This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to the Daily Mail, A top coronavirus model is predicting that 100,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by the end of the summer – as the US death toll surpasses President Donald Trump’s best case scenario of 60,000 deaths. The MOBS model from the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University also estimates that there will be about 89,000 deaths by mid-May if stay-at-home orders remain in place. That death toll would increase to over one million in an unmitigated scenario, according to the projections that are among those used by the CDC to forecast the pandemic. The director of the institute responsible for the MOBS model, Alessandro Vespignani, is estimating that 100,000 will die by the end of the ‘first wave’ at the end of summer. As of Wednesday, the US death toll is now at 61,000 and there are more than one million infections across the country. Trump, in recent weeks, had suggested that 60,000 might be the total death count from COVID-19. He had cited the estimate as a sign of relative success after the White House previously warned the US could suffer 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.
According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday. In the days leading up to her death, the 48-year-old reportedly recounted to family members a series of the traumatic scenes she’d witnessed working in the Manhattan hospital, including an onslaught of patients dying infront of her before they could even be taken out of ambulances. Breen had recently contracted COVID-19 but had returned to work at Allen after a week and a half of rest. But when the hospital sent her home, her father Dr. Philip C. Breen brought her back to her family’s home in Charlottesville to help her properly recuperate. On Sunday, however, officers from the Charlottesville Police Department responded to a call seeking medical assistance after Breen made an attempt on her life.
According to The New York Times, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, resurfaced in public view on Friday, the North’s state news media reported Saturday, controverting three weeks of rumors and unconfirmed news reports that he was in grave danger after undergoing heart surgery. He appeared at a ceremony at a factory in the city of Sunchon, the North’s state news agency said, later releasing photos from the event. The report could not immediately be independently confirmed. Mr. Kim, 36, had last appeared publicly on April 11. Speculation about his health — and about who would take over the hermetic, nuclear-armed country should he become incapacitated or die — began swirling after Mr. Kim missed the state celebrations of his country’s biggest holiday on April 15. On that day, the North marks the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. Rumors subsequently went into overdrive, claiming that Mr. Kim was “in grave danger,” in a “vegetative state” after botched heart-valve surgery, or in quarantine after contracting Covid-19. Other reports said that China had sent doctors to Pyongyang to save him. After its initial report on Saturday, the North Korean news agency released photos showing a smiling Mr. Kim applauding, cutting a ribbon and standing with his hands behind his back at a new fertilizer factory.
According to The Christian Post, Twenty-two military chaplains are calling on a senior army chaplain to be disciplined and possibly court-martialed for sending nearly three-dozen other chaplains an email containing a copy of John Piper’s new e-book, Coronavirus and Christ. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is being urged by a national legal organization to punish Senior Chaplain Col. Moon H. Kim, the command chaplain of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in South Korea, the largest U.S. military installation outside of the United States. In a letter sent this week, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation said Kim sent out an email using his official military email address to 35 other chaplains on Wednesday containing an “unsolicited” PDF copy of Piper’s new e-book Coronavirus and Christ. MRFF, which advocates for a strict separation of church and state within the U.S. military, is representing 22 clients all of whom are Christians from mostly mainline and progressive traditions and felt if they came forward publicly in opposition to Kim’s email they would face repercussions. The clients, some of whom are from the LGBT community, “do not subscribe to the ultra-conservative/Reformed/evangelical Christian theology of John Piper.” Piper is the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minnesota and the founder of DesiringGod.org. The clients take issue with the fact that the famed preacher’s book says that “some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.” The Christian Post reached out to Kim for comment about his email and the MRFF complaint. A response is pending.
According to The Christian Post, A benefit concert co-hosted by actors Kirk Cameron and his sister, Candace Cameron Bure, has raised over $1.6 million for Samaritan’s Purse which has been operating field hospitals in northern Italy and New York City during the COVID-19 crisis. The siblings were joined by Bishop T.D. Jakes, Franklin Graham, and Gloria Gaynor among other well-known Christian artists and leaders for the online event on Sunday called Hope Rising that drew an estimated 10 million viewers, according to the event’s creator Ryan Higgins of The Tempus Collaborative. “It’s important to know 100% of the money raised went to Samaritan’s Purse for their ongoing COVID-19 work,” Higgins said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. “Amazingly we were able to do it entirely free, which has to have set some type of record. We’ve heard that Hope Rising is now the largest streaming Christian concert of all time, a feat none of us thought was even possible just two weeks ago when the planning began,” he added. Hope Rising livestreamed on Facebook Sunday night to benefit Samaritan’s Purse which set up field hospitals in both New York City and Cremona, Italy, to provide medical support to hospitals caring for patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim of the event was to uplift, strengthen and comfort those watching online through music and inspirational messages to combat the fear, hopelessness, and anxiety that some are feeling during the lockdown.
According to The Christian Post, David Ford, a beloved Michigan pastor, longtime UPS driver and father of nine who friends say shared an inspiring testimony about beating the novel coronavirus, died Tuesday of complications from the disease. He was 59. Ford, who led the Friendship House of Prayer in Lansing for several years, is now being mourned by his family and many in his community like Lansing Mayor Andy Schor who had already began celebrating his recovery. “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Pastor Ford of Friendship House of Prayer. He was a wonderful friend to me and the city of Lansing. I spoke with him just last week and he shared an incredible story as a survivor of COVID-19. The passing of Pastor Ford is a tremendous loss to the church, to me personally as a friend and to the city of Lansing. My thoughts are with him, his family, his friends and his congregation during this difficult time,” Schor said in a statement on Facebook Thursday. Schor further told WILX that Ford’s survivor story was quite exceptional. “He was telling me he was on a ventilator, breathing fire, in bad shape and laying on ice, but he was able to come through it,” the mayor said. “He wanted to share his story so people will know what it was like to battle this virus and not lose faith.” Bishop David Maxwell, a ministry colleague, told news station WILX that the late pastor had tested positive for the coronavirus in late March and was admitted to Beaumont Hospital for seven days. He started feeling better and was subsequently discharged to go home. “He was excited, as ever, looking forward to preaching the Gospel and thankful to be home,” Maxwell said. On Sunday, however, Ford preached from his home about the resurrection in what would be his final sermon. Ford’s family told WILX that the pastor started feeling ill again and quickly died. “It was shocking. I was sad, I was angry, I was upset that my friend who was a leader in Lansing succumbed to this after surviving,” Schor said.
According to The Christian Post, Outspoken megachurch pastor Jamal Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church slammed the Georgia governor’s decision to begin reopening the local economy as akin to an “assault on the minority community” and “contrary to God’s will” amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Gov. [Brian] Kemp, if you have a decibel of moral integrity, before Friday comes, I am pleading on your conscience, even when the evangelicals remain silent in this hour, I stand and cry loud and spare not, that what it is you are calling for is contrary to the will of God who declared openly ‘I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly,’” Bryant said in a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday night. “I am calling on Governor Kemp to immediately reverse and retract his order that is supposed to start on Friday. What it is that he is doing is launching, in no uncertain terms, an assault on the minority community in Georgia,” he argued. On Monday, Kemp announced plans to begin reopening some businesses across the state as early as Friday with specific guidelines. Among the businesses that were allowed to begin reopening on Friday are fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barber shops, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, their respective schools and massage therapists. Theaters, private social clubs and dine-in services at restaurants were allowed to reopen the following Monday with specific social distancing guidelines and sanitation mandates. Bars, nightclubs, amusement parks and live performance venues, however, will remain closed. Bryant said he was banding with several other prominent black pastors across the state, including Raphael Warnock, E. Dewey Smith, and William Murphy, to keep their churches shuttered in a united show of resistance.
According to The Christian Post, A Los Angeles church that has been serving thousands of meals to people who are now unemployed following mass layoffs caused by the state’s lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic counts rapper Kanye West and Chick-fil-A as among its donors supporting the cause. “It’s crazy; this is 37 straight days in a row, seven days a week, 11 hours every day, 7:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night,” Matthew Barnett, pastor and founder of the LA Dream Center, told The Christian Post in an interview on Tuesday. “I just knew on a Thursday, when the city was starting to shut down in LA, that by Monday we needed to be on the curb serving people. We started with enough reserve for maybe two days, that’s all we had. And we just believed that God would help us along the way.” It wasn’t long before cars of people in need started showing up. A friend of Barnett’s who knows West told him that the rapper had been following their relief efforts and subsequently gave them a sizable donation, enabling them to keep the line going with two or three weeks of reserves. Chick-fil-A also came on board to help and has been donating 500 chicken sandwiches a day since the first week of the shutdown. In addition, several LA Dodgers players have also been contributing by donating funds to help local businesses. As a result of the pandemic, Los Angeles’ unemployment numbers have increased by more than 1.3 million as over half of the city’s residents are now out of work. But that hasn’t stopped the flow of people who say they feel compelled to give.
According to the Associated Press, Louisiana authorities arrested a pastor on an assault charge on Tuesday after he admitted that he drove his church bus toward a man who has been protesting his decision to continue holding mass gatherings at church in defiance of public health orders during the coronavirus pandemic. The police department in Central, a suburb of the capital of Baton Rouge, said in a posting on their Facebook page that Tony Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, turned himself into the department and was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and improper backing. Officials said Spell also had outstanding traffic tickets. Spell already faces misdemeanor charges for holding in-person church services despite the ban on gatherings. Authorities have said they did not book him into jail previously because they did not want to add to the jail population at a time when the highly infectious disease is running rampant. They have not taken any action to close his church. Spell acknowledged in a telephone interview with WAFB-TV on Monday that he was driving the bus. He said he just wanted to get out and confront the protester, but his wife talked him out of it.
According to Charisma News, Vanderbloemen, the leading Christian executive search firm, is pleased to announce that the elders of Willow Creek Community Church have selected David Dummitt as their new senior pastor. When asked about Willow Creek’s selection of Dummitt, William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen, said, “I’ve known Dave for many years. His humble spirit and his focus on the local church—rather than a national platform—is one of many reasons we believe he is precisely the right person to lead Willow in this moment. Every step of the way, during the search, we saw that God was bringing Willow and Dave together to start this exciting new chapter. He is the right leader for this great, influential congregation.” Dummitt comes to Willow Creek after founding and leading 2|42 Community Church in Michigan for the last 12 years. He started the church with a group of friends, and it has grown to an average weekly attendance of over 10,000 at seven campuses across Michigan. Their weekly online attendance has accelerated even more during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine period. Pastor Dummitt commented, “I’m grateful for the role Vanderbloemen has played in helping my family and me find a new home at Willow Creek. Their ability to find points of connection and to navigate candidates and a church through the placement process is invaluable; they helped both Willow and me ask the right questions along the way.” Spread over eight campuses throughout Chicagoland, Willow Creek led a worldwide movement that spurred churches to rethink how to attract people to church for the first time or to come back to church after becoming disaffected with Christianity. Willow Creek’s growth into one of the largest churches in the U.S. was notable, and their work shaping the way churches have led and shaped their services has been felt on every continent. It has often been called America’s most influential congregation, and at many points, it has been the nation’s largest.
According to Christianity Today, An Oxford professor has been arrested on allegations of stealing and selling as many as 120 ancient pieces of papyrus, including a fragment of the Gospel of Mark once believed to be the oldest New Testament text ever discovered. Dirk Obbink, professor of papyrology and Greek literature at Christ Church Oxford, was arrested on March 2. News of the arrest broke last week in the student newspaper The Oxford Blue. Obbink allegedly took the fragments from the Egypt Exploration Society’s collection of about 500,000 artifacts discovered in the ancient city of Oxyrynchus. The collection is housed at Oxford’s Sackler Library, and Obbink was one of three scholars charged with overseeing it until he was removed under a cloud of suspicion in 2016. Obbink has denied the allegations in an official statement and said the evidence against him was “fabricated in a malicious attempt to harm my reputation and career.” The evidence is convincing, however, to some who’ve worked closely with Obbink.
According to the AP, Grammy-winning gospel singer Tye Tribbett has fused Kendrick Lamar’s hit song “Alright” into a new tune to send a message to people during the coronavirus pandemic: We are going to be all right. Tribbett released the new song “We Gon’ Be Alright” on Friday. The new track interpolates part of Lamar’s anthemic 2015 song, which was co-produced by Pharrell and won two Grammy Awards. Tribbett said he’s hoping to offer some light to the world during a time of darkness. “We Gon’ Be Alright,” which fuses elements of trap music, includes lyrics like, “Troubles come and go, even on the mountain high or valley low/Never let your faith go, never let your faith go.” “Every time I play the song in my house, my family rushes to dance together and celebrate, even during this pandemic! My prayer is that this song does the same for your house or wherever this song is heard as we hope in the promises of a God who has never failed,” Tribbett said in a statement.
According to The Christian Post, World-renowned contemporary hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty recently launched a social media concert series called “Getty Family Hymn Sing” along with their young daughters and it has garnered millions of views. The Irish couple who are known for their classic hymn “In Christ Alone” have been hosting family worship sessions with their three daughters out of their living room in Nashville, Tennessee. “It was Kristyn’s idea because she’d been hearing about so many lonely old folks at home on their own, and friends of hers were talking about how bored their kids were,” Keith told the Christian Institute in a recent interview. “Family Hymn Sing” worship sets are now happening at least once a week and thousands are tuning in live. “By the end of the second week it was total chaos with 1.1 million people tuning in and before we knew it we were all on Fox News,” Keith Getty said. “It’s been a huge hit in a way we never imagined.” The Gettys are no longer touring at present due to worldwide travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings amid the new coronavirus pandemic. In this season, the hymn writers are leaning on Jesus to help them overcome fear and maintain hope for the future.
According to Fox News, Joe Burrow landing the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Thursday night means the former LSU quarterback is about to hit a major payday. Burrow is projected to sign a four-year $36.2 million contract with the Bengals, raking in just around $6.6 million in his rookie year, according to OverTheCap.com. The Ohio native will likely begin his NFL career as starting quarterback for the Bengals after coming off a stellar season with LSU head coach Ed Orgeron where he led the Tigers to their fourth National Championship title. According to ESPN, Bengals president Mike Brown sent Burrow a letter Wednesday saying that he looks forward “to building championship football teams with you for many years to come.” He also sent Burrow and his family No. 9 Bengals jerseys, which will become his official number. The last time the Bengals drafted a quarterback with the first overall draft pick was Carson Palmer in 2003.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Music producer Clive Davis is working with the estate of late singer Whitney Houston for the biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Anthony McCarten, the writer behind the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, will pen the screenplay, while Stella Meghie, who was behind the Issa Rae romance The Photograph, will direct. Pat Houston will produce the movie on behalf of the Houston Estate, along with Davis, Primary Wave Music’s Larry Mestel, Denis O’Sullivan and McCarten. With the backing of the estate, I Wanna Dance With Somebody will be able to utilize Houston’s music catalog. The movie does not yet have distribution.
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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!