Satanists arrested on suspicion
of arson in Ala. church burnings
By Grace Thornton
PHENIX CITY, Ala. (ABP)—Two professed Satanists have been charged with a recent series of arsons at Baptist and Methodist churches in rural eastern Alabama.
The men—both age 21—allegedly set fires at Woodland Baptist Church in Phenix City, Greater Peace and Goodwill African Methodist Episcopal Church in Crawford and Greater Bethelpore Baptist Church in Smiths Station.
Authorities have not arrested the person they say set fire Jan. 12 to Providence Baptist Church in Alabama’s rural Chilton County. The blaze destroyed the church’s fellowship hall, education space and office.
“The officials say they have gotten some really good fingerprints, footprints and tire prints,” said Allen Foster, the pastor of Providence Baptist. The church’s sanctuary— located just feet from the charred remains of neighboring buildings—suffered some vandalism but remains standing.
Providence Baptist is the second church in Chilton Baptist Association to burn in recent weeks. Its sister congregation, Maple Springs Baptist Church in Clanton, burned Dec. 29.
The pastor of Maple Springs, Roland Davis, said Jan. 11 that his church is still awaiting word from the state fire marshal on the fire’s cause. But after the Providence Baptist fire, the Birmingham News reported that a fire marshal spokesperson called the cause “unknown, but suspicious.” Both church fires happened after 3 a.m.
“We’re just thankful no one was hurt and that we have a place to go home to,” Foster said, speaking of the church’s relatively undamaged sanctuary. He added, “We hope if we can get the burned part cleaned up and get the water fixed up to the sanctuary we can meet in our own facilities next week.”
The Providence congregation, emotional but in good spirits, met for services Jan. 13 a couple of miles down the road in a facility lent to them by Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham.
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions provided both churches—as well as the Phenix City congregation—checks from a disaster-relief fund.
For now, Maple Springs Baptist’s congregation is meeting in the old sanctuary of nearby Samaria Baptist Church. A building committee has already been chosen so the church can rebuild, Davis said.
Providence Baptist plans to do the same soon, Foster said.
“We’ve got lots of decisions to make, but we’re going to make them as a family,” he told the congregation Jan. 13. “We’re going to get through this thing. It’s bigger than you and I but not bigger than the God we serve. It felt like a death, didn’t it? But it wasn’t. The church is still alive.”
The fires happened nearly two years after three young men made national news by burning nine Baptist churches in western Alabama.