Pastor may demolish Texas church where massacre took place

Workers make repairs and paint the site of the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S. November 9, 2017

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – The pastor of a rural Texas church sprayed with gunfire in a shooting rampage that killed 26 people is considering demolishing the building and putting a memorial in its place, a Southern Baptist Convention official said on Thursday.

Devin Kelley, the 26-year-old gunman, stormed into the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on Sunday and opened fire on worshipers with a semi-automatic assault rifle in the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history. Authorities said the attack stemmed from a domestic dispute.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy met with Southern Baptist Convention leaders, who came to help console victims, and “expressed his desire to raze the building,” convention spokesman Roger Oldham said in a telephone interview.

The white-steepled church, located about 40 miles east (65 km) of San Antonio, was riddled with bullets.

The building can hold about 75 people. Pomeroy said using it again could be emotionally painful, according to Oldham.

After making a statement on the shooting on Monday, Pomeroy has declined requests to speak with the media.

Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, were out of town during the shooting, which killed their 14-year-old daughter. The pastor is considering planting a memorial garden on the site, Oldham said.

A worship service will take place on Sunday in Sutherland Springs behind a community center not far from the church, Sherri Pomeroy posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The service will “show the world that we may be knocked down temporarily but WE ARE NOT DEFEATED,” she wrote. “Please come help us honor their lives doing what they died for: worshipping our sovereign God!”Authorities have said Kelley, found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after a failed attempt to make his getaway, was embroiled in a domestic dispute involving the parents of his second wife.

One of the women killed at the church, Lula Woicinski White, 71, was reported to be the gunman’s grandmother-in-law.

Kelley is a former Air Force airman who was convicted in 2012 by court-martial for assaulting his first wife and infant step-son. He served a year in military detention.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were among those who attended a prayer vigil on Wednesday evening at a high school football stadium in nearby Floresville.


(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in San Antonio; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Von Ahn)


Southern Baptist Convention Elects “Radical” Head Of International Mission Board

The Southern Baptist Convention announced the election of a “radical” as the head of their International Mission Board.

Pastor David Platt, author of the book “Radical” and an fierce advocate for international missions, was elected to had the IMB for the denomination’s 16 million members.

“I believe Southern Baptists want to come together for the spread of the Gospel,” said Platt.

“While the world is becoming more hostile and anti-Christian in some places, it’s as if [young missionaries’] passion is growing equally to go to those hard places,” David Uth of the IMB presidential search committee told Christian Post. “That’s where we hear young couples saying they want to go, that they want to be radically obedient to what God has called us to do for the nations. The passion is there. How do we equip them and resource them? How do we incorporate strategy that’s effective? David is going to address that in a way that’s going to bring maximum impact.”

Pastor Rick Warren, whose church is non-denominational but is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was “thrilled and excited” by the appointment of Platt and LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer called Platt “a leader whose private life matches his public face.”

“Even in a generation where religious pluralism, moral relativism, and biblical skepticism are increasing, there is still power in the Word by His Spirit so He is still drawing people to Himself,” Platt told CP. “I can’t think of anything particularly creative or innovative that I am or we are doing, apart from proclaiming His word and trying to authentically live it out. I believe that when we are faithful to do that then the Lord will draw people to Himself. I think God has designed this whole picture so that only He can get the glory for success in bringing people to Himself.”

Pastor Saeed Abedini, Hobby Lobby Owners Honored

The Southern Baptist Convention presented two awards for Americans standing up for their faith in Christ in life and business.

The SBC gave their “Richard Land Distinguished Service Award” to Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been risking his life daily while wrongfully imprisoned by Iran’s Islamic government.  Abedini’s wife Naghmeh was on hand to accept the award on his behalf.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision, said that Pastor Abedini is a “joyful Cross-bearer who has stirred the Church to stand up and speak out and will leave a legacy for generations to come.”

The SBC’s “John Leland Religious Liberty Award” was given to the owners of Hobby Lobby who are engaged in a battle with the Obama administration over parts of the health care law that require them to pay for abortion drugs.

“It would be really easy,” Moore said, “for the Green family to say, ‘lets just submit to that,’ but because of their strong faith in Jesus Christ, and because of their courage, the Greens have refused to comply with the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate under the Affordable Care Act that they provide employees with insurance coverage for what they believe to be abortion inducing drugs. Because they believe that God is the author of human life and that every human life from the moment of conception is sacred and they believe that the government is not the lord of their consciences.”

Baptists Spent Too Much Time “Talking To The Wrong People”

Members in attendance at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting were taken to task by a Texas pastor who said they have been spending too much time talking to the wrong community of people.

Pastor John Meador said Christians need to stop talking about the gospel with others who are soaked in the gospel and start spending our time taking the gospel to the people who are starved for its good news.

“We’re not getting the gospel into the fields of America, we’re abandoning them and the reason for that is because our army has fled. We have no heart for the captives,” Meador said.

Meador said Americans need to stop thinking that evangelization and witnessing are for missionaries in far away parts of the world.

“The soul next door is as equal as the soul on the other side of the world,” he said.

Meador said that Christians need to realize a passion for everyone.

“What’s it going to take for the concept of your unreached neighbor to become totally intolerable for you?” Meador asked.  “I don’t even know sometimes if we’re capable of that kind of anger or if we’re so tempered by the complacent apathy of our culture that we don’t feel this anymore. You and I have to come to the point where we spread the Gospel because we can’t take it anymore.”

Religious Freedom Is The New Civil Rights Issue

Pastor Rick Warren and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said that religious freedom in America is the new civil rights issue.

Rev. Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said Christians need to fight for their religious freedom or be silenced.

“While ending racial inequality emerged as the civil rights issue of the 20th century … religious liberty will be the civil rights issue of the next decade,” Rodriguez said.  “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.”

The two spoke as part of a panel discussion at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting titled “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty.”

A big theme of the meeting was the push by many groups to say that people of faith must proclaim that every religious faith is equally valid and all worship the same God.  That misconception is driving the definition of “tolerance” to mean something other than what tolerance truly means according to the panelists.

“The “definition of tolerance has changed from I treat you with respect and dignity even when we disagree to all ideas are equally valid,” Warren said.

The panel said ultimately even if those who want to strip Christians of their rights to worship and be a part of society, the world can do nothing to stop Jesus.

“If the United States crumbles away, the Gospel is not lost,” Russell Moore said.

Outgoing SBC President Challenges Churches To Go Outside The Walls

The outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention told those in attendance at the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting that it’s time for members to get out of the pews and go outside the church walls.

Fred Luter, Jr., the first African-American pastor to be elected SBC president, said that the days of so-called “open door evangelism” have ended.

“There was a time when you just open the church door and people would come from the neighborhood,” Luter said. “There was a time you just open the church door and people would come from different families. There was a time you could just open the church door and people were expected to go to church.”

He said today fewer parents and grandparents are attending church with their children and grandchildren because the younger generation sees no place for the Gospel in their lives.  Thus, Luter says, we must go to them.

“If they are not coming to us, we must, we must, we must go to them. That’s what Jesus meant when He gave us the Great Commission. Jesus said go, don’t stay. Go, don’t think about it. Go, don’t debate it. Go, don’t study it. Go, don’t blog about it. Go, go, go and make disciples,” Luter shouted.

Luter finished his comments by saying that like Israel in Psalm 80, America has sinned against God and that American is rapidly turning into a pagan nation.  He said the church needs to spend time fervently in prayer to try and turn around the trend of the nation away from God.