By Bob Allen
An Alabama Baptist minister questioned this summer in connection with his wife’s unsolved murder has plans to move overseas.
Richard Shahan, placed on administrative leave as children’s minister at First Baptist Church of Birmingham, Ala., after his wife’s body was found inside their home July 23, is planning to do three years of mission work in Germany, according to newsletters and prayer cards obtained by a local television station.
ABC 33/40 in Birmingham said Shahan is asking for missions support and believes his wife, Karen, would have wanted him to continue his ministry.
Shahan, who joined the First Baptist Church in Birmingham staff in 2009, reportedly plans to work with Bible Mission International, an organization formed in 1984 to evangelize in the former Soviet Union.
Shahan worked with a BMI translator during two mission trips to Kazakhstan in 2012, according to a back issue of the FBC newsletter. The translator, Luba Kudratoval, also worked with Shahan to translate Sunday school curriculum he wrote into Russian for use by the Baptist Union of Kazakhstan, according to a newsletter article announcing her upcoming visit to the Birmingham congregation in May 2013.
Shahan’s online biography says he spent the 2012-2013 school year as a visiting professor at the Bible Institute in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a provider of theological education for churches located in Central Asian Islamic states started with support from the Baptist Union of Kazakhstan in 1992.
Shahan’s new plan is to work with Bible Mission International’s location in Germany, developing Bible curriculum for Russian-speaking children, preparing programs and leading training workshops for teachers and parents. In the letter, he sought prayer as well as financial support to fund his work overseas.
Shahan declined to talk about his mission trip on camera, telling ABC 33/40 he wanted to remain private.
In August, the Homewood Police Department held Shahan in jail for questioning for 48 hours, the maximum period that police can legally hold a person of interest for “investigative purposes.” Shahan told police he was out of town visiting one of the couple’s two sons when his wife’s body was discovered during a welfare check requested when she didn’t show up for work.
The case is unsolved, but police said in September an investigation is still ongoing.
First Baptist Church put Shahan on administrative leave “to give him time and space to focus on his family and healing at this time,” according to announcements on the church’s website and Facebook page. Neither statement mentioned his questioning by police.
Shahan, 53, is a 1985 graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was licensed as a minister by South Del Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., in 1980 and ordained in 1983 by Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Shahan worked six years as minister of childhood education and then business administrator at Wedgwood, which became famous a decade later on Sept. 15, 1999, when gunman Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire during a See You at the Pole youth rally, killing seven youth and wounding seven others before ending his own life.
Shahan worked three years as associate pastor in education and family development at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas, before moving to Birmingham in 1989 as associate pastor in childhood education and family growth at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.
He stayed 10 years before moving to Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., where as associate pastor in education and administration he oversaw an $11 million budget. He taught one year as an adjunct professor at the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.
Shahan left North Carolina in 2006 to become event/travel planner at Franklin Classical School, a private Christian K-12 school in Franklin, Tenn. He worked briefly as a consultant with Kimble Knight Ministries in Brentwood, Tenn., and for his own business, OneVine, Inc., an Internet-based curriculum company that existed from 2003 until 2010.
He wrote books, curriculum and articles over 30 years for publishers including Zondervan and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The couple, which lived in a rental home owned by First Baptist, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, listing $443,350 in assets and $505,565 in liabilities, the Birmingham News reported in August.
Debts included two mortgages on their house in Tennessee totaling more than $379,000 and $116,916 in unsecured debt, most of it credit cards either jointly in their names or in Richard Shahan’s name. The couple listed $5,874 in monthly income, including a $2,516 housing allowance.
When they filed for bankruptcy Richard Shahan had been working as a minister at First Baptist Church of Birmingham for eight months and Karen Shahan had been working at Hobby Lobby for six months.
The couple listed two lawsuits they had been involved in within a year prior to filing. One was a collection lawsuit by American Express and the other was a personal injury lawsuit, Richard Shahan v. John Doe in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Tenn., that resulted in a settlement of $14,539, according to a court document.