Alabama church focuses on care for members after pastor held in shooting of family
Congregational care is the main focus for United Methodists in Gardendale, Ala., after a Jan. 10 shooting that left the pastor’s wife dead, his daughter injured, and the pastor himself in custody facing murder and attempted murder charges.
The Rev. Terry Greer, 54, pastor of Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, faces charges of shooting his wife, Lisa, and their daughter, Suzanna, at their home. According to news reports, Suzanna, 18, was able to wrestle the gun away from her father and flee to a neighbor’s house. Terry Greer then stabbed himself multiple times in the chest and neck and had to be restrained by police officers.
All three were taken to the hospital, where Lisa Greer, 52, died in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, according to news accounts. Terry Greer underwent surgery and was reported in stable condition afterward.
“We’re just all shocked at the situation,” said Danette Clifton, director of communication for The United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Annual (regional) Conference. “He was a well-known, well-liked pastor in the conference.”
Congregation members were notified by Facebook, email and a voice mail message later Thursday, and many lined up for counseling the next day at church.
“On Friday, we had three counselors on campus all day and they saw several dozen people,” Clifton told United Methodist News Service. More counselors will be at the church on Sunday and into next week, she said.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett will preach at all three services Sunday, and Central District Superintendent Rev. Bob Alford will also be present, Clifton said.
The conference is “trying to offer that ministry of presence to be with (the church members) and to walk with them through this horrible situation,” Clifton said.
Greer, who had been in a car accident last fall, had been on medical leave because of health issues. An interim pastor was taking care of the day-to-day needs of the church, Clifton said.
The church, in a suburb community of Birmingham, has an average worship attendance of about 700 and membership of 1,600.
Greer was appointed senior pastor of the Gardendale church last June, after serving at Decatur (Ala.) First United Methodist Church for several years. Meanwhile, Gardendale-Mt. Vernon’s pastor, the Rev. Rudy Guess, was appointed to Decatur First after a long tenure in Gardendale, according to Clifton. The changes were part of the denomination’s normal process in which pastors itinerate among churches.
Decisions remain about leadership at Gardendale-Mt. Vernon. However, Clifton said, “Pastoral leadership and congregational care is a priority for the district superintendent and bishop.”
Greer, meanwhile, is charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder and is being held on $135,000 bond.
In news accounts, Police Chief Mike Walker said police wouldn’t speculate on a motive for the shooting. He said the incident did not appear to be related to the December arrest of a worship leader at Gardendale-Mt. Vernon on child sex charges.
GARDENDALE, Ala. (UMNS) — A shooting Jan. 10 in the parsonage of theGardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church has left the wife of the Rev. Terry Greer dead, daughter Suzanna, 18, injured, and Rev. Greer hospitalized, facing murder and attempted murder charges.
A note posted Jan. 10 to the Facebook page of the church speaks to the congregation, saying:
“This afternoon your church staff has watched and listened as stories have appeared in local media and word has spread around the community regarding the tragedy involving Pastor Terry Greer and his family. The bishop and the conference are being proactive in helping us as a church to cope with this tragedy. Tomorrow, Rev. Sherry Ferguson, a licensed counselor with United Counseling will be available from 8 a.m.— noon and 1p.m. — 4p.m. to meet with anyone who needs to speak with her about this tragedy in our faith community. Check-in at the church office and we can direct you to her location. Please be in prayer for the Greer family and our church.”
Greer, 54, became pastor of the church near Birmingham in 2012. The church has an average attendance of about 700 and membership of 1,600.