Lead pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, Steven Furtick called on churches across America to "be the light we are so desperate to see" after confessed gunman Dylann Roof, 21, executed nine worshipers at a Bible study inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday night.
Charleston County coroner Rae Wooten identified the six women and three men massacred by Roof who said he wanted to start a race war Thursday. Roof's victims were identified as: Clementa Pinckney, 41, the senior pastor at the church; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Myra Thompson, 59; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; and DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49.
In a Facebook post Thursday titled "Looking for the Light," Furtick cited John 1:5: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it," and encouraged the church to remain hopeful despite his own difficulty in coming to terms with the murders inside the church.
"I'm having a hard time reconciling that Bible verse with reality today," Furtick said.
"How do we now pray in faith for the families of those who seemed to have received no divine protection while they prayed," he asked.
Recalling words of comfort for the broken-hearted, Furtick also noted the "magnitude of the darkness."
"Shouldn't we acknowledge the horrors of hatred and injustice?" the pastor asked. "How do I, as a white man, even begin to assess and internalize the pain and outrage my African-American brothers and sisters are experiencing? Any platitude I can offer seems pitiful right about now."
He then weighed darkness and light as it is found in the Bible before expressing optimism in the power of faith.
"I know we'll see the light shining in the days to come," he wrote. "We'll see it IN the unity of the Charleston community and THROUGH the resilience of the family of faith. Hopefully we'll see it IN and THROUGH the renewed energy toward conversations and changes in our nation that are long overdue."
Furtick, whose church noted in a Facebook post that their staff began the day praying for the grieving church, said: "in this moment may our churches be the light we are desperate to see."
Law enforcement officials captured Roof Thursday after he went on the lam for hours after the massacre. Sources say that Roof, who specifically targeted African-Americans, attended the Bible study for an hour before opening fire in the basement of the church. Emanuel Church has been a part of the Charleston community since 1816 when it was founded by a former slave.
"Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God," the rapper wrote, quoting the Bible. "They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. John 16.2-3 #prayforcharleston."