While the passing of prominent Christian leaders in 2017 has not generated as much news as the deaths of most celebrities, the legacy these dedicated and often controversial followers of Christ have left behind is far greater than that of any movie star, sports star, singer or even former world leader.
Following is a peek at some of the most well-known Christian leaders that passed on to their Heavenly reward in the last year.
January 1, 2017 saw the passing of the Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, the controversial former Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem and a staunch advocate against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. His name became a household word in 1974 when he was caught smuggling arms to the PLO; he was subsequently sentences to prison in Israel but released after four years due to Vatican intervention.
His support for Arab causes enabled him to play a key role in helping to negotiate the release of the hostages held in the American Embassy of Iran in 1978. While his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, he did manage to obtain the bodies of the eight US airmen who died during an attempted rescue mission.
He also convinced Saddam Hussein to release 68 Italians who were not permitted to leave the country after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Norma McCorvey was yet another outstanding Christian to pass on to her heavenly reward. Her death in February 2017 became international news due to the fact that she was the plaintiff in the Roe vs. Wade case that opened the door for legal abortion throughout the United States.
While abortionists around the world focused their energies on praising this aspect of her legacy, even they could not dismiss the fact that Norma McCorvey later became an outspoken pro-life advocate who campaigned for years to have the decision overturned.
Dr. Ruth Pfau
In August, world-famous medical missionary Dr. Ruth Pfau passed on in Pakistan, leaving behind the incredible legacy of single-handedly enabling the country to successfully curb the spread of leprosy in advance of the WHO’s 2000 target date.
In appreciation of all that she did, the nation of Pakistan took the unusual step of ordering the flags to fly at half-mast in her honor and later gave her a state funeral. She is one of the few Christians — and the only Christian woman — to have received this honor in the predominantly Muslim nation.
About a month later, outspoken apologist and author Nabeel Qureshi passed on after an extended battle against stomach cancer.
Nabeel Qureshi was born to a Muslim family but later become a Christian. He wrote a book explaining his spiritual journey titled Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus that became a New York Times bestseller. He later wrote a number of other books on topics related to Islam and Christianity, including No God but One: Allah or Jesus? and Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward. He went on to work with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to tell his story to crowds around the world, impacting untold millions of people from all walks of life.
He remained as active in ministry as possible even as he battled cancer, sharing encouragement, hope and forgiveness with everyone he came across.
These notable Christians are by no means the only ones to pass on in 2017 after leaving behind a spiritual legacy. Some of the many other notable believers who joined their ranks this year include RC Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries; theologian Harry Blamires, a protégé of C.S. Lewis and a prominent author in his own right; Michael Cromartie, Church Ambassador to Washington DC and Bishop Eddie Long, the lead pastor of one of the largest megachurches in the United States.
These Christian leaders came from different countries and denominations. They served in a variety of different ministries for varying periods of time. However, they all have one thing in common, and that is the fact that the dedicated themselves to their calling with a passion. They saw a need and gave themselves to God so that He could use them to fulfill their destiny. The same can be said for many other Christians who have given their lives to serve God and others without receiving recognition and acclaim from others around them.
As Saint Paul aptly wrote over 2,000 years ago, these believers have fought the good fight, finished their course and kept their faith.
~ 1776 Christian