Southern Baptist Convention offers to pay for funeral costs of Sutherland Springs shooting victims

(Reuters/Rick Wilking)Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri listen at a news conference outside the site of the shooting at his church, the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has offered to pay the funeral costs of all 26 victims of the mass shooting that took place during the Sunday service at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas.

The denomination's North American Mission Board (NAMB) made the offer to cover the funeral expenses of the families on behalf of the SBC on Monday, according to Baptist Press. The mission board also made a plea to restore the church building, which was badly damaged in the attack.

SBC President Steve Gaines and SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page had visited the church town on Tuesday to offer prayers and support for the victims' families.

"Our Southern Baptist family grieves with this beloved church and the community it serves. Our prayers are ascending steadily to God's throne of grace. May God bring healing and hope to these that are hurting," Gaines told Baptist Press.

Gaines also confirmed on Twitter that he and Page visited First Baptist Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle in the massacre.

"Just spent a few hours with @RichardsJim, @frankpagesbc with Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, here in Sutherland Springs. Godly people," he wrote.

ABC News reported that Pomeroy had told SBC's top executives about his plans to demolish the church building where the massacre took place because it would be too painful to continue using it as a place of worship.

SBC spokesman Sing Oldham said Pomeroy is hoping to turn the site into a memorial for the 26 victims and build a new church on property the church owns.

Police have disclosed that the gunman, Devin Kelley, had unleashed about 450 rounds of ammunition on the congregation. Many of his victims were children, including the unborn baby of one of the women slain.

At least 20 others were left with injuries and 11 people remain hospitalized as of Nov. 9. Seven of the injured are confined at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. The hospital noted that their conditions ranged from fair to critical but did not release additional details. Two adults and two children are confined at the University Health System in San Antonio. Doug Finley, a spokesman for the hospital, said that their conditions ranged from good to critical.

Authorities said that Kelley had died from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was pursued by two residents when he exited the church.

The gunman's father, Michael Kelley, said that his family is grieving, and added that he does not want the "media circus" surrounding the mass shooting to destroy "our lives, our grandchildren's lives."

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