'A demonic act of wanton murder': Christian leaders on Texas church shooting

Ramiro and Sofia Martinez attend a candle light vigil after a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017.Reuters

American Christian leaders have expressed their heartbreak and spoken of how Jesus ultimately conquers evil in response to the Texas church shooting yesterday, in which a gunman killed 26 people and wounded many  others, including children.

The shooting was at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, during morning service. No stated motive is yet known and the gunman was reported to be dead. Federal and local law enforcement officials and first responders were on the scene.

A range of Christian leaders reacted with horror but also words of comfort.

Russell Moore, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, summed up the thoughts of many when he wrote on Twitter simply: 'Another church shooting. Lord have mercy.'

Dr James Dobson, the Christian psychologist and author and founder and president of the popular radio show Family Talk, spoke for himself and his wife: 'Shirley and I are heartbroken by today's horrific church shooting. Words cannot express the sorrow we feel for the residents of this small Texas community that has been ripped apart by a truly heinous and senseless act.

'Tragically, as one pastor said when interviewed, this was a demonic act of wanton murder. Indeed it was.' 

He expressed his sympathy for the church's pastor, Rev Frank Pomeroy, and his wife. 'They lost their 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, in the massacre. There were many other personal tragedies within this small town, where most of the residents knew each other. I grew up in that part of Texas and I loved the humble families who lived in that part of the State.

'Now I ask people of faith to express their heart-felt prayers on behalf of those who are grieving. Psalm 34:18 is written for them: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."''

Dr Ronnie Floyd, president of the National Day of Prayer, said: 'When attacks of hate and terror happen in our places of worship, they shake us to the core. We must beg God for His mighty hand of protection on our nation and the world. May God be with the victims of this shooting. Only God is our refuge in these times of trouble.'

The senior evangelical pastor of First Baptist Dallas and Donald Trump ally, Dr Robert Jeffress, said: 'Today's horrific church shooting is every pastor's worst nightmare and is proof of the reality of evil. Although the Bible never diminishes the pain of evil, it does promise that one day when Christ returns, evil will be defeated forever. Until that time, we pray that the members of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, will experience the promise of Psalm 34:18: "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted."'

Dr Jack Graham, the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, said: 'Our hearts are devastated...We mourn with our brothers and sisters from the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs for the victims of this evil attack. May God's grace comfort their families and community.

'In this time of heartbreak and tragedy, we remember Jesus' words: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." We take comfort in knowing that whatever evil may come Jesus is with us.'

And offering a multi-faith perspective, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews called the deadly attack on a church near San Antonio today 'terror' and called for renewed solidarity among Christians and Jews.

'Terror that violates a house of prayer is evil, unrivaled,' Eckstein said. 'Christians and Jews must stand together as ever before, forming an ideological firewall against all violent extremists who aim to transport us to the darkest moments of our history where hatred knows no limit.'