Last update:
April 7th
2001

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Christians Counter

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gary

Gary Matson

Winfield Scott Mowder, 40
and Gary Matson, 50
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Crime committed in God's name gives pastors reason to speak out
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Winfield Mowder

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Benjamin Matthew Williams claimed to be carrying out God's will when he allegedly shot to death Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder.

It's a statement that doesn't sit well with members of Redding's religious community, who say his use of Scripture casts aspersions on Christians everywhere.

"Make no mistake, I don't believe Matthew Williams speaks for Jesus Christ in any way, shape or form," said Steve McDougall, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Redding. "I think the Christian community has to view his actions as psychotic. It's quite clear that murder doesn't get you into the kingdom. He's missed the whole point."

Williams, 31, of Palo Cedro recently admitted in a jailhouse interview to killing Matson, 50, and Mowder, 40, as they slept in their Happy Valley home.

The case has drawn national media attention and jolted north state residents who struggle to comprehend the double murder of the prominent gay couple, whose bodies were found July 1.

Williams said he considers himself a "reformed Christian" who will be "precious in the sight of Yahweh (God)."

Though he's not the first person to profess Christian ideology as justification for murder, his statements are profoundly troubling because they fuel anti-Christian sentiment, pastors say.

"If we have a member of our community that says killing gays is at all justifiable, then we can't just sit silent," said Heather Hennessey, senior pastor at First Christian Church in Redding. "When you claim religious identity as a source of social action, you color everyone who claims that religious identity. Other members of the Christian family have to pipe up."

In a letter written in August to the Record Searchlight, Williams said he felt "betrayed in a dark hour" by the lack of support from "the fine Christian institutions that we once studied under."

"It has been 33 days since our kidnapping and I have yet to receive a letter or visit of support," Williams wrote in August.

"He wanted to know why we're not supporting him; hey, he missed the message," said David Nicholas, president of Shasta Bible College, where Matthew and his brother, James Tyler Williams - who's also charged in the crime - once attended. "Matthew has apparently decided to become judge and jury. I'd say he's suffering a delusion by Satan. He has not made himself a martyr by doing this."

Nicholas tried to visit Williams in jail on two separate occasions, but both times Williams declined to meet with him, Nicholas added.

Although messages like Williams' likely foster a negative perception of Christians, churches shouldn't become overly distracted by them, said Bill Randall, senior pastor at Risen King Community Church.

"I'd encourage a more pro-active, positive position rather than being in a defensive posture," Randall said. "If this person did what he did, he's going to try to get everything he can out of it, ring every bell.

"When we as a church go out and help others and show compassion, if we don't hear any bells at all, that's all right. We know who we are and why we do what we do."

In addition to expressing anti-gay sentiment, Williams claimed to be a rebel against "all the government edicts" that have allowed the "flooding of America with lesser races ... Jews, blacks, Vietnamese, Indians."

Nicholas said Williams never expressed those views while attending Shasta Bible College. Nicholas said Williams appears to have aligned himself with a movement in Idaho called "Christian Identity" which he says apparently encourages "cleansing the world" of homosexuals and other non-Aryan races.

"I knew he had some extreme views on things, but these (views on race) never surfaced in my relationship with him," Nicholas said.

Williams, Nicholas said, appears to have ignored essential biblical teachings that stress that all races are equal under Jesus Christ. Nicholas pointed to a verse in Galatians which says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one (person) in union with Christ Jesus."

While views against Williams' statements and alleged actions appear united, area Christian churches continue to vary on their positions on homosexuality.

Fundamental churches maintain that homosexuals should be accepted, but their sexual orientation viewed as sinful. Nicholas, for example, cited several passages of Scripture which reproach homosexuality as an abomination to God.

"The Scriptural condemnation of homosexuality as a sin is incontrovertible, politically correct though (homosexuality) may be," Nicholas said. "At the same time, Christians who love the Bible should be the first people to love homosexuals."

The view of "love the sinner, hate the sin" isn't shared at Hennessey's First Christian Church.

"It really is important that we say that not only is this (Matson-Mowder murder) a horrible act, but, in our eyes, sexual orientation is not a condemning factor," said Hennessey. "We have for some time welcomed gays and lesbians in full participation in our church. It is possible to say, 'I am gay and I am Christian."'

Hennessey added that sexual condemnation on any level helps set up an environment for extremists to justify violent actions.

"We do bear some responsibility for this," she said.

by Jim Dyar
Record Searchlight

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Christians who love the Bible should be the first people to love homosexuals

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