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United Methodists killed in shooting spree at Jewish centers

By Kathy L. Gilbert
April 14, 2014 (UMNS)

The deaths of three innocent people — two United Methodists and a Catholic — on Palm Sunday and the eve of Passover are a painful reminder of the sin and tragedy in the world, said President Barack Obama, during the White House's annual Easter prayer breakfast held April 14.

The April 13 shooting rampage outside two Jewish centers in Overland Park, near Kansas City, has been classified officially as a “hate crime.”

Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather Dr. William Corporon, 69, both members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., were shot by alleged perpetrator Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who also goes by the last name of Miller. He was identified as a “well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader.”

Underwood and Corporon were at the community center because the teen was auditioning for a singing contest.

“Reat volunteered in our Sunday night KidsCOR program. Bill and his wife Melinda, and Reat, his brother and his parents, Mindy and Len, are all active at Resurrection. They have a deep faith and great friends and neighbors that are helping to sustain them,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton in a message to the congregation on his Facebook page.

The family members issued a statement affirming their faith that their loved ones "are together in heaven."

"Our family has a deep faith, and we don't believe this tragedy was God's will, but we do believe that Reat and Bill are safe in God's arms," the family said. "Even in the midst of our grief, we believe that evil will not have the final word and that good will come from this tragedy,"

Prayer vigil after shooting

Hamilton said the service for grandfather and grandson will be on Good Friday, April 18. At an interfaith prayer vigil later on April 13, Underwood’s mother, Mindy Corporon, remembered her son as someone who loved acting and singing.

“Easter suddenly seems so much more important to me and for our church and community this year as we remember on that day that neither evil, nor hate, nor even death has the final word in our lives. Please join me in praying for this family,” Hamilton said.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., who also is a United Methodist pastor, said in a statement that the Kansas City area would “grow deeper in our strength and respect for one another” following the attack.

“My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families and friends of those shot and killed yesterday in the senseless, horrendous and hate-filled targeting of children and seniors, simply because of their faith,” he said.

“This is such a tragedy and happening during Passover and Holy Week,” said retired Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

“Just recently I participated in a Jewish-Christian summit where we covenanted again as people of faith to work together for good in the world. This horrible incident reminds us how much hate is still in the world.

“We pray for peace and know that we are together part of the household of God. We need to work together to end violence anywhere it occurs,” she told United Methodist News Service.

Stand against violence

During the breakfast, Obama said many Jewish community centers and synagogues were taking extra security precautions as Passover begins because of the shootings.

“No one should ever have to fear for their safety when gathering with their faithful believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray,” he said.

Bishop Peter Weaver, who was invited to represent The United Methodist Church at the breakfast, said, “During Holy Week, we remember the great suffering that Jesus experienced through the violence visited upon him.

“He came to be the Prince of Peace to show us a different way.”

Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615)742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.