Over 140 Students Abducted From Baptist School in Nigeria (International Christian Herald 7.12.21)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the Christian Post, Parents of more than 140 students abducted from a Christian boarding school in Nigeria have been holding vigil outside the school, crying out to God and praying for the safe return of their children and staff. Armed assailants invaded Bethel Baptist High School in the Kaduna state of northwestern Nigeria around 1:45 a.m. Monday, the day senior students were scheduled to take their final exams, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The mass kidnapping has led to the precautionary closure of 13 other schools in the area identified as “vulnerable,” most of which belong to Christian organizations. A statement released Monday from the commissioner for Police Kaduna State Command said around 26 students and a teacher were rescued. The search continues for the remaining hostages. The abductors promised the parents that their children would not starve if they provided rice, beans, palm oil, salt and stock cubes. They said a ransom demand would follow, Euro News reported. Video footage released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide shows distressed mothers and fathers crying out to God and praying on the school grounds for the release of their children. Among the parents praying for the students’ safe return was a widow whose four children were kidnapped. The mass abduction happened in the southern part of Kaduna state in Nigeria, the epicenter of the spate of kidnappings in recent years. The abduction at Bethel Baptist High School was just one of four incidents within 24 hours, CSW reported.

According to Christian Today, Tributes have been paid to the former head of the UK Evangelical Alliance, Joel Edwards, who passed away from cancer on Wednesday morning. Edwards was a British immigrant from Jamaica and started out as a probation officer, a role he held for 14 years. In a rich and varied career, he served as senior pastor of Mile End New Testament Church of God and was an honorary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. But he spent the best part of his career as a figurehead for evangelicals, joining the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance in 1988, and then going on to lead the UK Evangelical Alliance as General Director from 1997 until 2009. At the time of his departure, he published his book, An Agenda for Change, which sounded the call for evangelicals to be good news people. “Evangelicals must re-imagine themselves as good news people and ask what that should look and feel like in the world today,” he said. “And people should recognise us as good news citizens who are integral to our communities and the public square.” Following his time with the EA, he became director of Micah Challenge, a coalition of Christian development agencies, and he was involved in academia as a Visiting Fellow of St John’s College, Durham. In 2019, he was awarded a CBE for services to tackling poverty and injustice, and in April this year, he was appointed by the Church of England to establish a racial justice commission that would hold the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to account tackling racism. In addition to his formal roles, Edwards was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and a popular broadcaster, speaker, writer and commentator on race, the Church and current affairs. In a letter to friends shared by his family after his death, Edwards bade a “final goodbye” and thanked people for their prayers for him. “Words cannot express the depth, breadth and height of my gratitude, but I have gone home,” he said. “My earnest prayer is that your faith and tenacity on my behalf will not be considered a pointless religious exercise, but that it will have strengthened your faith in a God who is marvellous, mysterious and majestic in all he does: The Faithful One.”

According to Religion News Service, Petertide — the days around the feast of St. Peter on June 29 — is traditionally one of the most joyful seasons for the Church of England, a time for ordination of new priests and deacons. But this year’s Petertide has been marred by what many have interpreted as an attack on the future of Anglican priesthood itself. As Britain’s national church prepared to gather for its General Synod, which begins Friday (July 9), one of its most senior clerics submitted a paper for discussion arguing that the future lies not with clergy in the pulpit, but with worshipping communities led by lay people. Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell — second-only in the hierarchy to the archbishop of Canterbury — first floated his ideas last year in a report from a “Vision and Strategy” committee that Cottrell heads. But its publication last month, just before the laity, bishops and other clergy attended the Synod sessions online, has caused an outcry. Cottrell’s latest reflections include not only a proposal for 10,000 lay-led communities within the next decade but a focus on young people: It urges a doubling of the number of children attending church and what he calls “active young disciples” by 2030. The Church of England, he maintains, has to become a “church of missionary disciples,” to “become younger and more diverse,” and to become a church “where a mixed ecology is the norm” — referring to a mix of digital and lay-led services. Cottrell’s plan does not include dismantling the ancient parish system, but his criticism of it — calling it ineffective “in the networks of contemporary life” — has caused fear that this will signal a major change in the way the church is structured, leading to church closures and cuts to clergy numbers. It also points to the growing influence of American-style evangelism in historically more staid Anglicanism.

According to Christianity Today, Pope Francis has a message to consider from Lebanon’s evangelicals. “We are not comfortable in our sectarian system, and thank God that we are not a part of the politics that led the country to collapse,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon. “We are not benefiting, and it hurts us like the vast majority of the Lebanese people.” Last week the Catholic pontiff invited Lebanon’s Christian denominations to the Vatican for a time of prayer and reflection. Ten patriarchs, bishops, and church leaders gathered, as Francis encouraged them to speak with one voice to the politicians of their nation. Lebanon has been unable to form a new government since its prior one resigned 11 months ago, following the massive explosion at Beirut’s port. As its Christian, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze political parties wrangle over representation, more than half the population now falls below the poverty line.

According to Religion News Service, Pope Francis’ recovery from intestinal surgery continues to be “regular and satisfactory,” the Vatican said Wednesday, as it revealed that final examinations showed he had suffered a “severe” narrowing of his colon. The Vatican’s daily update indicated there was no evidence of cancer detected during an examination of the tissue removed Sunday from Francis’ colon. Doctors said that was a good sign and evidence that the suspected condition of a narrowing of the colon due to inflammation and scarring had been confirmed. The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said the 84-year-old pope was continuing to eat regularly following Sunday’s surgery to remove half his colon, and that intravenous therapy had been suspended. Francis underwent three hours of planned surgery Sunday. He is expected to stay in Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic, which has a special suite reserved for popes, through the week, assuming there are no complications, the Vatican has said. “Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” Bruni’s statement said.

According to Morning Star News, A woman in eastern Uganda is struggling to recover after her Muslim father beat her and forced her to swallow a toxic substance for leaving Islam, sources said. Hajat Habiiba Namuwaya, a 38-year-old mother of three, said she fled her home in Namakoko village, Nangonde Sub-County last month after Muslim relatives threatened her. She had put her faith in Christ in February after what she called a miraculous healing. “My mother warned me that the family was planning to kill me,” Namuwaya told Morning Star News from her hospital bed. “I shared my fears with the pastor, and the pastor together with his family accepted to host me, and freely I openly shared my new life in Christ with friends on WhatsApp, which landed me in trouble.” A text message about taking refuge at the home of her pastor, whose name is withheld for security reasons, reached her father, who mobilized other relatives to track her down, she said. Namuwaya said that on the morning of June 20, relatives arrived at the pastor’s home and began beating her. “My father, Al-Hajji Mansuru Kiita, recited many Koranic verses cursing and denouncing me as no longer one of the family members,” she told Morning Star News. “He started beating and torturing me with a blunt object, inflicting bruises on my back, chest and legs, and finally forced me to drink poison, which I tried to resist but swallowed a little of it.” When neighbors arrived in response to her cries for help, the Muslim relatives hurried away, leaving behind a letter denouncing her and the pastor, she said. “The pastor was not around when the attackers arrived, but a neighbor telephoned him,” Namuwaya said. “He feared to come immediately but later came and found me fighting for my life. I was rushed to the nearby clinic for first aid, and later I was taken to another place for treatment and prayers.” Besides the anguish of being separated from her children, ages 5, 7 and 12, who are with their father, Namuwaya needs further specialized treatment.

According to Religion News Service, The Reverend Nathan Day Wilson, formerly at Christian Theological Seminary, has accepted a position at the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, as Manager of Income Development and Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting for the WCC’s programs throughout the world. “While the scope of work will be challenging, I’m eager to be part of the WCC’s collaborative work for unity, justice, and peace. In a time so divided by allegiance to false gods such as money and power, by acts of lovelessness and hatred, and by lines drawn between people according to worldly standards, a witness to God’s intended wholeness is needed more than ever,” Wilson said. Wilson, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will also work on a book surveying the ecumenical social thought and theology expressed in the WCC’s statements on international affairs. “I contend that the ecumenical movement has yet to fully develop the theological undergirding of its ethical commitments or the theological insights implicit in them,” said Wilson. Ecumenical ministry is not new to Wilson. During his tenure as Executive Director of the West Virginia Council of Churches, the organization added its first two historic African American denominations, moved into its own building, expanded staff, quadrupled income, and developed wide-ranging service and education programs. Wilson also served as Director of Public Policy for Washington DC-based Sojourners and manager of its national network of organizations working to overcome poverty, dismantle racism, and build healthier communities. For eleven years he coordinated the Faith & Values section of The Indianapolis Star. He pastored congregations in Kentucky and Indiana. Wilson is a prolific author with more than 600 publications, occasional college lecturer, and a regular workshop leader at pastor’s conferences. As a volunteer, he is president of the Ecumenical Community of Chautauqua and board member of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. After completing his bachelor’s degree at Asbury University, Wilson earned a Master of Divinity from Lexington Theological Seminary, a certificate in Ecumenical Studies from the Ecumenical Institute de Bossey, and a Master’s in International Security from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. He holds the Fundraising Management certificate from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

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!