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  • Haiti Gang Threatens to Kill Kidnapped Missionaries over Million Dollar Ransoms
    by PIERRE-RICHARD LUXAMA, MATÍAS DELACROIX, and EVENS SANON - The Associated Press on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Christian Aid Ministries asks for prayer as families of 16 Americans and one Canadian state, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.” PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A US religious organization whose 17 members were kidnapped in Haiti asked supporters on Friday to pray and share stories with the victims’ families of how their faith helped them through difficult times as efforts to recover them entered a sixth day. Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries issued the statement a day after a video was released showing the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang threatening to kill those abducted if his demands are not met. Haitian officials have said the gang is seeking a $1 million ransom per person, although they said it wasn’t clear if that includes the five children in the group, the youngest being 8 months old. “You may wonder why our workers chose to live in a difficult and dangerous context, despite the apparent risks,” the organization said. "Before leaving for Haiti, our workers who are now being held hostage expressed a desire to faithfully serve God in Haiti." The FBI is helping Haitian authorities recover the 16 Americans and one Canadian. A local human rights group said their Haitian driver also was kidnapped. “Pray that their commitment to God could become even stronger during this difficult experience,” Christian Aid Ministries said. The video posted on social media shows 400 Mawozo leader Wilson Joseph dressed in a blue suit, carrying a blue hat and wearing a large cross around his neck. “I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” he said in the video. He also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Haiti’s national police chief as he spoke in front of the open coffins that apparently held several members of his gang ...Continue reading...

  • More Afghan Muslims Are Questioning Faith. These Christians Are Ready to Answer.
    by Stefani McDade on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    From online messages to ministry in resettlement communities, church leaders approach this missional moment with prayer and patience. Mike Christian and his wife lead a small congregation called the Afghan-American Church of the Bay Area. But their main ministry is not gathering with a dozen or so Afghan believers during the week. It is engaging with the tens of thousands of Afghan seekers from around the world who reach out through messaging apps, social media, and online outlets. Mike, who was born in Afghanistan and worked alongside the US military there, adopted the name “Mike Christian” after his conversion. It was a signal to fellow Afghans that they could speak with him if they were curious about Christianity. His popular Facebook page shares Bible verses and Christian messages in Dari alongside an invitation to get in touch. The recent Taliban takeover has created a unique opportunity for some Afghan Muslims to rethink their faith, just as a massive influx of Afghan evacuees are fleeing to the United States for resettlement. It ’s the younger generation, and especially the women, Mike says, who are most disenchanted with Islam, and most open to learning about the God of Christianity. “We receive tons of text messages, emails, WhatsApp, and phone calls from Afghanistan,” Mike told CT in an interview. “They ’re saying, ‘We don ’t like Islam. We don ’t want that kind of religion. We want to become a Christian. Please help us. Show us how we become a follower of Jesus.’” “I just keep praying,” he says, “‘Lord, you have the power to change Afghan people—to join your church, to seek you and believe in you, to pray and repent.’’” The couple fields hundreds of questions a day from curious Afghans, describing the good news to them and connecting ...Continue reading...

  • Died: Ralph Carmichael, Composer Who Fought for Freedom of Christian Music
    by Kevin Mungons on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Founder of Light Records arranged for Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and Elvis Presley; scored “The Blob”; developed folk musicals; discovered Andraé Crouch; and believed any style could glorify God. Ralph Carmichael, a composer and record producer who shaped the sound of contemporary Christian music, died on October 18 at age 94. A violin prodigy with perfect pitch and a love for jazz chords, Carmichael built his reputation in Los Angeles TV and film studios before turning to Christian music and throwing open the doors for a new generation to use any and every style to sing about Jesus. When he recorded his best-known song, “He’s Everything to Me,” featured on the Billy Graham World Wide Pictures production The Restless Ones, he brought two guitars, an electric bass, and drums into the studio and kicked off a firestorm of controversy. He featured the new sound in several popular youth musicals and later established Light Records as a label for rising contemporary Christian artists. “What I have been doing most of my adult life,” he told the Christian Herald in 1986, “is waging stubborn battle for the freedom and liberty to experiment with different kinds of music for the glory of God.” When tributes poured in near the end of his life, many called Carmichael the “father of contemporary Christian music,” a title he sometimes shared with Christian rocker Larry Norman, despite their obvious differences in style. Carmichael, for his part, didn’t buy into honorific titles or strictly defined music genres. “I want neither credit nor blame for creating today’s musical forms,” he once told CT. “I ask only for guidance to know how to use them in good taste to reach ‘now’ people with a message that never changes.” His “now” music would borrow from any style: pop, jazz, country, rock—all packaged with slick arrangements ...Continue reading...

  • T4G Conference Will End in 2022
    by Kate Shellnutt on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    With another cofounder leaving, Together for the Gospel prepares for its final event. The popular reformed evangelical pastors conference Together for the Gospel (T4G) will hold its final gathering in April 2022, following the departure of one of its founders, Albert Mohler. Cofounders Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan announced Thursday that after 16 years of putting on the biannual event in Louisville, “This is it.” Dever, Duncan, Mohler, and C. J. Mahaney developed the idea for T4G out of their friendship in ministry. They held the first T4G conference in 2006, drawing 3,000 attendees. “We were all surprised how many people came,” said Dever, who leads Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Still, the founders deliberately limited the scope of T4G and saw the conference as a finite project. “Our goal was to encourage pastors. We did not want to become a ministry. We did not want to become an organization,” said Duncan, CEO and chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary. “We wanted to make it clear what’s happening in local churches is the important thing; T4G is not the important thing.” The end date for T4G comes as Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, moves on. In a video discussion on the T4G site, Dever said Mohler recently told them, “Brothers, I love you guys very much, but I’ve just got to do other things now.” Dever and Duncan cited Mohler’s involvement with a new opinion section at World magazine and his role in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which is facing deepening divides and institutional shakeups. Mohler said in a statement to CT, “Each of us faces questions of urgency and priority in life and ministry. ...Continue reading...

  • 100 Years After Ireland’s Divide, Church Cooperation Is Better Than Ever
    by Ger FitzGerald - The Conversation on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Despite historic clashes, Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders have come together during the pandemic around Brexit, the legacy of the Troubles, and other issues that span both sides of the border. Leaders from Ireland’s main Christian traditions will host a “Service of Reflection and Hope” in Armagh, Northern Ireland on October 21, 2021, marking 100 years since “the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland.” But the churches’ service has become controversial, underscoring tensions that linger on both sides of the border. In September, the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, said he would decline his invitation because the event’s title was not politically “neutral.” As an Irish-born academic working at the intersection of religion and international affairs, I believe the commotion over Higgins’ invitation has overshadowed an important story. Despite a history of sectarian strife, cooperation between the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Ireland has deepened in recent years, with the churches increasingly speaking with one voice on important social and political issues. The Church Leaders Group brings together the top leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Ireland—whose jurisdictions extend across the whole island—as well as the president of the Irish Council of Churches. The five men have been coordinating more closely than ever on issues of peace-building, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent political developments such as Brexit. More than ‘huddling’ Churches have traditionally wielded significant influence in Irish politics and society. All have experienced sizable declines over the past couple of decades, however, as more people say they do not identify with any particular religion. The abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have contributed to ...Continue reading...

  • UK Christians Walk 750 Miles to Urge Action on Climate Change
    by Ken Chitwood on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Headed to UN meeting in Glasgow, creation care advocates talk about what churches can do and what they are doing. Rachel Mander’s walk to Glasgow began with the Bible. An evangelical from Sheffield, England, she had long been convinced of the connection between loving God and loving her neighbor. But when she was 19 or 20, she also saw the connection between loving her neighbor and caring for creation. Then she couldn’t stop seeing it. “It’s like looking for angels in the Bible,” she said. “You don’t notice how many there are until you actually look and then you see them popping up everywhere. Me and my friends started reexamining Scripture and seeing how being a person of faith means you care for the environment. Suddenly, it was on every page.” Today, 24-year-old Mander is one of the coleaders of a 750-mile relay-pilgrimage from the southwestern tip of the United Kingdom to Glasgow, Scotland, where this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, will begin opening ceremonies on October 31. The Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) has organized about 2,000 people to make the walk. Convicted that the climate crisis is pressing, urgent, and must be resolved in this generation, they are pleading with church institutions, governments, and local congregations to take concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions. They hope that their journey will raise awareness, rally people to the cause, and put pressure on governments to address the fact that burning fossil fuels has substantially increased the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, with serious negative consequences around the world. In 2015, at COP21 in Paris, 196 countries committed to take action that would limit the increase in the global mean temperature to 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue action that would limit the ...Continue reading...

  • Haiti Negotiates with Gang over $1 Million Ransom for Each Kidnapped Missionary
    by Dánica Coto and Pierre-Richard Luxama - The Associated Press on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Christian Aid Ministries requests prayer for 17 captive Christians, including five children ages 15 to 8 months. Editor’s note: The 400 Mawozo gang has threatened to kill the missionaries if their ransom demand is not met. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Negotiations stretched into a fourth day seeking the return of 17 members of a US-based missionary group kidnapped over the weekend by a violent gang that is demanding $1 million ransom per person. The group includes five children whose ages range from 8 months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom amount included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian. Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) said it would hold a day of fasting and prayer for its missionaries Thursday. “We, along with government authorities, continue to work hard to bring them home safely,” the Ohio-based group said. “This time of difficulty reminds us of the ongoing suffering of millions of Haitians. While our workers chose to serve in Haiti, our Haitian friends endure crisis after crisis, continual violence, and economic hardship.” The abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group. It said a Haitian driver was abducted along with the missionaries, bringing the total to 18 people taken by the gang. The Haitian official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday in a call to a leader of CAM shortly after the abduction. “This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group said, adding that the missionaries—who were ...Continue reading...

  • My Life in Seattle’s Street Gangs Was a Dead-End Street
    by James D. Croone with Peter K. Johnson on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    How God used a stiff prison sentence and a church invitation to rescue me from a downward spiral of guns, drugs, and despair. Growing up as a Black American male in a rough Seattle neighborhood almost doomed my future. In many ways I was marked for failure. Even a violent early death. My mother, a nurse, worked long hours providing for my sister Angela and me after our father left us. Although he lived 10 blocks away, he was never active in our lives, financially or otherwise. My mother loved us and disciplined us, but I needed a strong and responsible male figure in my life. None of my friends were raised in a traditional two-parent home, either. Racial disparities surfaced early on. In my preteens I learned how differently teachers disciplined white and Black kids. They singled us out more. Yet I never crusaded against racial injustice. It just seemed normal for our community. The police hassled us regularly for just hanging out at a bus stop or street corner. Sometimes three or four squad cars pulled up with officers jumping out, yelling and cursing, to search our pockets for no good reason. Seduced by the streets In elementary and middle school, I made good grades and obeyed my mom’s warnings to behave. She never allowed me to stay out late in the streets. I was more or less a loner, rarely getting into trouble. Things changed, however, when I entered high school in 1981 after being bussed into the suburbs. I began hanging out with the wrong guys. The gang culture, drugs, and partying eventually seduced me. I loved hip-hop music and street dancing. At 16, I joined the Emerald Street Boys Rap group. We performed around the city and made an album. Then I slowly lost interest in school, skipped classes, and quit altogether, worrying my mother. California gangs began migrating to our neighborhood, where they sold cocaine and bred more violence. I ...Continue reading...

  • What I Learned From Gen Z’s Faithfulness During the Pandemic
    by Tom Lin on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Leading InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has given me a chance to see how younger believers model spiritual resilience. Recent reports of declining religious engagement paint a sad picture about the future of the church in the United States. But from my perspective leading InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I’ve seen how younger Christians may offer us a road map for hope, particularly for those of us from earlier generations. In some ways, it’s almost remarkable that Gen Z students still have a desire to grow spiritually at all. During a pivotal stage of life, which most of us remember as a season of optimism and opportunity, they are grappling with an ongoing pandemic, political divisions, racial injustices, and campus openings and closures. In a time when practical discipleship may be the least of their worries, it would be easy to let the complexities and pressures of life crowd out the spiritual. But these recent crises have had a spiritually clarifying effect on them. This generation has a spiritual hunger and a desire to grow into disciples prepared to engage a turbulent world. Here are five ways I’ve seen Gen Z college students modeling a deeper, more resilient faith that older generations can learn from. 1. Spiritually resilient people know how to wait God is showing Gen Z how to wait in a culture that hates to wait for anything. It might come as a surprise that this generation of Christians—all of whom grew up with instantaneous access to the internet—has the capacity for patience. But I have watched them embrace what author and pastor Ben Patterson says in his book Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent: “At least as important as the things we wait for is the work God wants to do in us as we wait.” Where many in older generations have responded to delayed gratification with self-soothing, ...Continue reading...

  • North Park Faculty Vote No Confidence in President Over ‘Toxic Climate’
    by Yonat Shimron - Religion News Service on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Board continues to support leadership at the ECC school after concerns come up around recent firings and retention for students of color. Faculty at North Park University voted no confidence in the school’s president, saying she created a hostile environment for students and faculty of color. The 55–26 vote last week took aim at President Mary Surridge, who has led the Chicago evangelical school since 2018. In an accompanying document, the university’s faculty senate detailed “a toxic climate for students, faculty, and staff,” especially those of color. Specifically, the document took issue with a failure to hire and retain racially diverse people in leadership positions as well as athletes. “The big picture is that we have a school that attracts a lot of students of color,” said Rachelle Ankney, senate faculty president and a professor of math. “But we are not providing an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere for those students. That’s not setting the school up for success in the long run.” North Park enrolls some 2,800 students and more than half are people of color or mixed race, according to Ankney. But, she said, it has struggled to retain those students beyond the first and second year of their studies. A 2020 retention report from SPARK associates noted particularly high rates of departure among male student athletes of color at North Park, especially football players: In 2019–2020, 45 percent of first-year football players did not return the following year, compared with 25 percent of first-year students overall. Recently, the school has also seen an exodus of staff and faculty of color; the faculty says those departing were pressured to sign nondisclosure agreements. The 130-year-old private university is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church and is a member of the Council for Christian ...Continue reading...