LISTEN: Pope Francis to Visit South Sudan In October; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Criticized for Recognizing Eddie Long With Highest Honor (BCNN1, 3/22/2017)

This is the Black Christian News Network Podcast for Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

1. According to Reuters, Pope Francis will visit South Sudan in October if the security situation in the country stricken by civil war and famine does not worsen, a bishop from the country said. The pope has said several times that he wants to go to the country to preach peace but so far no time frame has been given. Bishop Erkolano Tombe of the city of Yei, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday (March 21): “We have been informed (by a Vatican official) that he will come in October but we don’t know the exact date yet.” Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar ended with fighting, often along ethnic lines. Both sides have targeted civilians, human rights groups say. Kiir’s government and the United Nations have declared a famine in some part of the world’s youngest country, where nearly half of its population of 5.5 million face food shortages.

2. According to the Christian Post, two months after the death of controversial megachurch Pastor Eddie Long, some high-profile members of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, which he was a member of, are criticizing the organization for recognizing him with its highest honor despite his scandal-scarred life. At Long’s funeral held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, in January, Thomas Battles, Jr., grand polemarch of the fraternity hailed the late preacher as the “ideal Kappa man” and recognized him with the Laurel Wreath pin. The pin is highest honor given to a Kappa member. And past recipients of the honor include tennis star Arthur Ashe and civil rights leader Dr. Leon Sullivan, according to The Philadelphia Tribune. South Carolina State Rep. Cezar McKnight told the Tribune, however, that Long did not deserve the honor. McKnight, a fraternity member since 1996, said: “I was totally put off by the fact that we would give our organization’s highest award to someone with the reputation of Eddie Long.”

3. According to Baptist Press, an extended statement by Russell Moore and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission executive committee, “Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention,” has drawn praise from SBC President Steve Gaines and former SBC President Jack Graham among others. Meanwhile, Christian worldview analyst John Stonestreet said in a radio interview that controversy surrounding Moore, the ERLC’s president, gives Southern Baptists an opportunity to “model what it looks like to have deeply held differences … on political issues” yet “keep the main things the main things and move forward in a way that improves the reputation of the Gospel.” The March 20 statement by Moore and the six-member ERLC executive committee acknowledged criticisms of Moore surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Moore apologized in his portion of the statement “for failing to distinguish” in some instances between supporters of Donald Trump who appeared to compromise core Christian principles and those who did not. The ERLC executive committee, drawn from among the commission’s 34 trustees, said Moore “has taken appropriate measures to address” criticism and will continue to lead the ERLC “with the confidence of our support.”

4. According to the Christian Post, following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech last week in Richmond, the United States’ largest prison outreach ministry is warning that Sessions and the Trump administration would be “wrong” to reinstate Reagan-era drug enforcement policies. Last Wednesday, Sessions spoke to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in Virginia’s capital city and touched on his concern with the rising levels of drug use in America. Craig DeRoche, senior vice president for advocacy and public policy at Prison Fellowship, told CP in a statement: “Attorney General Sessions is right to send the message that drug use is destructive. Where he is dangerously wrong is his proposed solution. Reagan-era policies — incarceration without accountability — led to more drug use, addiction, death, victims of crime and government waste. The Reagan-era drug policies steal power from the states and grow the federal government, not to mention they are dangerously ineffective for victims of crime and for communities, and devastating for families.”

5. According to the New York Times, Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of Dylann S. Roof’s who spent time with him in the weeks before nine people were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for hampering and misleading the federal authorities in the aftermath of Mr. Roof’s racist massacre. The punishment, handed down by Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court, was at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, which called for Mr. Meek to spend from 27 to 33 months in prison. The months that he spent in a county jail after his arrest will count toward his federal sentence. Before the sentence was announced, a tearful Mr. Meek said he was not sure whether he would survive prison, and he apologized to family members of Mr. Roof’s victims, some of whom had gathered for the hearing. But Judge Gergel, speaking at a hearing that lasted more than two hours, said Mr. Meek’s crimes warranted prison.

6. According to the Chicago Tribune, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his estranged wife and fellow ex-con, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, are $1.8 million in debt, the onetime congressman said Tuesday. But Jackson, who is living on around $138,400 a year in federal workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance following his diagnosis with bipolar disorder and depression, said that he does not know when he will be able to get a job and that the couple will have to sell the Washington, D.C., house where Sandi lives in order to pay their lawyers. The former congressman, 52, was speaking outside court after a routine hearing in his bitter divorce. Hearings in both Chicago, where Jackson wants the case heard, and D.C., where Sandi prefers it be fought, were held Tuesday.

7. According to Black Voices, neurosurgery resident Nancy Abu-Bonsrah has made medical history. As of March 17, which this year was “Match Day” in the medical community, Abu-Bonsrah is set to become the first black woman to be trained as a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins medical school. Born in Ghana, Abu-Bonsrah immigrated to the United States when she was 15, and has been living in Maryland for the last 11 years. On the Johns Hopkins Hospital “Match Day” announcement website, Abu-Bonsrah said that she will be the first physician in her immediate and extended family. Bonsrah wrote: “I am very much interested in providing medical care in underserved settings, specifically surgical care. I hope to be able to go back to Ghana over the course of my career to help in building sustainable surgical infrastructure. I will be matching into neurosurgery, a field that I am greatly enamored with, and hope to utilize those skills in advancing global surgical care.” Abu-Bonsrah will begin her residency next year.