and that it had too many internal citations linking back to the ET website.
If that was really the issue, you might expect the editors of Wikipedia to allow ET to demonstrate its notability and to post some more citations from external sources. We attempted to do this. We demonstrated that ET was established in 1967 to cater for thousands of evangelical Christians in the UK who believed in coming out from doctrinally mixed denominations and establishing independent churches.
We found lots of examples to cite from authoritative Christian authors, other Christian periodicals including Christianity Today, and well-known secular media sources such as the Telegraph and the BBC. But none of this was good enough for the Wikipedia editors, who seemed to shift the goalposts every time we met their requirements. They were determined, it seems, to delete the Evangelical Times Wikipedia page.