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FBC Birmingham pressing on amid recent eventscomment (0)

January 30, 2014

By Jennifer Davis Rash and Neisha Fuson

Recent events concerning Richard Shahan, former children and families pastor at First Baptist Church, Birmingham, will likely take a toll on all parties involved.

But the First, Birmingham, congregation has been assured they will not be left alone to pick up the pieces.

“We assured the church that none of us are going to leave because of this,” said interim pastor Charles T. Carter. Although most of the staff positions are filled by interims at the moment, “we are committed to see them through,” he said.

Carter also commended the church for the way it has dealt with all aspects of the situation — from the July 23, 2013, discovering of Karen Shahan’s body to the 53-year-old Richard Shahan being arrested and charged for his wife’s murder to the recent report of a potential homosexual relationship.

“The church has responded as maturely and wholesomely and supportedly as they could in a very, very, very delicate situation,” Carter said. “The Scripture admonition is to ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens ... ’ and we’ve tried to do that. We have failed in places and times, but I think ... by and large the church has been supportive.

“The church has done everything they could to provide spiritually the kind of support Richard and his 86-year-old mother, Louise (also a member of First, Birmingham) needed,” he said. 

At the same time Carter and other staff members are working to keep the church from becoming “obsessed” with the situation.

A church meeting was held Jan. 19 to discuss the situation, inform the congregation of counseling opportunities for members and encourage the fellowship.

“We are so traumatized by all these unforeseen developments and it may not be over yet, we don’t know, but ... we must renew ourselves to being the church — to engage in missions and evangelism and discipleship and teaching,” Carter said. “We must get back to letting the church be the church.”

Shahan is currently under house arrest at his mother’s home in Homewood. He was released on $100,000 bond Jan. 16 and is only allowed outings for medical, attorney or court appointments.

During the bond hearing, prosecuting attorneys said more than 3,000 emails were found indicating Shahan was planning to leave the United States and never return. The emails reportedly contained details about his plan to “begin a new life with his boyfriend.”

Homeland Security ICE agents arrested him at the Nashville International Airport on Jan. 1 when he tried to board a flight to Berlin, Germany. From there, the prosecutors believe his plans were to fly to Kazakhstan, eventually moving to the United Kingdom.

But Richard Shahan, who was put on administrative leave from First, Birmingham, in August 2013, had announced his plans to serve for three years with Bible Mission International (BMI) before he resigned from the church effective Dec. 31, 2013. The church held a commissioning service for him Dec. 29 and had agreed to help support his new missions endeavor financially through BMI.  

A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 5 to determine if the case will go to the Jefferson County Grand Jury. (Jennifer Davis Rash and Neisha Fuson) 

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