Skip to comments.Wichita ELCA Congregation Prepares for High-Profile Murder Trial
Posted on 01/09/2010 8:18:05 PM PST by lightman
Wichita ELCA Congregation Prepares for High-Profile Murder Trial
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The congregation of Reformation Lutheran Church, Wichita, Kan., is preparing for next week's start of jury selection in the murder trial of a man accused of fatally shooting one its members, Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was serving as an usher when he was killed inside the church building on May 31, 2009, just as worship services were to begin.
Tiller, a controversial figure, was one of a few physicians in the United States who performed late-term abortions. He was often targeted by anti-abortion protests.
Scott Roeder, 51, Kansas City, Mo., is charged with first-degree murder. Roeder told the Associated Press in November that he shot Tiller to protect unborn children, according to reports from the news organization. Roeder is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two other ushers.
In the midst of the shooting, the upcoming trial, the media reports, plus the subject of abortion and its strong emotions are the 700 baptized members of Reformation, many of whom whom were caught up in the violence of last May.
Advent and Christmas celebrations seemed to bring "a deeper sense of gravity" to the congregation, said the Rev. Lowell R. Michelson, senior pastor. "I've been speaking of light and darkness, and the love of Jesus breaking through the darkness and coming to us," he said in an interview. "At that time, the trial seemed well off in the distance."
But now members are focused on the coming trial and talking about it. This week, for example, Michelson, the Rev. Kristin M. Neitzel, associate pastor, plus other leaders have been discussing security issues, and had conversations with congregational members, leaders and the Tiller family. Pre-trial motions were to occur at week's end.
Michelson and Neitzel are planning how they will support the Tiller family and Reformation's members during the trial.
Some members have moved on from the shooting, while others have yet to discover the full impact of it on their own lives, both Michelson and Neitzel said. "We have a few people who still struggle with something so violent that happened in this place of peace," Neitzel said.
In addition to listening to members concerns during the trial and all the public attention it will likely draw, Michelson said the pastors will "encourage (members) to reach out in love to each other when they see a need."
"I've been amazed by the strength of this congregation throughout this whole ordeal, and their support for one another and for us," Neitzel said. "The congregation has held together and supported one another."
In worship during the trial period, Michelson said he won't focus on the court proceedings, but realizes it will be on the minds of Reformation's members. "It's my sense we need to name it, but that it not be an 'axis' on which our every moment together spins," he said.
The community has expressed support for the congregation, Neitzel said, adding that youth from the congregation who attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Youth Gathering in New Orleans this past July were surprised and pleased to meet fellow Lutherans who said they'd been praying for the congregation in the wake of the tragedy.
Michelson, Neitzel and perhaps as many as 11 other parishioners -- including Tiller's wife Jeanne -- may be called as witnesses for the prosecution at the trial. They are among more than 200 people named as potential witnesses by the district attorney. The pastors are also aware Reformation may be the site of anti-abortion protests, particularly on Sundays during the course of the trial.
The Gerald L. Mansholt, bishop of the ELCA Central States Synod, Kansas City, Kan., was senior pastor at Reformation from 1995 to 2001 before he was elected bishop. Members who witnessed the shooting are longtime friends of Mansholt. "The pain they have experienced and the woundedness they have felt has touched my heart very deeply," he said in an interview.
The synod has tried to be "a supportive presence" to the pastors and to the lay leadership of the congregation, he said. "We have tried to remind them that the congregation is not alone, and that many in the church are holding them in their prayers and in their thoughts."
Mansholt said it's important to remember that two families -- Tiller's and Roeder's -- are in pain over what happened at Reformation in May 2009.
"As Christians we're called to love our enemies, even praying for those who seek to do us harm," Mansholt said. "We want justice to be done, but we remember our calling as Christians to be peacemakers ourselves, and build bridges." --- Information about Reformation Lutheran Church is at http://www.reformation-lutheran.org/ on the Web.
For information contact: John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.elca.org/news
Aye, there is no disputing the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel.
Yet, in these days after Epiphany we cannot forget that Matthew is the only Evangelist to tell us of the murderous action of Herod against the Innocents of Bethlehem.
I have yet to find it in my heart to love or forgive that tyrant king.
* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.
Christ is Born, Glorify Him!
Dr. Tiller had formerly been a member of a Wichita Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation. I do not know the circumstances of his departure; I would hope that it was precipitated by the imposition of Church discipline.
Wasn’t the BTK murderer also a member of ELCA in Kansas?
Yes, and IIRC, an usher and member of the Congregation Council. Even helped with the Communion distribution.
I have no sympathy for George Tiller. The man was proud to be performing obviously evil acts on the most helpless and unprotected people alive. Government sanctioned him doing so, a Governor was happy for him to do so in her state. The “church” he belonged to was happy to have him as a member. The guy is a sicko and all of society around him patted him on the back and told him what a great public service he does killing third trimester babies.
I’m not all for everyone just going out and killing whoever they think deserves to die. In this particular case of this man having decades of murdering babies before they’ve been born, I do not feel bad at all for him dying the way he did. He died a much less painful and more merciful death than those he butchered himself.
His former LCMS congregation excommunicated him.
This was meant for his repentance, his healing from sin, and his salvation.
He refused this Godly medicine, and joined a “tolerant’ (sin-tolerant, really) ELCA parish.
Everything else that happened was a result of Tiller’s refusal.
The BTK killer is Dennis Rader. He’s a member of Christ Lutheran, in Wichita. I was a member of that church, 1977-’83. I went to his house, a few times, and he seemed to be a nice, normal man, to me.
We are instructed to forgive those who harm us individually. We are not instructed to forgive those who harm others. This is a grave misunderstanding. We can only forgive people who have harmed ourselves.