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Brooklyn’s Bernard says No to Trump. Korean Canadian pastor’s release last week opened secret back channel to North Korea

US-S Korea military maneuvers begin this week.

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Reverend A.R. Bernard, pastor of New York City's largest Christian congregation. Photo: Tony Carnes/A Journey through NYC religions.

 

On Friday, Reverend A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, resigned from President Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board, citing "a deepening conflict in values" with the administration.

In a statement released via Twitter, the Brooklyn pastor said that he had "quietly stepped away" from the panel several months ago, but submitted his formal resignation on Tuesday. In an interview, he said that Trump made "a false equivalence" between the White supremacists and the counter-protesters. "I would love to see more of the evangelical leaders who are on the board make strong statements in reaction to it. That doesn't mean that they have to abandon him. But they have should come out and say something of substance."

"In a social and political climate such as ours, it often takes a gathering of unlikely individuals to shape the future of our nation on issues of faith and inner city initiatives," Bernard said. "I was willing to be one of those individuals, and that is why I agreed to serve on the President's Evangelical Advisory Board."

"I would love to be a Christian first, but America has created an environment where I am forced to be a Black man living in America first, and I am a Christian," the pastor told the interviewer on CNN.  "That's my reality, and that is not the same reality that many of the White evangelical leaders experience. It is two different Americas."

Bernard also hoped that evangelical leaders could agree on substantive issues to make the "I would love for some substance," he said today.  "I would love for them to sit down and say, 'hey, let's roll up our sleeves and let's really hold the President accountable to an agenda."

 

Bernard's statement on Twitter:

 

Earlier this week, Bernard joined other New York City religious leaders in issuing a statement on confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia:

Through The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller issued a statement that headlined, "Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it—full stop. No, 'But on the other hand.'"

New York City writer and speaker Eric Metaxas, however, continues his strong support for Trump. He quotes a tweet that states, "Trump's Evangelical Advisers Respond to Calls for Them to Abandon Him: It Would Be 'Immoral'." And he decried the New York Times' coverage: "Today's @NYTimes front-page portrays the violent Antifa thugs as noble & willing to "defend" themselves. THAT is #Fakenews. And despicable."

 


 

Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, who returned to Toronto after two years in prison, embraces his wife Keum Young Lim on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Light Korean Presbyterian Church

North Korea news

According to government sources, the Canadian government officials who went to obtain the release of a Korean Canadian Christian pastor used the occasion to deliver two messages during their 40 hours in Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea.

First, the Canadian government made crystal clear that they would support the United States in a conflict. Second, they offered a list of things that the North Korean government could do to resolve the crisis. It is unknown whether the Canadian government coordinated this list with the United States government. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed in general terms the reports and stated, "When they [the United States] are threatened, we are there," The North Korean government confirmed Friday night that they had "wide-ranging and in-depth" diplomatic exchanges with the Canadian government.

 

Before she became Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland's criticism of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin got her barred from Russia.

 

The United States and South Korea will hold military exercises this week, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. About 17,500 U.S. servicemen, including 3,000 from outside South Korea will participate. , The Pentagon said. The exercise runs between Aug. 21-31.

The exercise is “a regularly scheduled, annual exercise and is the culmination of many months of planning,” Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement earlier this week.

Various negotiations behind the scenes are taking place, including one initiated with the release of a Canadian Christian pastor. A Journey through NYC religions broke this story in the United States media of the negotiations last weekend.

Last Saturday, Toronto-area pastor Hyeon Soo Lim was reunited with his family in Ontario on  a week ago after more than two years in detention in North Korea.

"We're extremely happy," the pastor's son James Lim said media at a press conference on that Saturday afternoon. "We are ecstatic and joyful that my father is now home." He joked at a press conference that his father wanted to stop at Tim Hortons for coffee and a doughnut on his way home. On Saturday night, he met with his church's elders and others.

On Sunday, August 13th, the 62-year-old pastor joined the services at his church, the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. He was formerly the senior pastor of this church, one of Canada's largest. Before his arrest in 2015, the pastor had visited North Korea many times.

The North Korean government sentenced the Lim to a life of hard labor in prison based on false charges for trying to overthrown the North Korean state. According to Canada's public broadcaster CBC, the North Korean government accused Lim of “trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system,” among other charges.

Officially, the North Korean constitution recognizes religion and their are five state-controlled churches in the capitol: the Protestant Bongsu, Chilgol and Jeil Churches, the Catholic Jangchung Cathedral, a mosque, and the most recent being the Orthodox Holy Trinity Russian Church. However, the churches go through a pantomime of religious activity for visitors. Below the surface, Koreans say that there are many religious people, particularly Christians.

A U.S. State Department analysis has identified North Korea as one of the world’s worst religious persecutors – torturing and executing those even suspected of worshiping God. There up to 70,000 Christian prisoners in concentration camps in North Korea, and the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights conjectures that more than 75 percent of Christians who are dealt this fate do not survive.

During his first year in captivity, Lim told the congregation, he had no Bible, so he read more than 100 books. He then received Korean and English Bibles, which he read five times, memorizing more than 700 verses. Lim counted 130 Sundays that he worshiped alone. He was hospitalized four times. “I learned to fully accept all of this as a form of God’s love and discipline to make me stronger,” he said. “By God’s perfect and sovereign timing, I was released, returned home and here with you today.”

 

Light Korean Presbyterian Church. Photo courtesy of the church.

 

He was freed earlier this week, after a six-member Canadian delegation, led by Daniel Jean, a graduate of State University of New York (SUNY) who serves as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's national security and intelligence adviser, traveled to Pyongyang. The delegation traveled back with the Presbyterian pastor. The Canadian foreign minister Freeland called Lim "a very, very brave man."

Maybe in these troubled times, a pastor will be the peace child given to prevent a war. Or will the opportunity be a lost sheep in the noise of war.

 

 

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