MARYVILLE, Ill. — A Southern Baptist pastor who previously served as the president of the Illinois Baptist State Association was killed Sunday when a gunman entered the 8:15 a.m. worship service and opened fire.
Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., was killed when the gunman entered the church and opened fire. Winters was 45.
According to the Illinois State Police, the gunman walked into the worship service where 150 were in attendance and spoke briefly with Winters. The gunmen then fired four shots before his .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun jammed. The gunman then stabbed himself with a knife.
Two church members were injured when they tackled the man. One remains hospitalized, while the other has been treated and released.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the gunman is a 27-year-old man from Troy, Ill., whose motive remains unknown. His name will not be released until charges have been filed. He now is hospitalized and in police custody.
Church members said they did not recognize the gunman.
Nate Adams, Illinois Baptist State Association executive director, said, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the Fred Winters family and the church family there at First Baptist, Maryville, during this time of great grief and loss. Fred was a wonderful, gifted, leading pastor in Illinois, and a dear friend. His ministry and mentorship will be missed sorely by many.
“Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything. That He allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust Him no matter what, and draw close to Him in any circumstances. Let's draw closer to Him and to one another during this terrible tragedy, and renew our faith and obedience to His purposes for however many days we have remaining to serve Him.”
The church posted a message on its web site later in the day that read:
“Today, a little after our 8:15 service began, a man entered First Baptist Church and fired several gunshots at our Senior Pastor, Dr. Fred Winters. Pastor Winters was taken to the hospital but died of his wounds.
“Please pray for Dr. Winter’s family, our two brave members who were injured when they stopped the assailant, for the assailant himself and his family, and for our church members as they deal with this tragic loss.
“In this day, where uncertainty seems to abound creating an environment in which people are vulnerable in doing things they might not do otherwise, one thing is certain, we, as human beings need a foundation upon which we can live our lives. We at First Baptist Maryville, along with other Christian believers, share this conviction: that foundation is God’s Word. In the pages of the Book we call the Bible, we find the pathway for peace, hope, and a quality of living life despite what circumstances we find ourselves in.”
“To those who believe in the power of prayer, we covet your prayers right now.”
Winters is survived by his wife Cindy and their two daughters. He became pastor of First Baptist Church in 1987 and was a former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association. He also previously served on the Southern Baptist Committee on Committees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by staff of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.)