Illinois church names successor to slain pastor
    December 29 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

    MARYVILLE, Ill. — Twenty-one months after its pastor was gunned down in the pulpit, First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., has chosen a new pastor.

    Tom Hufty, vice president of collegiate affairs and assistant to the president at Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Mo., takes over as full-time senior pastor Feb. 1. For the past 13 months Hufty has served as interim pastor of the congregation grieving over the murder of Pastor Fred Winters on March 8, 2009.

    Winters, 46, senior pastor of the church for more than 20 years, was in the middle of his sermon in the earliest of three worship services when 27-year-old Terry Sedlacek entered the 1,000-seat sanctuary and walked toward the pulpit. Sedlacek pulled out a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and fired four times until the gun jammed. The fourth bullet struck the pastor in the heart, killing him instantly.

    Horrified worshipers at first thought it was part of a skit.

    Sedlacek then pulled out a four-inch knife and began injuring himself. Two men who helped subdue the attacker were wounded. Sedlacek is charged with first-degree murder. In October a judge found him mentally unfit to stand trial. His lawyers claim he is schizophrenic.

    Tom Hufty

    Hufty, a popular supply preacher during his 13 years at the Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated university, was among a line of guest preachers — including some prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention — to fill the pulpit at First Baptist Church in the months after Winters’ death.

    Hufty agreed to become interim pastor, after refusing twice, on Oct. 11, 2009. The pastor search committee first asked about interviewing him as permanent pastor in May. “I tried to tell the committee that the reaction was typical,” he said. “I told them we had our plans.”

    Hufty eventually gave the committee his resume but told them to put it at the bottom of the pile. The stack of 180 resumes was whittled down to two. Hufty was interviewed in November and was the committee’s unanimous choice.

    “That’s when it hit us that, wow, this is serious,” Hufty said. The choice was announced Nov. 21. The church voted nearly unanimously to approve the recommendation Dec. 5.

    “God has taught us many lessons during this time, but the most important one we’ve learned is the very real power of prayer,” said Mark Jones, minster of worship and interim co-leader at First Baptist Church of Maryville. “He has answered our prayers by giving us a gifted leader in Dr. Hufty.”

    Hufty brings 30 years of experience in church work, including 13 years as associate pastor for student and family ministries at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo. He is a graduate of Hannibal-LaGrange and received the master’s in religious education from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983.

    Hufty plans to continue as interim pastor through January to finish some projects at Hannibal-LaGrange and to help smooth the transition to a new vice president.

    Hufty’s wife of 29 years, Rhonda, has also worked at Hannibal-LaGrange as director of public relations since 2003. She resigned Dec. 20. They have two adult children and work together leading marriage-and-family conferences in churches and conventions.

    Winters’ murder set off a national discussion about church security and prompted debate about whether licensed concealed-weapons holders should be permitted to carry their guns in church.

    Winters’ widow, Cindy, has started a ministry of her own called Grace and Hope Ministries.

    “I know that for many of you this week brings more hurt than celebration,” she posted on the ministry’s Facebook page Dec. 21. “I have found myself aching and working very hard just to have enough strength to get through each day.”

    “I pray that in the midst of pain and sorrow each of us will still see the hope that our Savior brings and feel his strong presence and love,” she wrote. “My heart goes out to each of you.”

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. Vicki Brown of Word and Way contributed to this story.)
    12/29/2010 1:45:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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