‘I am very discouraged’ says American Pastor Marking 500 Days in Turkish Prison

“He’s obviously gone in and out of just kind of discouragement, wondering what’s going to happen, what’s the end game here,”

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been locked up in a Turkish prison for 500 days. The anniversary of Brunson’s captivity passed quietly Monday, but the American Center for Law and Justice is still aggressively working on his case.

Andrew
 On Oct. 7, 2017 Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, were summoned to a local police station in Izmir, Turkey. At the time, this didn’t seem like anything to be worried about. The couple, originally from North Carolina, had lived for 23 years in Turkey’s third largest city, where Andrew was the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, a small protestant congregation of about 25. The Brunsons had raised three children in Turkey and had applied for permanent residency. They went willingly to the police station, thinking they were finally going to get it. Instead, Andrew and Norine were taken into custody, accused of missionary activities “against national security,” and told they would be deported. Norine was released on Oct. 9 and so far has been allowed to stay in Turkey, but more than six months later, Andrew remains locked up. On Dec. 11, he was moved to a counter-terrorism center and charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” A judge ordered that he be detained rather than deported.

 

“He still remains merely a suspect of alleged crimes; no indictment has yet to be handed down,” CeCe Heil, executive counsel for the non-profit organization, told CBN News.

The ACLJ is fighting on Brunson’s behalf and reports the pastor wrote a heartfelt note to his wife through an embassy official this month.

“I am very discouraged. Please have prayer for me,” Brunson wrote. “I love you – can’t handle the thought of growing old in this place, without you.”

“I think being trapped in a Turkish prison with really no end in sight has been hard on Pastor Brunson,” Heil said. “Of course he has his faith to sustain him and the prayers of faithful believers all over the world… but as you can imagine, this 500 days in prison, he’s lost quite a bit of weight.”

“He’s obviously gone in and out of just kind of discouragement, wondering what’s going to happen, what’s the end game here,” she added.

Heil said the accusations against Brunson range from membership in an armed terrorist organization to espionage and overthrowing the government. “So very ridiculous claims against an innocent pastor,” she said.

Heil explained to CBN News that under Turkish law, Brunson can remain in prison for seven years without ever being charged. 

Testifying at the US Helsinki Commission hearing late last year, she said, “Pastor Brunson maintains his innocence and denies all the accusations.”   

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 Inside of a prison in Turkey

It seems that Brunson is a political hostage of Turkey. Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed to indicate that the pastor will only be released when Washington gives Turkey a Muslim cleric living in the US who is Erdogan’s rival.

“..they (the US) get up and say… ‘Give us so and so cleric,'” Erdogan said at a police academy graduation ceremony in Ankara in September, referring to Brunson.

Erdogan then brought up Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, saying, “You have a cleric there. You give him to us and we’ll give you this one.”

Turkey has been seeking the extradition of Gulen, who was once Erdogan’s ally, and whose supporters have been blamed for trying to overthrow Erdogan’s government in 2016. Gulen has denied any role in the coup attempt.  Heil said Erdogan even recently talked about a swap.

“It certainly seems that Pastor Brunson has become a political pawn,” she told CBN News. “He lived 23 years in Turkey without any incident, without any problem.”

“After the failed coup attempt in July of 2016, then Pastor Brunson’s suddenly arrested as a national security threat and then remains in prison,” she continued.

“And just recently, President Erdogan has demanded a swap, basically saying a cleric for a cleric or a pastor for a pastor,” Heil said. “You have Fethullah Gulen; we have Pastor Brunson. Let’s do a swap.”

But she doesn’t believe the US will agree to the deal.

“I don’t believe that the US will ever trade prisoners; that’s not the way that we typically operate,” she told CBN News. “So I believe they’ll keep following through with Turkey, who is a NATO ally and continuing to demand his release.”

Heil said President Donald Trump has repeatedly asked for Brunson’s release. In addition, just last week, she said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and again asked for the pastor to be freed   

“It seems like this meeting last week between Tillerson, Erdogan and Cavusoglu, it seems like they came out of that meeting hopeful that the US-Turkey relationship will be restored,” Heil said. “So we’re hopeful that Pastor Brunson will be part of that resolution.”

In the meantime, Heil said the most important thing people can do for Brunson is pray for him, but she also encourages taking action by signing an ACLJ petition, “Free Pastor Andrew,” which has more than 426,000 signatures so far.

“That’s very helpful because as we speak to our government as well as Turkish government and European government, it’s very helpful just to show the mass amount of people who have their eyes on this matter and are concerned about this matter and are demanding his release,” she said.

EDITORS NOTE: I wonder if Jakes, Olsteen, Dollar, Copeland, the pope and the other filthy rich “men of G-d” have signed that petition! I wonder if they even took up an offering to help support this man’s family.  I wonder if they’ve even used their resources to bring any significant attention to this matter. I wonder if they held any “night vigils,” I wonder if this man will even be thought of or mentioned during “lent,” I wonder what they would do if this were Oprah, Just wondering…….

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Theologians seek Protestant unity through ‘Reforming Catholic Confession’

More than 500 pastors and theologians have signed a ‘Reforming Catholic Confession’ designed to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation on October 31, 2017.

Produced by a drafting committee composed almost entirely of US-based scholars, the Confession aims to highlight ‘the Reformers’s original vision for Catholic unity under canonical authority’. It says critics of the Reformation often ‘fixate’ on Protestant divisions. However, it says that ‘despite our genuine differences, there is a significant and substantial doctrinal consensus that unites us as “mere Protestants”.’

Martin Luther in the Circle of Reformers, 1625/1650© Deutsches Historisches Museum

Its sub-heading is: ‘What we, Protestants of diverse churches and theological traditions, say together’.

The Confession includes sections on the Trinity, Scripture, the atoning work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church and baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

A section entitled ‘explanation’ stresses the Reformers’ original intentions and defends Protestantism from the charge of being inherently divisive. It says: ‘While we regret the divisions that have followed in its wake, we acknowledge the need for the sixteenth-century Reformation, even as we recognize the hopeful possibilities of the present twenty-first century moment.’ The Confession continues: ‘We therefore aim to celebrate the catholic impulse that lies at the heart of the earlier Reformation even as we hope and pray for ever greater displays of our substantial unity in years to come.’

The ‘explanation’ acknowledges Protestant divisions and says the Reformers ‘sometimes succumbed to the ever-present temptations of pride, prejudice, and impatience’. However, it denies divisions were the ‘inevitable consequences’ of the Reformation.

It says that rather than attempting to replace denominational credal formulations, ‘our statement aims at displaying an interdenominational unity in the essentials of the faith and agreement that the Word of God alone has final jurisdiction’. It urges further conversations and dialogue seeking to ‘achieve greater unity’.

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, who co-chaired the Confession’s steering committee, said that a significant motivating factor of the Confession’s participants is to call the Church to spiritual renewal.

He told the Christian Post: ‘It’s a call for the Church to be the Church in a world that is very much pushing against the things of God in so many different ways, and to believe that God will sustain in the midst of the storms that are all about us.’

George said: ‘I don’t think we can be faithful Christians in the tradition of the Reformation unless we take seriously Jesus’ words and his prayer [in John 17] that his disciples would be one so that the world might believe.’

He said the Confession was ‘a call to recognize that there is a brokenness about us and within us, which we have to pray that God, the Holy Spirit, will heal and mend in our midst. But we don’t think that relaxing into our divisions and accepting the status quo as divinely ordained is the way forward.’

[written by Mark Woods]