ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 4, 2009
ELCA Congregation Grieves after Member Shot in Church
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The funeral for Dr. George Tiller will be June 6 at College Hill United Methodist Church, Wichita, Kan. Tiller was shot and killed May 31 while serving as an usher for Sunday worship at nearby Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was a member. Tiller was 67.
The funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Tiller's family requested College Hill because it offers more available seating than Reformation.
"All the different stages and symptoms of grief are happening here," said the Rev. Lowell R. Michelson, senior pastor for Reformation, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He said many began their "journey of healing" by gathering the evening of the shooting for a vigil with the Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt, bishop, ELCA Central States Synod, Kansas City, Kan.
This week a team of crisis intervention specialists is meeting with members of Reformation in groups and individually, Michelson said. The specialists "helped us name some of those things that we haven't been able to put a name to in our anger, sadness, confusion and disbelief." They will continue counseling the congregation through weekend worship services.
The Rev. Kristin M. Neitzel, associate pastor, is working with parish nurses and lay ministers to care for "those folks who are noticeably absent," Michelson said. They will be mobilizing all congregation members to support each other in the days ahead.
Michelson is preparing to preach the funeral sermon. He said the family selected verses from the Gospel of John, in which Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live."
Others at the funeral will reflect on Tiller's life, and Michelson said he plans to "talk about the promises of God and the hope that we have in the one who loved us first."
Tiller was one of a few doctors in the United States who provided abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. Scott P. Roeder, 51, was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the shooting.
According to KAKE television, Wichita, the family's lawyer, Dan Monnat issued a statement: "While the funeral of Dr. George Tiller will be open to the public, Dr. Tiller's family has requested that no video or audio recording be allowed during any portion of the funeral service Saturday. The family respectfully asks that all media honor their wish to preserve the privacy of the occasion, both inside the church and in any overflow areas."
The family's lawyers issued a statement earlier at the request of Jeanne Tiller, the Tillers' four children and 10 grandchildren:
"We would like to express the family's thanks for the many messages of sympathy from our friends and from all across the nation. We also want to thank the law enforcement officers who are investigating this crime.
"Our loss is also a loss for the city of Wichita and women across America. George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence."
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The full text of a statement by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, is at http://tinyurl.com/p8y69r on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog