Get real! Having armed guards with M16s at the church…

Get real! Having armed guards with M16s at the church entrance every Sunday morning benefits no one. But this is America, and we still have the right to protect ourselves. A Ruger LCP handgun—or one like it—legally concealed is perfectly acceptable Sunday attire. But please, check your concealed carry laws before heading to mass.

On Nov. 13, 2008 a group of self-described homosexual anarchists called “Bash Back!” attacked the Mount Hope Church in Lansing, MI during worship.

On July 28, 2008 two people were killed at a Unitarian Church in Knoxville, TN as an angry resident vented his hatred at those in Sunday services. On March 9, 2009 Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church, in Maryville, IL was killed by an intruder during services. On August 23, 2009 Pastor Carol Daniels was found murdered behind her pulpit at Christ Holy Sanctified Church in Oklahoma. Such events only used to happen in places like Pakistan or Iraq, but they are becoming more common here. According to Vaughn Baker, President of Strategos International, there were 18 church shootings and acts of violence in 2008 in the United States—but in the first nine months of 2009 there already had been 17 such incidents.

Strategos International
Strategos International, based in Grandview, MO, is attempting to meet the need among schools, corporations and churches to develop a strategy to preclude such tragedy. (More information is at This writer attended a two-day seminar by Vaughn Baker and Mike Owen, a Strategos instructor. The first day of the seminar was titled “Inter-Faith Church Security & Intruder Response” while the second day was presented as “Inter-Faith Intruder Response/Awareness & Conflict Management.” It took place in Fayetteville, AR at the Mount Sequoyah Retreat Center.

Participants came from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, representing Church of God, United Methodist, Unitarians and others. There were active LE, retired police officers, pastors, lay leaders, and at least one-third were women. All shared concern for safety of their congregation. Some of the congregations represented had already begun efforts to provide security, ranging from those who knew that they needed to do something but did not know what, to those with security teams in place. A stark reminder of the need was brought home by the murder of Pastor Carol Daniels two days prior.

Vaughn Baker and Mike Owens have impressive credentials in this field. Baker had 20 years as a LE officer in Lee’s Summit, MO, including 13 on the S.W.A.T. team and four years as a detective. He also was in the Army Reserve, Military Police Corps. Mike Owen had a similar background with almost 27 years on the Springfield, MO police department with 13 years on their Special Response Team. Since his retirement, he has worked with the Department of Justice providing training for LE officers in third-world countries. These men were well trained and had excellent experience, giving authority to their instruction. They also are active in the church body where they attended and were on their security team as well. They not only taught it, but they practiced what they taught.

Walking The Fine Line
Community leaders should use the Virginia Tech massacre as a reminder that S.W.A.T. can’t be everywhere all of the time. Tragedies can be avoided with proper training.

It is important that churches do not become armed compounds. They should be inviting environments where people can worship God as they choose. It can be difficult for pastors and leaders to decide how to be proactive to dangers without making people feel as if they are criminal suspects. This seminar made a strategic effort at addressing this dichotomy of responsibilities, noting that it might not be possible to negate all danger. Possibly one of the most startling statements made in this entire seminar was that preparation did not mean prevention—but that it does mean immediate response.

Strategos International presenters app­roached the subject from the viewpoint that there is more than one way to provide security. They reviewed various methods, from hiring local off-duty police officers or security guards, to having security cameras in place. But the suggestion that stood out the most was the idea of a “layered security.” This was noted as the same strategy that the Secret Service employs in protecting the President. This has to be adapted to fit a local congregation, but the basic idea is to recognize the threat before it reaches a location where it could cause maximum damage. By using parking-lot attendants, greeters, ushers and the security team, you would have a layered protective team in place. If these individuals were trained and observant they would provide the local congregation the highest possible security.

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