This morning during the 8:15 am morning service at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, a 27-year-old man walked down the aisle, exchanged a few words with pastor Fred Winters, pulled out a gun, and shot the pastor to death.
Mark Jones, another pastor at the church, said that he did not recognize the murderer. At this point, nobody knows the motive behind the shooting. The first shot hit the pastor's Bible, two others missed, but one hit and killed him. Then the murderer's gun jammed and he stabbed himself. He was subdued by attenders, two of whom were injured in the process.
Fred Winters leaves behind a wife, two young daughters, and a grieving church that asks for prayer.
The church's statement of faith is sound, but I don't think we need to analyze whether the church does everything exactly as we might wish before we "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). This is a shattering tragedy in their lives. Let us pray that the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ are comforted, and that Christ and His Gospel are exalted, in this sad situation. And let us pray for Pastor Winters' widow and children. Also — assuming the facts are as they appear — pray for the murderer's conversion, for his sake (Matthew 5:44); and for justice to be done, for the sake of God's glory (Genesis 9:5-6), for justice's sake (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-14), and for society's sake (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
Update: Justin Taylor adds details about Dr. Winters to what is reported above.
Update II: the murderer is being reported as Terry Joe Sedlacek, who in August of 2008 was featured in an article on the miserable affects of Lyme disease. It's a gut-wrenching article.