Officials at the church attended by the suspected gunman accused of killing eight people in three Atlanta-area massage parlors said his actions are "nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word."
The Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia, issued a statement on its website Friday where it said Robert Aaron Long, 21, was a member of the church. Officials said they were "absolutely distraught when we found out that the shooter was a member of our congregation."
"The Long family have been members of our church for many years. We watched Aaron grow up and accepted him into church membership when he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ," the church said. "These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel."
Long is charged with eight murder counts and aggravated assault in connection with the fatal shootings of eight people at three Atlanta-area spas. Six of the victims were Asian women but authorities have stressed that investigation is ongoing and have not determined a motive for the attacks, including whether they were racially motivated.
Church officials condemned Long's alleged action's as a "wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word."
"Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan," the church statement reads. "The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel."
The church stated it was in the process of removing Long from the congregation.
"We have started the process of church discipline to remove him from membership since we can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ," it said.
It also stated that Long's father never worked for the church and that it took down its social media as a safety precaution for its members. Officials stressed that the victims were not responsible for their deaths.
"In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted," the church said.