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Illinois church names successor to slain pastor
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
December 29, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Illinois church names successor to slain pastor

Illinois church names successor to slain pastor
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
December 29, 2010

MARYVILLE, Ill. — Twenty-one months after its pastor was

gunned down in the pulpit, First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., has chosen

a new pastor.

Tom Hufty, vice president of collegiate affairs and

assistant to the president at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Mo.,

takes over as full-time senior pastor Feb. 1. For the past 13 months Hufty has

served as interim pastor of the congregation grieving over the

murder of Pastor Fred Winters on March 8, 2009.

Winters, 46, senior pastor of the church for more than 20

years, was in the middle of his sermon in the earliest of three worship

services when 27-year-old Terry Sedlacek entered the 1,000-seat sanctuary and

walked toward the pulpit. Sedlacek pulled out a .45-caliber semi-automatic

pistol and fired four times until the gun jammed. The fourth bullet struck the

pastor in the heart, killing him instantly.

Horrified worshipers at first

thought it was part of a skit.

Sedlacek then pulled out a four-inch knife and began

injuring himself. Two men who helped subdue the attacker were wounded. Sedlacek

is charged with first-degree murder. In October a judge found him mentally

unfit to stand trial. His lawyers claim he is schizophrenic.

Tom Hufty

Hufty, a popular supply preacher during his 13 years at the

Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated university, was among a line of guest

preachers — including some prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention

— to fill the pulpit at First Baptist Church in the months after Winters’

death.

Hufty agreed to become interim pastor, after refusing twice,

on Oct. 11, 2009. The pastor search committee first asked about interviewing

him as permanent pastor in May. “I tried to tell the committee that the

reaction was typical,” he said.

“I told them we had our plans.”

Hufty eventually gave the committee his resume but told them

to put it at the bottom of the pile. The stack of 180 resumes was whittled down

to two. Hufty was interviewed in November and was the committee’s unanimous

choice.

“That’s when it hit us that, wow, this is serious,” Hufty

said. The choice was announced Nov. 21. The church voted nearly unanimously to

approve the recommendation Dec. 5.

“God has taught us many lessons during this time, but the

most important one we’ve learned is the very real power of prayer,” said

Mark Jones, minster of worship and interim co-leader at First Baptist Church of

Maryville. “He has answered our prayers by giving us a gifted leader in Dr.

Hufty.”

Hufty brings

30 years of experience in church work, including 13 years as associate pastor

for student and family ministries at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty,

Mo. He is a graduate of Hannibal-LaGrange and received the master’s in

religious education from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983.

Hufty plans to continue as interim pastor through January to

finish some projects at Hannibal-LaGrange and to help smooth the transition to

a new vice president.

Hufty’s wife of 29 years, Rhonda, has also worked at

Hannibal-LaGrange as director of public relations since 2003. She resigned Dec.

20. They have two adult children and work together leading marriage-and-family

conferences in churches and conventions.

Winters’ murder set off a national discussion

about church security and prompted debate

about whether licensed concealed-weapons holders should be permitted to carry

their guns in church.

Winters’ widow, Cindy, has started a ministry

of her own called Grace and Hope Ministries.

“I know that for many of you this week brings more hurt than

celebration,” she posted

on the ministry’s Facebook page Dec. 21. “I have found myself aching and

working very hard just to have enough strength to get through each day.”

“I pray that in the midst of pain and sorrow each of us will

still see the hope that our Savior brings and feel his strong presence and

love,” she wrote. “My heart goes out to each of you.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated

Baptist Press. Vicki Brown of Word and Way contributed to this story.)