This afternoon, I am stunned by the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller at his church Reformation Lutheran here in Wichita. As a "preacher" I am supposed to have a "word" on everything. As a "pastor" I am supposed to know the right actions, the right ways to deal with whatever might occur. In this moment, I have no words, no actions.
I am shocked, horrified and saddened more than I can articulate. I did not know Dr. Tiller. I, know, he was a doctor that performed abortions in the city of Wichita. I know he has been harassed, belittled and vilified by many who disagree with the premise that abortion needs to be safe and available. As a pastor, I have listened to women who have been in untenable situations. I have held them as they wept and I have prayed with them as they struggled to make the right decision in the midst of pain and confusion. There are times when there are no good decisions, only difficult ones. For many women, Dr. Tiller walked with them through some of the most deepest and darkest valleys of their lives and provided hope and a place of compassion.
Regardless of where one stands on this controversial issue, walking into a church and shooting someone at point blank as he ushered for the morning worship service is beyond comprehension. It is immoral and it is evil. The violation of that sacred space will take a long time to heal. That congregation has stood up to the forces of hate and bigotry before. Now, they walk through grief and pain and shock and a sense that no place is secure.
My prayers are with Dr. Tiller's family, friends, patients, co-workers and with the Reformation Lutheran Church. I pray God's strength and comfort on the pastors at Reformation Lutheran, Rev. Lowell Michelson and Rev. Kristin Neitzel as they embody God's grace for their congregation. Mostly, I pray for a stand against senseless violence. I believe we need to find better ways to disagree on difficult topics. People of faith can and do often disagree on issues. Killing each other doesn't make things any better. In fact, it makes them worse. Learning to disagree deeply and faithfully does not include name calling, belittling, harassing or vilifying.
I am sure I will ponder and post more later.
In the meantime...
Graced to Serve