Grand Rapids church closes down due to threat found on "target list"

Law enforcement agencies across Michigan are reviewing possible threats to a Grand Rapids church following the discovery of a "target list." (WWMT Jared Penland)

The Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids closed its doors and canceled all services today, including its child development center, after police in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, found a "target list" involving faith communities.

The church explained the closures on its Facebook page.

Late yesterday afternoon, the Grand Rapids Police Department informed Westminster Presbyterian Church that the church was one of the faith communities listed as a “target” within a suspicious package discovered in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

Police agencies across the state, including the Grand Rapids Police Department and the FBI, are investigating the threats.

Grand Rapids Police said this afternoon that the investigation began after a man in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, found a toiletry bag in some bushes outside of a house that contained a gun and a map with some addresses circled. The map included some writing, and one of the locations circled was Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids. The circled churches were of several different denominations, police said.

"They were all places of worship but not all Christian churches no," said Lt. Patrick Merrill with the Grand Rapids Police Department. "One mosque was actually included actually also. Which is odd but they are all places of religious worship."

But Grand Rapids police said they do not believe Westminster is in immediate danger.

So, this afternoon, Westminster said that the church services will reopen Wednesday.

“We are proud to be a congregation in the heart of Grand Rapids that keeps our doors open to the community during the week,” said the Rev. Chandler Stokes, lead pastor and head of staff at the church. “We are always seeking to balance hospitality and security, and we’re grateful to the police departments in Grand Rapids and Dearborn Heights for their concern and communication with us.”

Along with the FBI, at least three police departments in targeted locations are investigating and forensic tests are being conducted on the gun and the map to try to identify one or more suspects.

Merrill said, “It has our undivided attention it doesn't just take a couple church shootings to make that happen but that definitely have heightened or concern.”

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