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LifeWay’s Deacon magazine focuses on violence at church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Winter 1999-2000 issue of “The Deacon” magazine published by LifeWay Christian Resources will be devoted to the topic of violence at church, according to George Clark, a design editor in the agency’s pastor-staff leadership department.
Copies of the issue had recently arrived at LifeWay when on Sept. 15 a gunman invaded a teen prayer service at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and opened fire.
“We deeply regret the tragedy at Wedgwood Baptist Church” Clark said, “and we hope the timeliness of the topic of violence at church, addressed through The Deacon magazine, will help churches prepare for the unexpected.”
In the lead article, “Make Your Church Building Safer,” co-author Paula L. Ratliff recalls a childhood incident:
“I remember it well. At a worship service over twenty years ago, attendance was slight. The pastor looked around at his scattered congregation and asked the young people to move forward from the rear seats. However, the pastor’s own daughter stayed behind, refusing to comply with her fathers wishes.”
After the service, Ratliff asked the girl why she didn’t move. The pastor’s daughter said she was afraid that someone would slip in through the back doors and shoot her daddy. Ratliff was only eight years old at the time, so she didn’t understand her friend’s fear.
In 1999, as a criminologist and crime researcher, she understands it completely.
Ratliff and Chester L. Quarles, professor of criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, write:
“Newspapers from all over the country are reporting crimes at church. Church crime is not provincial. It is universal. Acts of vandalism, burglary, arson and violence are taking place inside religious facilities. Houses of worship are being targeted by thieves. Worshipers are being raped, robbed, assaulted and murdered on church grounds.
“Estranged husbands and wives are shooting each other during pastoral counseling sessions. Pastors have been assaulted and robbed. People angry with church leadership have driven automobiles through the sanctuary entranceways. Political activists have defaced church property because of anti-abortion and homosexuality stands. Women have been raped when working alone on church grounds and while praying alone in the church sanctuary. Crimes are committed at large and small, urban and rural churches with no established pattern regarding denominational affiliation.”
Ratliff and Quarles discuss options available to church administrators and committees who may be considering the issue of security. They conclude that church security “may change the way your church does business. However, an effective and well-designed security program can bring worshippers together in a safer and more secure spiritual experience.”
Other articles in the issue, also by Ratliff and Quarles, address burglary and robbery at church; parking lot crime; rape; topics related to safety of children, including abduction and molestation; and dealing with trespassers and intruders.
Copies of The Deacon magazine may be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-458-2772 or by ordering through LifeWay’s Web site at www.lifeway.com.

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  • Charles Willis