July 25 Update on Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson updateAfter disappointing news last week in the ongoing imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey, news came out today that he has been released from prison into house arrest related to health problems. This is great news and an answer to prayer.

You can read the entire news piece from Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey) below, as well as an update from Christianity Today here.

Andrew Brunson, an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges in Turkey, moved from prison to house arrest after a court ruling on July 25 citing his health problems.

Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which Ankara blames for the failed coup in 2016.

The Second High Penal Court in the western province of İzmir had rejected Brunson’s plea for release on July 18, deciding to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing scheduled for Oct. 12.

Following an objection from Brunson’s attorney İsmail Cem Halavurt, however, the same court ruled on July 25 to move Brunson from prison to house arrest citing the “health excuse” that was stressed in the plea.

The court also banned Brunson from leaving Turkey and imposed a judicial control decision.

Brunson was detained nearly two years ago and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. Brunson denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.”

United States President Donald Trump last week called for his release and the U.S. Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson’s imprisonment and Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 July 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

paul_lachine_illustration“Less Religion, More Money: Countries Get Wealthier as They Become More Secular, Study Says” – Newsweek reports on a recent study in Science Advances that tracked economic development in countries over the past 100 years. “Researchers called tolerance of individual expression the “ultimate driver” of economic change.” Of course, Newsweek doesn’t mention what the introduction for the study says: “Although a correlation between economic development and secularization is evident, in that countries that are highly religious tend to be the poorest (7, 8), it is not obvious which change precedes which through time: whether development causes secularization (9, 10), or vice versa (11), or whether both changes are driven, with different time lags, by a factor such as education or advances in technology.”  It does seem to me that if “individual expression” is the “‘ultimate driver’ of economic change,” we should also ask the question of whether economic change is the ultimate evaluative tool of individual and corporate satisfaction in a country. Are the wealthiest countries reflective of the highest level of well-being? While “well-being” is defined further down in the study, it is not clear how this relates to overall economic development and whether the definition of well-being is implicitly drawn from a secular versus religious definition.

 

pregnantOn a slightly different but related note, Philip Jenkins highlights the dipping fertility rates in the United States in his article: “Faith, Fertility, and the Fate of American Religion.” He writes: “The United States just passed a critical statistical landmark, one that I think – I fear – has immense implications for the nation’s religious life. If I am right, and we are dealing with early days, we might seriously be looking at the opening stages of a large scale process of secularization. After being reported and speculated about for decades, that secularization might finally be happening. As I will argue, the term “secularization” over-simplifies the process, but let that stand presently.”

 

Bonhoeffer_Union_Class“Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Harlem Renaissance” – It’s no secret that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my theological heroes. Ever since I first read his book The Cost of Discipleship in high school after giving my life to Christ, I have continued to learn from his writings up to the present time. Here is a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Reggie Williams on the intersection of the Harlem Renaissance with Bonhoeffer’s studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Williams is also the author of Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus.

 

VanhoozerSpeaking of theologians in development, every pastor, student pursuing their PhD in theology, or other budding theologians should read Kevin Vanhoozer‘s excellent essay: Letter to an Aspiring Theologian:” How to Speak of God Truly.” Along with giving all of us some excellent reading to pursue, Vanhoozer brings the pursuit of theological thinking into context of thought and context of life.

 

18-mariia-butina.w710.h473.2x“Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups” – With all the ongoing attention given to spying and infiltration between the United States and Russia, one of the more interesting twists this past week came from the case of indicted Russian-spy Maria Butina. Not only was she seeking to influence gun groups, she was also intentionally targeting religious conservative groups as well.

 

michelle-jimenez-211321-unsplash-770x513Last week in “The Weekend Wanderer,” I shared an article on the dramatic increase of multiracial congregations in Protestant Christianity. Not everything about this is positive, however, as at times this can be what some call “racist multiculturalism.” Dr. Lamont Francies explores the potential negative aspects of multi-ethnic churches in his challenging article: “The Mask of Multicultural Churches.” Many of the issues he raises are areas we have struggled with at Eastbrook Church as we continue to navigate what it truly means to move from the appearance of ethnic diversity to deeper Gospel transformation toward the Revelation 7 family of God.

 

Andrew Brunson 2I continue to follow the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed for the past two years in Turkey on allegations tying him to rebel groups there. You can read my latest update here, but also recent articles at Christianity Today (“Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months“), CNN (“Trump calls for Turkey to release US pastor accused of spying“), The New York Times (“Turkey Resists Pressure to Release American Pastor From Jail“), and The Washington Post (“Turkish court rejects appeals to release jailed American pastor“).

 

5-medina“4 Ways Men Can Combat Abuse in the Church” – In light of pervasive abuse in our society that also unfortunately touches the church, Gricel Medina says its time for a change. “#ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual have proven that, too often, our instinct is to blame the victim and assume the best of the abuser. Men receive standing ovations in some churches just for responding to allegations; whether they confess or deny misconduct appears almost irrelevant. It might be because Christians love a story of repentance and forgiveness more than the hard work of justice. Or, it might be because we want to believe the best of our leaders.” [Thanks to Sandra Maria Van Opstal for sharing this article.]

 

Laity-Age-of-Distraction-BW-0019-webEver wish you could have two of your favorite thinkers in one room talking about the same topic for an extended period of time. Sadly, I found out I missed on opportunity just like that when Alan Jacobs and Jamie Smith led a retreat together earlier this summer at the Laity Lodge entitled “Attending to God in an Age of Distraction.” Thankfully, I also discovered that audio recordings of the sessions are all available online here.

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

July 18 Update on Pastor Andrew Brunson [revised]

Immediately after I posted this most recent update, even more updated news came forth that was disappointing:

A court in the Aegean province of İzmir has ruled that Andrew Brunson, an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges, will be kept in jail pending trial.

The Second High Penal Court in İzmir decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing on Oct. 12.

Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt, as well the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

He was detained nearly two years ago and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. Brunson denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.”

[More here]

Please continue to pray for Andrew and his wife, Norine, with this difficult news.


 

5b4f03ff5379ff1e9c2806b1

As with many others I continue to watch the situation playing out in Turkey with Pastor Andrew Brunson, whose trial continued yesterday and today. Here’s the latest update:

An American pastor being tried in Turkey on terrorism and spying charges could be freed on July 18 when prosecution witnesses finish testifying in a case which has deepened a rift between two NATO allies, his lawyer said.

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) that Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt, as well the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

He was detained nearly two years ago and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. Brunson denied the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting.”

President Donald Trump has called for his release and the U.S. Senate passed a bill last month including a measure that prohibits Turkey from buying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets because of Brunson’s imprisonment and Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Defense lawyer İsmail Cem Halavurt said Turkish courts can remand defendants in detention while evidence is collected, to prevent any interference. That process is expected to be concluded on July 18 when the final three prosecution witnesses are due to be heard, meaning he could be freed for the remainder of the trial.

“We have been saying that he must be released under the law since day one,” Halavurt said.

[Read more here]

A prayer resource for him shared these updated requests for prayer:

May Andrew have a strong witness. He intends to publicly forgive all those who have spoken against him.

May the giant hand of the Lord come and set Andrew free.

May they find nothing wrong in Andrew.

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 June 2018

The “Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Jeff SessionsRomans 13 and Illegal Immigration? This past week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referenced Romans 13 in support of the Trump administration’s policy of dealing with illegal immigration by separating children from parents. Daniel Burke attempts to look at the text in light of our current democratic context. Matt Soerens of World Relief highlights the fact that Romans 13 cannot justify separating children from families. Then there’s Greg Strand of the Evangelical Free Church of America who speaks out against separating children from families on the basis of love for God and love for neighbor. David Gerson offers a pointed critique of the current administration’s policy: “the centerpiece commitment of Christian social ethics is not order; it is justice. For a good introduction to the concept, Sessions might read the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ ‘A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God,’ King argued. ‘An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.’ And how should justice be defined? ‘Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.'” It’s always interesting when parts of the Bible become headline news.

 

Andrew Brunson 2“Experts Say Turkey’s Indictment of Rev. Brunson Full of ‘Blatant Lies'” – Lela Gilbert, an adjunct fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, speaks to the terrible situation that Andrew Brunson is going through in Turkey. She writes: “Turkey’s formal indictment of U.S. Presbyterian Pastor Andrew Brunson is so tenuous and thinly supported it strongly suggests humanitarian groups are justified in their argument that he is a diplomatic hostage rather than a legitimate criminal suspect.”

 

3000“To survive our high-speed society, cultivate ‘temporal bandwidth'” – So says Alan Jacobs in a recent essay in The Guardian. “It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate…to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls ‘temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.”

 

82470“4 Ways to Share God’s Love in Summertime” – In light of recent studies revealing that American Christians are unlikely to share their faith, Tina Osterhouse offers four practical ways we can share God’s love in the “ordinary time” of summer. Take a look at this realistic and down-to-earth approach to evangelism. Then, go out and try something that she mentions.

 

milky-way“It Is Highly Unlikely That Any of This Exists: On the Origins of the Universe” – Over at Literary Hub, Oren Harman tells us honestly, that any of this exists at all is so very, very random. He delves into the search for dark matter at the beginning of the universe.

 

elevator“What Was the Point of Elevator Music?” – Since you probably have been thinking about this (or not) for quite some time, Patrick Carrajat comes to the rescue to save us from false thinking about the rationale behind elevator music. “‘I don’t think elevator music was really designed to soothe the raging beast,’ says Patrick Carrajat. Instead, he says, elevator music was there to…” Well, I guess you will have to read the article in order to find out why. [Thanks to the Prufrock News for this article.]

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 May 2018

Every week I read a lot of different material, so I thought it might be worth sharing those things with others in a weekly post. So begins the “Weekend Wanderer,” a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. It may not be organized too well, but such is the definition of wandering that you could walk through these posts however you like in any order you like.

andy-stanley.jpg“Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley” – We’re all still wondering just exactly what Andy Stanley means by this and whether he’s just trying to be more sensitive to those outside the church or whether he really has become the Marcion of 21st century America.

 

webRNS-West-Bank-Evangelical-1-050918“Evangelicals find like-minded Christians in unlikely place: Palestinian West Bank” – I have a number of friends, both Palestinians and ex-pats, who live in the city of Beit Sahour mentioned in this article. My heart goes out to Palestinian Christians who often find themselves caught not only in the middle of Jewish-Palestinian tensions in the Holy Land, but also caught in the no-man’s land between radical Islam and western evangelical Zionism.

 

Childish Gambino“Why Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Is a Prophetic Message We Can’t Ignore”Andre Henry, managing editor at Relevant Magazine, calls Christians to pay close attention to Childish Gambino’s recent video for “This Is America.” The video is edgy but addresses much of the racial tension currently at play in our nation with a critical artistry that has caught attention around the world. “Perhaps a hard look into some type of societal mirror can be the beginning of imagining a better society. Perhaps in the offense of the prophetic artists, preachers, activists, and leaders among us, God is speaking. ‘This is America’ invites us to at least do the former.”

 

Looking Before and After“A Brief Comment on Stories” – In which Alan Jacobs writes: “There’s a lot of sentimental and just plain dopey talk about ‘story’ these days. Tell me your story.’ ‘Everyone has a story.’ Yuck. But the remedy for this problem, for Christians anyway, is not to eschew storytelling but to tell better stories – tell stories that are connected to the Great Narrative of salvation history.” Read the rest here and take a look at his book on the matter, Looking Before and After: Testimony and the Christian Life.

 

Korean prisoners“North Korea Frees American Christians” – In a somewhat surprising turn of events, North Korea freed three Christian prisoners ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un. North Korea has a long history of collecting prisoners to use in political bargaining, but this should not undermine the significance of this move for these men and their families.

 

Paige Patterson“The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Denomination” – Paige Patterson, the embattled President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a flagship seminary for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has been accused of counseling women in abusive marriages to stay in their marriages as an act of submission. A petition has been launched with thousands of SBC women signing already.

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 7.33.54 AM“The Young Turks Rejecting Islam” – A few years ago, some dear friends of mine who are Egyptian pastors told me that the biggest rise in religious transition in Egypt was conversion from Islam to atheism. They credited this change with an oppressive form of Islam that had become rampant in Egypt at that time. It seems a similar transition is impacting Turkey.

 

Why Turkey is Accusing an American Pastor of Terrorism“Why Turkey Is Accusing an American Pastor of Terrorism” – While we’re on the subject of Turkey, you might enjoy finding out a little more background on the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, who has been imprisoned without a full trial in Turkey because of unfounded allegations of links to terrorism.

 

U2“How U2 Betrayed Rock ‘n’ Roll” – In First Things, John Waters reacts to U2’s casual support of the pro-abortion move to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. Tracing the history of the band’s love/hate relationship with popular rock culture and their on-again/off-again Christian faith, Waters feels more than disappointed with this move by the iconic band.  I can’t help but remember the powerful video series with Bono and Eugene Peterson that came out two years ago at this time while reading this.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]