KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities on Monday were investigating why an apparent stranger entered a Unitarian church and opened fire during a children's performance based on the musical "Annie," killing two, including a burly usher hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire.
No children were hurt, but seven adults were wounded as frightened congregants dove under pews and ran from Sunday's shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, authorities said. Witnesses said some of the men present tackled a man who pulled a shotgun from a guitar case before at least three loud blasts rang out.
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder and was being held on $1 million bail, according to city spokesman Randy Kenner.
Church members praised Greg McKendry, 60, who died as he attempted to block the gunfire. Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."
Before I begin, let me just say I sympathize with those who lost friends and loved ones in this dispicable act. But such is the condition of the unregenerate human heart. It is always bent toward evil, and only the restraining grace of God prevents us all from becoming Jim Adkissons of our own making. That said, there are a couple of ironies I pulled from this development:
(1) There are people, even at our church, who will not help in the ministry we do in the projects. Why? Because they think it's "dangerous." They think they're going to get shot, held up, robbed, carjacked, whatever, as soon as they get there. However, the church where this shooting took place is located in one of the two wealthiest neighbordhoods in Knoxville. Houses in this area of the city--an area known as Sequoyah Hills--START at $500,000. Some go for upwards of $1M. Knoxville Police Department patrol there regularly. If there is any area that ought to be safe, it is this area.
Yet a man travelled 10 miles, to a neighborhood completely disconnected from his own, planned out an attack whereby he snuck a shotgun into a church in a guitar case, and carried out the imaginations of his heart. A desperately wicked heart. The kind of heart you and I are born with. A heart unrestrained by the hand of God. A heart that, unless brought to life by the Holy Spirit, will continue to act in such a way with no hesitation.
(2) This happened at a Universalist gathering. Universalists believe we are all going to heaven. That when Jesus died on the cross, He saved every single person, and no one is going to Hell. There is more about Unitarianism here from CARM. And here about Universalism. What I am about to say I do not say with malicious intent, but oto make anyone reading this aware of this fact. If those people who died--as courageous as they were in their last act on earth--if they died not knowing who Jesus was, and never knew Him as their Lord and their Savior--then they are in the very Hell they spent their lives denying. Dying a courageous death does not guarantee a person a free pass into Heaven. It is only by faith in the true God and His Christ, repenting from sin, and knowing that we are sinful creatures who need to be saved by the blood of Christ. And yes, these people believe that if the shooter died today, he may be punished for his sins (somehow) but that even if he did not repent, he would indeed be in Heaven.