This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Christianity Today, John K. Yambasu, the West African bishop who brought factions of the United Methodist Church (UMC) together to agree on a plan for their split over homosexuality, died in a car accident outside Freeport, Sierra Leone, over the weekend. The 63-year-old is remembered as a gentle diplomat in the church and a faithful advocate for Christian education in Africa. Yambasu, the resident bishop of the Sierra Leone area and president of the United Methodist Africa College of Bishops, “stood like a giant in the worldwide mission of the United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Hee Soo Jung, president of the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries. Yambasu organized the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace, a proposal announced in January 2020 and to be voted on in August 2021. After several stalemates over what to do about the UMC’s decades of division over same-sex marriage and gay clergy, the protocol brought together key leaders from all sides and is expected to be the final chapter in this decades-long battle when the denomination’s legislative body convenes at its postponed conference next year.
According to the AFP, People gathered for public prayer in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time in five months on Sunday as the country further eased restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Catholics flocked joyfully to Kinshasa’s Notre Dame Cathedral for Sunday’s first mass at 6:30 am, AFP correspondents reported. Worshippers were required to wash their hands with chlorinated water before entering the sanctuary, where they were kept a metre apart. The priest — the only person not wearing a face covering — said those who did not observe the measures risked home confinement. Nearby at the Philadelphia evangelical church, some worshippers were not wearing masks, but all had their temperatures taken before entering.
According to Christianity Today, the Turkish government formally converted a former Byzantine church into a mosque Friday, a move that came a month after it drew praise from the faithful and international opposition for similarly turning Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia into a Muslim house of prayer. A decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published in the country’s Official Gazette, said Istanbul’s Church of St. Saviour in Chora, known as Kariye in Turkish, was handed to Turkey’s religious authority, which would open up the structure for Muslim prayers. Like the Hagia Sophia, which was a church for centuries and then a mosque for centuries more, the historic Chora church had operated as a museum for decades before Erdogan ordered it restored as a mosque. It was not immediately known when the first prayers would be held there. The church, situated near the ancient city walls, is famed for its elaborate mosaics and frescoes. It dates to the fourth century, although the edifice took on its current form in the 11th–12th centuries. The structure served as a mosque during the Ottoman rule before being transformed into a museum in 1945. A court decision last year canceled the building’s status as a museum, paving the way for Friday’s decision.
According to the Christian Post, The blast in Beirut earlier this month has not only killed some 200 people and displaced about 300,000 families but also threatens to change the demography of Christian districts as land-grabbers are seeking to take advantage of the grim situation. “There are people trying to profit from this catastrophe and buy land and homes from the Christians,” the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need quoted a local partner, Monsignor Toufic Bou-Hadir, as saying. “People want to stay. A number of the old people, and younger ones, too, are staying in their homes, even ones that are damaged,” added Bou-Hadir, director of the Maronite Patriarchal Commission for Youth. “With all respect to people who hold other religious beliefs, we cannot sell Christian homes to others. We do not want to change the demography. The land does not only have material value. It is our dignity. It is where we have our roots.” The blast occurred on Aug. 4 when hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate become a deadly, powerful force at the port area. The cause of the blast was either negligence or “external action, with a missile or a bomb,” Lebanese President Michel Aoun said.
According to Christianity Today, a French-American pastor and church planter whose life passion was reaching secular Parisians with the gospel and discipling Christian leaders in his mother’s homeland has died at age 45. Édouard Nelson founded l’Église des Ternes, a church plant in Paris, which he pastored until his death. He also served in a number of other ministries where he trained and equipped the next generation. Nelson died on August 14 after sustaining injuries from a hiking accident. “Édouard’s passion was three-fold: preaching, church-planting and mentoring. And he did all three with excellence,” said his friend, Raphaël Anzenberger, the president of France Evangélisation. Nelson’s love for l’Église des Ternes was evidenced in his morning routines. The congregation is located in the affluent Batignolles-Monceau, Paris’s 17th arrondissement, an area directly north of the Arc de Triomphe. Each morning, Nelson would walk laps in the local park, praying for church members and neighbors by name, his wife said.
According to Christianity Today, Christian denominations in Belarus are not engaged in many joint projects and generally steer clear of politics. But the controversial reelection of “Europe’s last dictator” has united them in prayer—and in their public stance on politics. Belarus has been embroiled in mass protests since its August 9 presidential election. For the past 26 years, the Eastern European country the size of Kansas has been led by President Alexander Lukashenko, who in 1994 won the first election since the former Soviet republic became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union three years earlier. Following his election, Lukashenko changed the constitution to eliminate term limits. No election since has been recognized as free and fair by international observers. This year, the opposition rallied around Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran in place of her husband after he was disqualified and jailed. She promised a return to the 1994 constitution with a subsequent clean presidential poll early next year. The official results of the August 9 vote showed Lukashenko winning with 80 percent of the vote. The opposition claimed the tally was fraudulent. Mass protests swept the country of 10 million people. Protesters were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and stun grenades. Thousands were detained. Multiple reports of torture in detention centers hit social media. In response, Christians are uniting in prayer at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day. A joint statement entitled “Prayer and Hope” was issued by evangelical leaders: Leonid Mikhovich, leader of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Belarus; Sergey Tsvor, leader of the United Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Belarus; and Leonid Voronenko, leader of the charismatic Religious Association of Full Gospel Communities in Belarus.
According to the Christian Post, The parents of an Iranian Christian who met with President Donald Trump last year in the Oval Office have lost their appeals of years-long prison sentences for operating and participating in house church meetings. The human rights watchdog Article 18 reports that Assyrian-Iranians Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife, Shamiram Isavi, were informed that they have lost their appeals and have been summoned to begin their sentences as both were out on bail. In 2017, Tamraz, the pastor of a Pentecostal congregation in Tehran, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was arrested during a Christmas celebration in 2014 and spent 65 days in solitary confinement. He was accused of acting against national security by conducting house church meetings and evangelizing. Meanwhile, Isavi was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 on charges of “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!