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Facebook rant causes church to evacuate

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By Patrick Yost, Editor

A threatening message left on the Centennial Baptist Church Facebook page had police officers scrambling and church officials shutting down services last Sunday. According to a Morgan County Sheriff’s Office report, Centennial Baptist Pastor Michael Stovall alerted authorities that a man had left a message stating “If you decide to got to church this morning, avoid Centennial Baptist in Rutledge/Madison, G. Details on why coming soon. Stay tuned…” According to an email sent to church members by Pastor Stovall, the church “determined that the only way to guarantee the security of the campus was to conduct a sweep of the entire campus. This would require full evacuation. Church leadership decided to act on the side of caution and cancel services to provide law enforcement with the time, room and support to secure the campus and investigate the threat. From this point I addressed the congregation and dismissed everyone. According to Capt. Chris Bish, Investigations Division, officers located the man who made the threat at a Loganville residence. Bish said the man was apologetic and had made the remarks in response to “church members spreading falsehoods,” the man said. Bish said the man had, last year, been employed by a church member and had been dismissed from his job and was bitter about the dismissal. However, the man was not arrested. “There’s been no violation of the law,” Bish said. “There was nothing indicative of an overt act of violence. He was apologetic of letting his emotions get the best of him.” Bish said officers searched the man’s residence and found nothing. Pastor Stovall reminded members that “at no time was there an active situation on campus. We were dealing with a publicly declared threat and we were working to avoid an active situation,” he wrote in the email. The church was searched by law enforcement officials and church members and was to be re–opened on Monday. “I apologize for any confusion that may have been created for you and your facility this morning,” Pastor Stovall wrote. “Please know that I love you and am committed to serving to lead and protect the precious flock at Centennial.”

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