Lutheran leaders in the United States have joined other church chiefs in condemning the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas - writes Cheryl Heckler.
"It is unconscionable that Dr Tiller, who was serving as an usher and welcoming people to worship, should be brutally murdered," said the Rev Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
A suspect is in custody. The Wichita-area media identified the shooter as a 51-year-old man, arrested three hours after the slaying on 31 May outside the church where Tiller worshipped.
Tiller, aged 67, ran one of only three clinics in the United States that perform late-term abortions, which are performed on foetuses that would be viable outside the mother's womb.
Late-term abortions are legal in the state of Kansas if two independent physicians agree that the mother could suffer irreparable harm by giving birth.
In a statement posted on the Reformation Lutheran Church's Web site, pastors Lowell R. Michelson and Kristin M. Neitzel said counsellors were helping members of the congregation and requested prayers for slain doctor's family.
"We pray for healing and peace to be restored. We offer our thanks for the many prayers of support from across the country," Michelson and Neitzel wrote.
Tiller's family released a statement saying he had, "dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence," reported the local KWCH TV station.
In 1986, Tiller’s clinic was bombed, seriously damaging the building. In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms outside the clinic. He recovered, and his assailant received an 11-year prison term.
Tiller once told authorities that he spent years under the protection of federal agents after the FBI discovered an anti-abortion assassination list in 1994 that listed Tiller as the top target.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]