Apparent hate crime against inclusive Knoxville church

Update: The Unitarian Universalists of Sterling will hold a prayer vigil on Monday evening, July 28, at 7:00 to mourn the tragic injuries and loss of life at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church. The public is invited.

The pastor of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, Rev. Chris Buice, preached at UUSterling on April 13, 2008 as a guest minister. He is the step-brother of a member of UUS.

Map to Unitarian Universalists of Sterling

A heavily armed man opened fire during services at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church yesterday, killing two people and wounding seven more. Five of the wounded are still hospitalized in critical or serious condition. Several congregants, one of whom was an usher who was killed shielding others from a shotgun blast, tackled the man and subdued him until police arrived.

Congregants had speculated on the man’s motives yesterday, noting that the church has taken a public stand on welcoming GLBT people. TVUUC recently posted a sign reading “Gays Welcome,” hosts a coffeehouse for GLBT youth, and identifies “Increase congregational participation in human rights programs for gay/lesbian/transgendered persons” as a goal of the church’s long range plan.

Yesterday, police would not comment on the gunman’s motives. This morning, Knoxville police chief Sterling Owen revealed at a press conference that a four-page manifesto was found in the man’s car.

A man who shot and killed two parishioners during a children’s play at a Tennessee church yesterday attacked the congregation because of its outspoken socially liberal and gay-friendly beliefs, police said.

The 58-year-old unemployed engineer accused in the Sunday morning attack at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, was driven to bloodshed in part by his “stated hatred for the liberal movement” as well as his hatred for gays, said Knoxville, Tennessee, police chief Sterling Owen. “We’re certainly investigating it as a hate crime.”

Other churches that have taken stands for social justice are responding in love and in acknowledgement of the evil sometimes attracted by their witness. Said Maddie Kertay, president of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga board of trustees:

“We will not become a fortress or a monument of hate. We are going to enter into this time with a lot of love in our hearts and yet consider what we need to do to keep everybody in our church safe.”

The Rev. Don Prange, pastor of the Open and Affirming St. James United Church of Christ (which just last month hosted the emma’s revolution concert with Equality Loudoun) says that the attack

ought to help us realize that the words of Jesus about ‘taking up our own cross’ in following his leadership are not just rhetoric. Whatever the ultimate story in this situation turns out to be, I would hope that we are all feeling a deep sense of solidarity with our sisters and brothers of this UUA congregation in Knoxville for their own spirit of being ‘open and affirming’.

Then there’s this:

An FBI official said federal law enforcement officials were investigating whether to prosecute Adkisson for forcibly preventing the free expression of worship, a federal civil rights violation.

Tell me again – who is it that’s trying to silence religious speech? Anyone guilty of parroting the slanderous American Family Association assault on our community, or of facilitating such willful false witness, needs to feel the full weight of their shame. You are sickening.

Love is the spirit of this church and service is its law. This is our great covenent; to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, and the families and loved ones of the victims. May they, and all of us, strengthen each other.

Statement from the Anti-Violence Project of Equality Virginia – Loving people lost their lives in this hate motivated attack and the Knoxville community will be recovering from this malicious act of violence for some time to come. Please join us in sending your thoughts to this community and reaffirming your commitment to building a world without violence. Contact your local congregations to find out how your community can come together at this time.

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4 Responses to Apparent hate crime against inclusive Knoxville church

  1. g.stone says:

    Another case against gun control.

    It is too bad a few members of this congregation were not armed. Maybe they could have shot dead the nut job prior to his shooting of innocents. Screw balls like this love to operate in “gun free zones ” they get to shoot innocents with little or no fear of anyone shooting back.

  2. David says:

    The suggestion, then, is that people carry a full complement of weaponry to church, just in case of terrorist attack? I wonder what Jesus would think of that.

    In any case, there was no shortage of heroes. They took this poor suffering tool down and kept him from harming anyone else. His intention was to kill everyone in the church, including himself.

    There are angry, unstable people in the world, and this is how some of them end up when they are encouraged to blame their sexual insecurities or bad marriages or other misfortune on conveniently abstract groups of people. Just in case I’m not being clear enough, I’m speaking of activists who chant words like “liberal,” “homo,” “illegal” and the like at them. “Screw balls” are useful idiots for some agendas.

  3. gstone says:

    I think Jesus might be OK with those who protect innocents. But that would be a guess, who am I to contemplate what Jesus would think.

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