LISTEN: Sudanese Pastor Released from Prison, But 3 Other Christians Still Face Death Sentence; Largest Black Church In Great Britain Loses $4 Million In Ponzi Scheme (BCNN1, 1/3/2017)

This is the Black Christian News Network Podcast for Tuesday, January 3, 2017.

1. According to the Christian Post, Christians campaigning for the release of two Sudanese pastors facing a potential death sentence are celebrating partial victory after one of the men was released, but others remain in prison facing serious charges. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported on Tuesday that the Rev. Kuwa Shamal, one of four men on trial, has been released from prison after a judge found that there was no evidence against him. Another pastor, the Rev. Hassan Abduraheem, remains in prison, however, on suspicion of committing national security crimes with the two other men.

2. According to Nigeria Today, the largest black church in Britain, Kingsway International Christian Centre led by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo lost $4m to a Ponzi scheme headed by Richard Rufus. According to Sahara Reporters, trustees of the 12,000 strong church invested in the Ponzi scheme led by Rufus who was once a defender for Charlton Athletic. Rufus promised investors including the trustees of KICC that they will get returns as high as 55%. The Christian Post reported an inquiry by the Charity Commission for England and Wales on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, which showed that KICC had a net loss of approximately $4.8m.

3. According to CNN, a federal judge ruled Monday that Dylann Roof, convicted of killing nine people inside an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, is mentally competent to represent himself at the sentencing phase of his trial. That phase is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning at 9:30. Roof could be sentenced to death.

4. According to NBC Chicago, as Chicago closed on one of its most violent years in decades, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Monday the city should seek federal help if local authorities can’t handle the crisis. Trump tweeted, “Chicago murder rate is record setting – 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016. If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!” Data made available by the Chicago Police Department shows 2016 was one of the most violent years in the city since the mid ‘90s. While it wasn’t a record, as Trump stated, Chicago saw 762 murders, 3,550 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims in 2016.

5. According to EURWeb, a coalition of South Los Angeles community leaders are calling for LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to assign a LAPD security detail to LAPD police commission president Matt Johnson, for all public appearances Johnson makes on behalf of the city. Johnson has taken out a restraining order against #BlackLivesMatter activist Trevor Gerard, claiming he is in fear of his personal safety and his family members.

6 . According to AL.com, Talladega College’s Marching Tornadoes have accepted an invitation to perform at the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, according to the planning committee. More than 8,000 participants representing 40 organizations, including high school and university marching bands, equestrian corps, first responders and veterans groups, will be taking part in the inaugural parade. The parade will take place just after the swearing-in of Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. News of Talladega College’s participation circulated last week though school officials have yet to confirm either the invitation for the 200-member band or if it had accepted.

7. According to Reuters, Steve Smith Sr., a tough, elusive, explosive receiver over 16 years in the NFL, confirmed his retirement after Sunday’s loss to the Bengals in the team’s regular season finale. Smith ends after 1,031 catches for 14,731 yards and 81 receiving touchdowns. He ranks seventh on the National Football League’s all-time list for receiving yards. Smith, 37, went out quietly on Sunday with three catches for 34 yards in the 27-10 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium and did not reach the end zone.