Pastor: Church heartbroken by murder, arrest

“Our hearts are broken,” the interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., said in a sermon the Sunday after a former minister on staff returned to Alabama to face charges of murdering his wife.

By Bob Allen

The interim pastor of an Alabama church, whose former children’s minister is in jail on charges of murdering his wife, told church members Jan. 12 to rely on their faith amid struggles.

carter charles“Not a one of us knew this time last year our church would be going through the storm it’s been through with Richard Shahan and his family,” Charles Carter, interim pastor of First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., said during his Sunday morning sermon.

Shahan, 53, who resigned recently after four years as children and families pastor and facilities director at First Baptist Church with plans to do mission work in Central Asia, was arrested Jan. 1 by Homeland Security while waiting to board a flight to Germany. He waived extradition and returned to Alabama last week to face charges that he fatally stabbed his wife, Karen Shahan, who was found dead July 23 in the home the couple rented from the church.

Carter, a former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention who has served as First Baptist’s interim pastor since October 2012, said in the midst of it all “our hearts are broken.”

“We don’t know all the answers. We don’t know all that occurred,” Carter said. “We do know this: It didn’t catch God off guard, and God has adequate resources to help us through the unexpected events of life.”

richard shahanCarter, who previously served with Shahan in the late 1980s and 1990s at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, has said that while he doesn’t know all the facts the authorities know about the case, he tends to believe Shahan is innocent. Carter disputes reports that Shahan was attempting to flee the country in order to avoid arrest, an attention-grabbing suggestion by police that continues to make headlines.

Shahan, a 1985 graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who has been on staff at prominent Southern Baptist congregations including Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., claims he was away at the time of his wife’s murder visiting the couple’s sons in Franklin, Tenn., and Fort Campbell, Ky.

In August, Shahan came in voluntarily to speak with detectives at the Homewood Police Department. Police held him 48 hours for “investigative purposes” but let him go without bringing charges. A warrant for his arrest was issued Dec. 31. Police say inconsistencies in interviews kept leading detectives back to Shahan, and he is the only suspect at this time.

Shahan is being held without bond at the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham charged with murder.

Previous stories:

Arrest affidavit says minister cut, stabbed his wife

Pastor charged with murder is on way to Alabama

Pastor murder suspect waives extradition

Interim pastor supports arrested minister

Attorney: Minister wasn’t trying to flee

Baptist minister arrested in wife’s murder

Minister held in wife’s death leaving U.S.

Minister in custody in Ala. murder

Interim pastor consoles grieving church

Doubt not a sin, says pastor to church hit by murder

Service set for slain minister’s wife

Ala. minister’s wife slain in home