This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Christianity Today, Standing tall in the raised pulpit of the St. Martini congregation in the northern German city of Bremen, Olaf Latzel, cut a stark figure in his black gown and two white preaching tabs. But it wasn’t his presence that caused a stir in Germany; it was what he had been preaching from that pulpit. In October 2019, in a marriage seminar for about 30 couples, Latzel commented on what he called the “homolobby.” He attacked homosexuality, calling it “degenerative,” and said, “These criminals are running around everywhere” during the Berlin Pride Parade. “All this gender s—,” he said, “is an attack against God’s order of creation. It is demonic and satanic.” The address was posted on YouTube, where the words of the United Protestant Church minister raised a furor. The regional body of the church, which has a quasi-official status in Germany, initiated disciplinary proceedings. The local government launched an investigation and ultimately prosecuted Latzel for hate speech. Latzel’s case has attracted less international attention than a similar one in Finland, where a politician was prosecuted for tweeting out Bible verses and a Lutheran bishop for publishing a pamphlet on biblical gender roles. But in both, observers saw a long-expected clash, as increasing concerns for the dignity and rights of LGBT people came into conflict with deep commitments to free speech and religious liberty. This month, however, a German court decided that the Bremen minister is not guilty of inciting hatred against LGBT people. On May 20, 2022, Judge Hendrik Göhner said that “these statements are more than alienating from a social point of view—especially from one holding such a high office.” However, the theological distinction between human beings and lived practice, Göhner said, can be hard to discern. While Latzel condemned homosexual practices as well as theories of gender fluidity, he was found to not incite hatred against individuals. The judge reasoned that while the condemnation of homosexuality seemed to him “strange statements,” Latzel was nonetheless not guilty of hate speech. Latzel’s lawyer said his client is “happy and relieved” about the acquittal. The ruling overturned a Bremen District Court decision from 2020, which said the minister had committed hate speech and sentenced him to three months in prison, commuted to a fine of €8,100 (about $8,680).
According to The Punch, The kidnapped Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Samuel Kanu-Uche, has regained his freedom. The PUNCH had reported that the cleric was kidnapped alongside the Methodist Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark, and his (the Prelate’s) chaplain on Sunday. They were kidnapped in the Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. Details of their release were sketchy as of the time of filing this report. But a very reliable source from the church confirmed their release to The PUNCH on Monday evening. “To God be the Glory. His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche; his Chaplain, Very Rev. Abidemi Jeremiah Shittu and the Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark, have regained their freedom few minutes ago. Thank you all for your prayers,” the source said in a short message. The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria had condemned the kidnapping of the clerics.
According to Christianity Today, After 93 days of war, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has definitively broken with Russia—maybe. In a council decision taken May 27, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)–affiliated body declared its “full self-sufficiency and independence,” condemning the three-month conflict as “a violation of God’s commandment: Thou shalt not kill!” Such a condemnation was not new. The day the invasion began, UOC-MP Metropolitan Onufriy called it a “repetition of the sin of Cain.” But in dry ecclesial language, the statement dropped a bombshell. It “adopted relevant amendments” and “considered … making Chrism.” Chrism, the anointing oil of baptism and other liturgical rites, was last made in Ukraine in 1913. Its manufacture is a typical sign of autocephaly, the self-governing of an Orthodox church branch. Continuing the tone, the UOC-MP reiterated its position. “We express our disagreement with … Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia,” it stated of the ROC head, “regarding the war in Ukraine.”Kirill has consistently supported Russia’s “special military operation.” In 2018, the breakaway Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was granted autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. Rejected by Kirill and the UOC-MP, the act formalized the national schism. (A much smaller third Ukrainian Orthodox church joined the OCU.) The UOC-MP council’s Friday statement continued to echo the ROC rejection. OCU bishops lack apostolic succession, it said, while overseeing the forcible seizure of churches to transfer jurisdiction. The UOC-MP stated a willingness to dialogue with the OCU if these dividing issues could be addressed. And then, it symbolized division. The next day during Holy Liturgy, Onufriy referred to Kirill as a fellow primate, not as his hierarch (superior). No mention was made of any connection to the ROC Moscow Patriarchate. Andrey Shirin said these “unheard of” developments were “truly remarkable.” “The ongoing war in Ukraine is a crisis on several levels—political, economic, humanitarian,” said the Russian associate professor of divinity at the John Leland Center, a Baptist seminary in Virginia. “This is another chapter in the theological crisis.” The consequences could be felt “for centuries.”
According to OrthoChristian, For the second time in a week, dozens of people were baptized into holy Orthodoxy in the Bukoba and Western Tanzanian Diocese of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on Sunday. Altogether, 61 Baptisms were celebrated at the Church of St. Eleftherios in Bukoba, on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman—St. Photini, who labored as a missionary in North Africa, reports the Metropolis of Bukoba. The Sacrament was presided over by Bishop Chrysostomos of Bukoba, who also led the Baptism of 155 people of all ages just days prior. In his homily, Bp. Chrysostomos dwelt on the Lord’s words to the Samaritan Woman that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth, explaining that the Holy Spirit Himself comes into the heart of a Christian and enables him to offer true worship. Christians can have nothing to do with the worship of the devil or magic, he emphasized. And true worship requires repentance, confession, and true belief, he said. Following the Baptisms, two of the newly enlightened Christians were also crowned in marriage.
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!