Texas Sutherland Springs Church Families, Donors Raise Questions Over Distribution of Donations

First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs
An artist's rendering of the future building for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. |

The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, raised millions of dollars after a mass shooting killed more than two dozen worshipers five months ago, but families of some victims claim they haven't received any money while the church is planning to build a new $3 million sanctuary.

"This has gotten way out of hand — way out of hand," The Associated Press quoted Lisa McNulty, whose daughter was killed in the shooting on Nov. 5, 2017, as saying. She said she hasn't received donations made to the Sutherland Springs church for her family.

"There's some greed going on, and it's wrong," she added.

Kati Wall, a teacher whose parents were killed by the gunman, complained that the process established by the church to receive monetary help "really bothers me," and asked, "what if you need help right now?"

Wall said she only temporarily received the salary she lost because she had to take a leave from work.

Former member Mike Ritch, who helped raise about $100,000 for victims, has left the church, saying the leaders needed to be more transparent about the use of the money. "I won't be doing anything to help this church in the future," he was quoted as saying. "Not after the way I've seen their leadership treat others from the community."

Last month, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter was murdered in the shooting, announced that a new sanctuary will be built, and church leaders assured that victims' relief funds will not be used for that.

The new church building will include a worship center, an educational center, a prayer garden, a parking lot and a memorial tower with a bell from the original First Baptist Church, according to The Dallas Morning News.

It could cost up to $3 million, according to Scott Gurosky, president of the design firm behind the project.

The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is helping with the construction project, having guaranteed to cover the costs of phase one of the construction, which centers on the worship space and an education building.

"God is going to use the blood of those 26 martyrs and those survivors to bring forth revival into the land," Pomeroy said at a news conference where he announced the plan for a new building. "Any time the church was persecuted, then God backed that up with a magnification or a multiplication of his people."

The groundbreaking has been planned to coincide with the six-month anniversary of the shooting on May 5. The construction is expected to be over in spring 2019.

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