North America

Christian leaders mourn Texas church tragedy

 

Twenty-six people – ages 5 to 72 – were killed by a gunman who sprayed rifle fire in a Texas church on Sunday. The gunman was identified as 26-year old Devin Patrick Kelley, a former member of the Air Force who was court-martialled in 2012 on two charges of assaulting his spouse and their child. He was confined for a year and reduced in rank to airman basic E-1 before his discharge. The shooter was later found dead.

This was the largest mass shooting in the state’s history. The shooter was dressed in black wearing tactical gear and a ballistic vest. Kelley first began firing outside the church before he continued his shooting spree inside. He was armed with a Ruger AR assault-type rifle. This is a semi-automatic weapon easily available in the U.S. but almost impossible to obtain anywhere in the free world. They were banned in Australia after a shooting outbreak there 20 years ago.

There have been six mass shootings at Houses of Worship in the U.S. and Canada since 2008.

Eight of those killed were from the same family. among the dead were several children, a pregnant woman and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

President Donald Trump said he believes the Texas church shooting was caused by a “mental health problem,” not an issue with gun laws in the United States. “Mental health is your problem here,” Trump said, noting that “based on preliminary reports” the shooter was “a very deranged individual. It’s a very, very sad event,” he said.

The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and reports average Sunday school attendance of 65 and worship attendance of 100. Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said chaplains were mobilized to help members of the community deal with the trauma.

Richards told Baptist Press: “We’re calling our churches to prayer for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs. We don’t know the details yet but early reports indicate that several people have lost their lives in this tragedy. We will … find ways to support this dear church. We pray God’s mercy and comfort on those who are grieved and those who are wounded.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., echoed the sentiment: “We are praying for the families of those who were killed as well as those who were wounded. We pray that God will lay His merciful hand of healing on all who have suffered and have been injured. May God bring healing and hope to the church and the city. May God bless all the police officers serving in that area. And may God prevent further incidents like this throughout our nation in the days to come. Our hearts and prayers are with you.”

Frank S Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, also called on Christians to unite in prayer for families affected by the shooting. “I am calling the Southern Baptist Convention to prayer for the people of Sutherland Springs Texas and particularly for our sister church members at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Texas,” Page said. “Sadly, another morning of worship and praise and Bible study turned into a horrific scene of violence and many innocent lives were altered in an instant. God help us all as we deal with an evil that takes the life of the innocent.”

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement in response to today’s mass shooting during a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs. We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy—as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.

“This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at Churches while people were worshipping and at prayer.  We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all,” he said.

Churches around the country are rattled after the horrendous attack Sunday in Texas.

Conversations have begun about how churches can/should prepare for an active shooter situation. There are reports that several men (and probably a few women) in congregations carry when they’re in church, but today’s attack was a complete ambush.

Most, if not all of the congregants would have been focused on the sermon or the music at the front of the sanctuary. An attacker could get off hundreds of rounds before anyone realized what was going on. There’s no way a church can fully prepare for such a situation, and most wouldn’t want to employ armed guards or force attendees to go through metal detectors.

All of this begs the deeper question as to gun ownership in America protected by the Second Amendment. But did the Founding Fathers ever envision the purchase and use of semi-automatic weapons in the right to bear arms? America’s obsession with perceived threats from Communists to ISIS making their way to American shores has never proved out. Imaginary enemies are perceived as real enemies. Perhaps the deeper truth is that we have seen the enemy and it is us.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report contained a section making reference to President Donald Trump’s mental health. This was an ad hominem statement which doesn’t meet the high editorial standards we set for ourselves at Global Christian News.  We apologise for the oversight in allowing these comments to be published.