Franklin Graham, who is traveling back to the United States after a trip to Sudan, was in London when he heard about the shooting of Pastor Fred Winters.
The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Maryville was shot and killed during the 8 a.m. service, and the attacker and two parishioners suffered knife wounds in the attack, authorities said.
According to news reports, the gunman entered during the service and walked up to the pulpit.
Winters and the gunman apparently exchanged words before the 27-year-old man fired four shots, hitting the pastor’s Bible and then the pastor, said Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent.
In a press statement, Graham said he was especially touched by the news because the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has been working with pastors in and around St. Louis on Rock the River — an evangelistic summer concert tour focusing on youth.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has an event planned this week in St. Louis to work with pastors to help promote the August concert.
“I am deeply saddened at this tragic loss. Our prayers go out to Pastor Winters’ wife, Cyndie Lee, and their two children, Alysia Grace and Cassidy Hope, as well as the others wounded and all of those affected by this senseless act of violence,” said Graham.
“At a time when the world is experiencing so much suffering, an event like this underscores our need to place our trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“It was my joy to meet Pastor Winters recently while I was in St. Louis,” Graham added. “I was looking forward to working with him this summer. His presence will be sorely missed.”