The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Member's arrest shocks congregation

When news of Dennis L. Rader’s Feb. 25 arrest spread, members of Christ Lutheran Church, Wichita, Kan., weren’t characterizing him as a man who "stayed to himself." Instead, the man accused of being the BTK serial killer is their church council president, usher and former scout leader.

Members of the 400-member congregation were in shock, and Michael Clark, their pastor, was thrust into the media spotlight. Rader, a parishioner for nearly 30 years, was charged with 10 counts of murder committed between 1974 and 1991 in the Wichita and Park City area. The murders had haunted the city, and the elusive killer had taunted police for 31 years, causing the community — and congregation — to pray for an arrest so the nightmare would end.

Rader was arrested at his place of employment after police entered Christ Lutheran with a search warrant. Later in the week, news reports indicated that a computer disc sent to police by the killer 10 days before the arrest was traced to the church. Congregational leaders met behind closed doors Feb. 26 to decide how to deal with the arrest and the media. Clark emerged from the church to face news cameras and say the congregation was praying for Rader, his family, the victims and their family members.

Bishop Gerald Mansholt, Central States Synod, met with leaders and was by Clark’s side the following Sunday. "We feel dismay, anger, devastation, utter shock and disbelief. The very foundation of our faith is shaken," Mansholt told worshipers, according to the Associated Press. Reports from the Wichita Eagle quoted Clark as saying family members were out of state at an undisclosed location


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