UM Injured in Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting

August 13, 2008

One of those wounded in a July 27 shooting at Knoxville’s Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is a United Methodist who was in the congregation that Sunday to see his granddaughter in a performance of Annie Jr. John T. Worth, 68, and his wife, Joy, are members of Peck’s Memorial UMC in nearby Maryville.

The shooting at Tennessee Valley, where Worth’s daughter is a member, left two dead and six wounded. A pellet from the shooter’s gun lodged in Worth’s right eye, and physicians have told him that his optic nerve is damaged and that he is unlikely to regain vision. Now Worth is struggling with whether to have the eye removed – because keeping it could lead to disease or, he worries, disturb his young grandchildren by its appearance – or to keep it, in hopes of miraculous healing.
“He is clinging to hope for a miracle,” said Joy Worth, 66. “But if he has the eye removed, there’s no possibility of that.”
The morning of the shooting, the Worths were sitting in the front row of the church when a loud boom went off – which many of those present believed was part of the program. Worth ran to the back of the church to protect his 8-year-old granddaughter and 4-year-old grandson, and headed toward the assailant, who was preparing to take his second shot with a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun. Three men quickly subdued the shooter, but not before the second round went off, injuring Worth.
Police have identified the suspect as Jim David Adkisson, 58, and say the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. Adkisson has been charged with first-degree murder.
Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Area responded to the tragedy by writing on his blog, “We must face the fact that there is within us the potential to commit awful atrocities when we are disconnected from God.
“In the face of this tragedy, the one thing I am sure of is that we must continue – no, we must double our efforts – to reach people with the transforming message of Jesus,” he wrote. “We must not allow evil to dominate us and place fear in our hearts to the point that we surrender in despair.” — Annette Spence, editor of The Call, the newspaper of the Holston Annual Conference. (UMNS)