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Shooting in a Southern California PC(USA) church leaves one dead, five wounded

Presbyterians asked to unite in prayer for Geneva Presbyterian Church and Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, both of Laguna Woods

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Geneva Presbyterian Church is in Laguna Woods, California. (Photo courtesy of Geneva Presbyterian Church)

LOUISVILLE ­— A shooting during a lunch reception Sunday at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, left one person dead and five people wounded, according to multiple news reports.

The congregation nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Dr. Steven M. Marsh, GPC’s pastor and head of staff, asked people to “please keep the leadership and congregation of ITPC in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting.”

“The Geneva Church family will support the ITPC congregation through this traumatic experience,” Marsh said. “We will listen to this community and follow their lead. The Session and staff is requesting that together, we pray for one another and those in our surrounding communities. We’ve all been affected, and we hold our neighbors at ITPC at the center of our prayers.”

In a statement, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said that when deputies arrived after being called to Geneva Presbyterian Church, they found that members of the ITPC congregation had “detained the suspect by tackling him then tying his legs with extension cords.”

About 250 people attended the luncheon.

Five people — whom police described as four Asian males and one Asian female ranging in age from 66 to 92 — were taken to local hospitals.

On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that authorities are now investigating the Sunday shooting as a possible hate crime.

According to the AP report, during a Monday news conference, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the gunman, identified as a Chinese immigrant, and the Taiwanese community.

The AP reported that Barnes also said the person who died in the shooting, 52-year-old physician Dr. John Cheng, heroically charged at the gunman and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene.

Grief counselors came to the church Sunday to work with people who witnessed the shooting, news reports said. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has reached out to the Presbytery of Los Ranchos to offer any assistance it can.

The Rev. Tom Cramer, Co-Executive for Vision and Mission in the Presbytery of Los Ranchos and the former pastor at Geneva Presbyterian Church, told the Los Angeles Times that ITPC has been active in the local Taiwanese community, holding weekly educational seminars and workshops.

“Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting,” Cramer said in a statement. “In your mercy, O Lord, we pray.”

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, issued this prayer: “God of Life, As the sound of gunfire echoes over our land once again, we seek your love and compassion. Too many times, O God, we have cried out to you when family, friends, neighbors and children have lost their lives from gun violence. Again we cry, ‘How long, O Lord?’

“For those whose lives have been spared and those whose lives are forever changed, we pray. Send your Spirit, O God, to renew our resolve and commitment to work for an end to senseless violence, racial hatred and oppression. In Christ’s name, Amen.”

On Monday, the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness issued a statement urging Presbyterians to “continue our fight to eliminate the scourge of gun violence from the face of the Earth … We must hold Congress accountable and demand that they pass legislation to address this crisis.”

Read more about the PC(USA)’s earlier call to eliminate gun violence here.

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