Mar 28, 2006

Matthew Winkler: 1975 - 2006


Left: Mourners gathering at a visitation service Monday night

(Selmer, TN) In a few short hours the body of Matthew Winkler will be laid to rest at the Shackleford Funeral Home in this small Tennesee town.

The visitation service last night drew an estimated 300 people to the funeral home.

Black bows adorned the doors of Selmer's Fourth Street Church of Christ, the congregation that Matthew Winkler led for just over a year. Some of the faithful worked throught the night to prepare the church for today's funeral.

Billy R. Smith, dean of the School of Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, recalled Matthew Winkler as a student and a preacher.

"I never saw Matthew when he was not happy and excited about his life, but especially about his wife and family," he said. "Matthew was being very effective in his work (at Fourth Street) and had made a lot of new friends."

Matthew Winkler's burial will be in Huntingdon, Tennessee, the hometown of his mother and father.

There is no word yet if Mary Winkler will be allowed to pay her last respects to her late husband.


Anonymous said...

May Matthew forever rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Is it known yet what psychiatric drugs she had been prescribed?

historymike said...

At this point I have seen no conclusive reports that Mary Winkler took medications of any kind.

Anyone who asserts this is engaging in speculation.

Given the fundamentalist bent of the decentralized Church of Christ congrgations, and their belief in the primacy of strict reliance upon the Bible as the Last Word in how to live one's life, I would suspect that Mary Winkler would have been raised in an environment that would look skeptically at the use of psychotropic drugs.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone checked into the possibility of the influence of prescribed psychiatric drugs in this case?

Anonymous said...

Think again. I am a member of that church. Most of the women in our congregation, who would not touch a drop of alchohol, trust the doctors and take these prescriptions. It makes for some very "interesting" and out of character behavior.

Anonymous said...

but you are right, it is only speculation so far. However it is being discovered that many of these cases that people just can't figure out, are a result of these drugs.

Anonymous said...

No one really knows what went on in that house. Medication or no medication something caused her to do this. I pray for her and her children too.

historymike said...

The problem - as I see it - is the decentralized nature of Church of Christ congregations.

Individual ministers carry more authority than typical Protestant or Cathollic denominations, which are top-down hierarchical orgnizations.

There can be much more local interpretations of Scripture in Church of Christ settings, where there is much less of an established, traditional dogma.

Therefore minister A might frown upon the use of psychiatric medications, while minister B might be more accepting.

Anonymous said...

Having been a member of that church all my life, and my parents before me, I can almost guarantee you that most of them, even the most conservative groups, do not take a strong stand on medications, because they think that pysicians are necessary. I've never heard a sermon against psych. drugs or mind-altering medications, anti-depressents and so forth.

As for the church having a heirchy instead of local governing of each body, I doubt it has anything to do with this case.Each member in the church is guided by their own convictions regarding scripture. Some will be stronger than others, depending on their personal study and their relationship with God. This is not dictated to them by the local body. Everyone is loved and accepted in the state they are in, spiritually and encouraged to study and grow.

I'm a preacher's wife of 35 years, by the way.

I don't think the method of church government would make a difference in understanding a case like this, unless you saw masses of members of that church doing the same thing, for no apparent reason.

historymike said...

Fair enough, anonymous. My experience with the more fundamental faiths - in general - is that there is less of a willingness to seek psychiatric/psychological solutions to problems, and a greater reliance upon the spiritual.

Anonymous said...

The press seemed to busy itself right away casting doubts and suspicion about the church and its beliefs, maybe subtly connecting it to Mary's behavior... As if having no centralized headquarters might have been the problem. They planted that idea in our minds from the beginning, along with other things about the church.

I am familiar with the religious groups that don't believe in taking any pills or going to doctors. However we believe the bible supports seeking the help of doctors. It is just that members have not been alert for many years about the side effects of the new psych. drugs, and assume that the doctors know more about it. Medicine has taken a course away from the mere healing of the body or the mending of a broken arm, towards the healing of the mind. Many people I know have gone to the doctor for a pain and when asked if they ever get depressed, would be also prescribed a psych. drug. I've seen some interesting results of this. People you've known for years, and wouldn't even suspect would do such things, will do the most peculiar things, apparently without conscience or any inhibition.

Still, as you say, there is no evidence being brought forth yet about this, and it remains speculation. (Just as the press is speculating their particular theories)

Anonymous said...

As to historymike's comment about the authority that Church of Christ ministers have--the power is not in the minister, it is in the elders who are given charge in the Bible to have oversight over the flock, or the congregation.

As to comments about whether or not someone of the Church of Christ would take psychtropic drugs, I believe that is a choice of the individual and that the church would not be involved in telling a member whether he should or should not take drugs prescribed by a physician.

Anonymous said...

Continuing on my post just above about the elders having authority, here's a scripture reference:

1 Peter 5:1-2
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Stephanie said...

Any medication can be wrongly proscribed, by anti-depressants and psychotropic medications are supposed to be taken by people who are already experiencing emotional and/or behavioral issues. To blame the drugs seems rather off-base to me. If prescribed correctly, they help ease behavioral problems, they don't start them.

Anonymous said...

The misconceptions about churches of Christ are running amok on the 'Net.

First, most C of C folks I know--and I am one--object to being labeled "fundamentalist." Those people are the Falwell/Robertson types, and the vast majority of C of C folks I know are NOTHING like that. They believe in God, not some TV evangelist.

Secondly, the assumption that churches of Christ would be opposed to the use of psychotropic drugs and rely solely on faith to address medical issues is, well, asinine. In my city, there are physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. who are members of the Church of Christ. The Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts were written by Luke, who was a physician. I have heard thousands of lessons and sermons by C of C ministers of various stripes and I have NEVER once heard any of them say medicine or physicians were bad or unnecessary.

I concur with the poster who corrected the misinformation about ministers being in charge of congregations. Elders, presbyters, shepherds, pastors, overseers (all interchangeable) take care of that. In congregations with no elders, that's usually handled by members' business meetings.

historymike said...


I am using "fundamentalism " in the sense of a movement within American Protestantism - largely, but not exclusively, conservative evangelical Christians who, in a reaction to modernism, actively proscribe to a "fundamental" set of Christian beliefs.

Also, consider this quote:

TUPELO - After Selmer, Tenn., Church of Christ minister Matthew Winkler was killed last week and his wife charged in his death, some media outlets have labeled the church as fundamentalist. Minister Ferrell Hester said that's not necessarily an insult.

"Being called a fundamentalist is not really an insult to me," said Hester, who preaches at Antioch Church of Christ in Saltillo. "And after what happened in Selmer, the word has been used a lot."


Granted, though, that there are some people who use the term "fundamentalist" in a derogatory, ignorant fashion.

Anonymous said...

The vulnernability of the church of Christ with decentralized organization is, in my opinion (based on 51 yrs as a member)is that the occasional person misuses power and control. This can play out in different ways. One way is the "authority" of husbands over wives. A husband who is a control freak can use psychological abuse to keep their wives subordinate. I hope this was not the case with the Winkler family.

Anonymous said...

I think all should keep their opinions to themselves and let both families grieve in private. Speculation is just that, someone else's opinion. This family should have the privacy to go through this without scutiny from people who have no idea about this family. May God bless them all.

Anonymous said...

Remember folks that the word "church" describes a group of called out people,who choose to follow the teachings of Christ. The church of Christ is not a denomination,because Christ is the head of the Church, not ministers, not elders, but Christ, he founded, he died for it, and left instructions on how it should be organised, Christ have set out in his word how this is to be carried out by qualified men, who are elders,ministers, deacons. What happened to these members of this organization have nothing to do with the church of Christ. Members are required to following the teachings of Christ. Sin, and sinful behavior will be found in any group of people. Peter one of the apostle of the church of Christ, committed sin, the sin of discrimination, Paul another apostle withstood him to the face and condem his actions. Peter acknowledged his error, repented, and was restored by Christ, because Peter went on to do great things for the Lord. So you see folks, do not blame the church of Christ for the actions of a few members. We in the church are just sinners saved by the grace of the Lord. This is the Church that we can read about in the book of Acts following

Indy said...


to the contrary, individual ministers in the churches of Christ carry much less authority than the average protestant preacher. The minister is under the oversight of a group of elders. The minister does not make decisions. As far as psychiatric drugs are concerned, there is nothing in the Bible that would forbid their use. Therefore, an eldership would have no authority to prohibit their use.

Anonymous said...

I was reared in that church. It is a very conservative church. I am a conservative person, but am no longer a member of that church. They are good people, generally, way to judgmental, and that could have been part of the problem. She could easily have thought that divorce was snot a possibility. Additionally, it has to be some type of insantiy, or, some type of child abuse.

Anonymous said...

the church claims not to be a denomination, but they very much are a denomination. They believe you will burn in hell unless you are not only baptized, but baptized in the right frame of mind!! Additionally, they do not believe in instruments in the church, quite an irrational and radical thought. This is Campbellism at its worst.

Kathi said...

This is just so sad on so many different levels.

Anonymous said...

The Church of Christ definitely is a denomination, how can they claim it is not, everyone knows that it is, that is part of the irrational thought that may have contributed to this incident. There are so many nutty things about this group, a lot of good people, who need to make some significant changes to their rigidity that leads to incidencies like this. But let the peace of God be with these children and the parents.

Anonymous said...

There are many church of Christ colleges, but the Freedhardeman school is the most conservative of a very very conservative religion. The conservative aspects of this faith put women in a very inferior role, that never justifies criminal behavior, but it is very oppressive and the denomination should change it soon, this is only a message to them.

historymike said...


Scripture gets interpreted differently by different people. Here are some passages that could be interpreted as God's messages against the use of such man-made items as psychotropic medications:

""...If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee." Exodus 15:26

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases." Psalms 103:2-3

"For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah; because they have called thee an outcast." Jeremiah 30:17

Anonymous said...

Rigid? I doubt it. They wear the same kinds of clothing as everyone else, the women don't wear dresses like in some conservative denominations; they don't all have long hair, as is required in some conservative churches, and they aren't forbidden to work, and very few of them homeschool their children. Basically it is ordinary people who are baptised into Christ and worship God in spirit and in truth according to scripture. You cannot prove they are "rigid." The details of their lives are not dictated to, and they are free to choose right from wrong. It is interesting that in the reviews of people who have shot their husbands or wives, or killed their children, that religion is to blame when the religious people do it, but other things are to blame when non-religious people do it. There is probably a common cause that we don't know yet, having nothing to do with religion.

Anonymous said...

In response to the "control freak" husbands--this can happen in non-religious families as well. I do wonder at the speculation of the press to put blame on the church of Christ and their beliefs, rather than look for other causes. If it is the church's fault, then what about people who do things like this, who are not religious?

historymike said...

Agreed, anonymous. Control freaks occur in every gender and among religious and non-religious people alike.

Anonymous said...

A couple of observations:

Freed-Hardeman is NOT the most conservative of colleges associated with churches of Christ. I submit that Tennessee Bible College in Cookeville, TN, a very small but accredited college, is far to the right of FHU and many others. Its leadership is way out there. And yes, there are SOME congregations that are very strict on a lot of issues, but they by no means are representative of the entire fellowship. Church of Christ members are not monolithic and to assume such is at best, naive, and at worst, asinine.

Also, the Primitive Baptist and Greek Orthodox churches do not use instrumental music in their worship services, nor do quite a few independent-type churches. So churches of Christ are far from alone in that regard.

As for the entire church being "nutty," that's absurd. There are members of churches of Christ who may indeed be a bit nutty, but the same of true of every religious group out there.

Some of the folks posting this misinformation should get out in the real world more often.

Anonymous said...

Are you allowed to have women church leaders in C of C? Elders? Deacons? Ministers? Or just like Islamic faith, just a good ole boy club? Too many similarities for me. Many of the people I know in that church are not nuts, but they like the ones who are continue to run it. You haven't even dealt with the cannonization of the Bible issue either. And that thief on the Cross with Jesus who was not Baptized??? The Lord said, today you will be with me in Paradise, was he right or wrong? Is the word dispensation mentioned anywhere in the Bible? Time to change a bit and this very regretful event is a sign to begin a move in that direction for the C of C.

Anonymous said...

I would not be comparing my religion to the Primitive Baptist if I were you. They make women sit on one side of the church and men on the other. That sounds like something that would happen in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Sephardic Jewish congregations also separate men and women.

Personally, I don't see why anyone cares one way or another if a church uses a piano or not. And it's irrelevant to this case.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous poster who asks (somewhat beligerantly) if women are allowed to have leadership roles as elders and deacons in congregations who consider themselves, "churches of Christ," I would like to offer these thoughts...

Every group of Christian believers is filled with individuals who have looked at scriptures and arrived at a concensus of what God requires of mankind, both on a personal level and an "organizational" level. Some take scripture very literally and see no room for interpretation, and others stretch to interpret things so that whatever they want to do won't be considered "sin" in their own minds. And the doctrine people arrive at runs the gamut.

I would assert to you that quite simply, those in the loosely-connected people who are considered to be members of churches of Christ take the passages written by Timothy about the selection of elders and deacons literally. Specifically, it is said that an elder must be "the husband of one wife." Interpreted literally, it eliminates the "rightness" of a scenario whereby a woman is an elder, because an a woman can't be a husband... KWIM?

There *are* some churches of Christ that have deaconesses, as they are referenced in the Bible, despite the fact that there are no direct commands regarding their selection criteria.

I would submit to you this: If a church - ANY church, of any stripe - considers something to have been an edict of God, it is not something they would consider changing to "get with the times." A church is apt to believe God is timeless, and that some things perceived to be requirements of God are not to be changed simply because *culture* or even the interpretations others have arrived at have changed.

Before you label anyone in any denomination or religous body as in need of "getting with the times," please consider that their allegience is not to *your* perceptions of what is important, but rather their own consciences in regards to that which they believe *God* wants from them. As our mothers used to say, "Just because everyone else is doing it does this make it right?" Sometimes, everyone else *is* right, and sometimes they're wrong. But in matters of faith, I cannot condone judging any group of people who are earnestly attempting to obey the will of God as they perceive it to be given.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
historymike said...

Spam deleted. No one wants to know about your money-making scam.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion.... There are many good resources for learning more about religious groups. Sites such as this one are good for voicing opinions and venting biases, but perhaps here is not the best and most reliable place to learn about the facts and details of any religion. And, oh yeah, may God be with the Winkler family during their time of need. (Anonymous in Florida)

Anonymous said...

Matthew and Mary, tragic end to a good relationship. I knew both before they were together. May Matt rest in peace and may everyone else stop the rumors. It doesn't affect your lives why this happened, stop speculating!!!

Anonymous said...

I have read with interest and concern all the reports and many bloggings concerning Mary Winkler, the murder, and the Churches of Christ. I pray for the children and for all involved.

I do have these comments. Much has been written concerning the forgiving attitude of the church members toward Mary. I do wonder, however, if the church members would as readily forgive Mary if she were not "one of their own"? It has been my experience with co-workers, friends, and a sister-in-law who are members of the non-instrumental Church of Christ that they will forgive one of their own of even murder but will tell me I am going to hell since I am a member of another church. I have even been told that I will experience "the hottest part of hell" because I play the piano at my church and have for 40 years as they are against instrumental music in their worship services.

I know that I am a Christian despite what these people think or tell me. But it completely baffles me that they can judge me so.

I read the Bible and know what I believe and why. I have been told by various Church of Christ members that they condemn instrumental use in worship as it is not specifically commanded in the Bible and they do nothing that is not commanded. But I have visited at their churches and seen a pitch-pipe used during worship. I have read the Bible since I was a child and have never seen a reference to using a pitch-pipe. Nor have I seen commandments to use offering plates, song books, pews, etc., etc. which they have no problem using in worship. That is where their beliefs fall apart in my mind. I gladly give them respect for their beliefs but expect the same for mine.

When I was in high school, a Church of Christ member and classmate would ask me every Monday morning if I played the piano the day before at church. When I would reply "Yes", she would tell me each week how I was going to hell.

Then when she was to be married, she called and asked me not only to play for her church wedding but also to borrow my parents' piano to use in the ceremony.

I told her I would have to get back to her. I said to Mama, "How can she ask me to do that when she told me week after week how sinful I was for playing at church?"

I'll never forget Mama's answer. She said, "We'll show her we're bigger people than that. Tell her we'll let them borrow the piano and you will play for her. Perhaps God can use that to help her understand what Christian love really is like."

Since they didn't consider her wedding a "worship service", it was o.k. in their eyes to have the piano there. Funny...when I am in God's house and honoring Him, I am worshiping no matter if it is a formal service or not.

I just needed to get this off my chest. I am sure it will spark debate or even denouncement of me, but after all these years of hearing such incriminations, I should be used to it. Perhaps these thoughts will help someone. I hope so; this is why I write them.

I will not tell another believing person who is trying to follow God's teachings that they are going to hell. Thank goodness God is more merciful than many church members.

Whether such attitudes had anything to do with Mary Winkler's state of mind on the day she allegedly shot her husband, I certainly don't know and may never know. But it has sparked a great deal of thinking and reflecting on the part of many, I believe.

BCOS1 said...

Anon, as a coCer, I can tell you that I think it's very unfortunate that you were treated that way. What I'm rather certain of is that that girl was parroting whatever her parents said, which may or may not've been what others in her local church believed.

What's interesting to me is that I sort of had the opposite thing going on as a kid. I was the sole coCer in my grade (small town of about 1,000 in OK) and while I felt fine about my belief system, I lacked social confidence, so when confronted with a religious difference between myself and others, it would never, ever have occurred to me to be accusatory like your friend was, ever. I was not bold enough to explain why we did something that seemed so controversial.

I remember very, very vividly sitting in our 5th grade classroom before school, and three of my Baptist classmates (the Baptists kinda ran the roost) stormed up to me and said, "You think you're the only one in here goin' to heaven." I have absolutely no idea what precipitated it. Perhaps their Baptist minister had had a sermon on beliefs of different churches. My own parents didn't hold that position, but I'm sure some in my church did.

Then one of them said, "How come you think I'm goin' to hell for having a piano at church? How come you don't have any music in your church?"

These were three "popular" girls, and I was quaking in my boots. I knew why we *did* things in the coC, but I hadn't pondered whether by definition our "mandates" eliminated others from heaven. I just knew that we didn't use a piano because there weren't any NT examples of instuments.

So, in my pipsqueaky little voice, I said, "We do have music. We just don't have a piano 'cause there aren't any instruments in the New Testament."

One of them said, "That's stupid. Yes there are. David played a harp!"

I said, "That's in the Old Testament, though, and we read the OT because it tells the history of Jesus' earthly family, but we don't obey it because we aren't Jewish. We just do the New Testament."

She said, "Well that's stupid. You can't say you believe in the Bible if you are only going to obey half of it and then tell ME I'm the one going to hell."

So basically... they had heard someone at their church telling what coC beliefs where, and while some of them may've been true for *some* coCer's, they weren't true across the board, and I honestly was quaking in my boots to be so aggressively, hostily put in my place like that when I'd not even brought it up.

Not to mention the fact that this person accusing me of being Bible-stupid didn't know that David was in the OT, and I'm sure didn't follow the OT herself, either... unless she was having some secret Passover feast I didn't know about. lol

Regardless, with your friend from HS, I have to just presume she hadn't thought for herself, and that she was just repeating the family line. I can tell you that is *not* something you'd hear across the board in the coC, which is just another example of non-denominationalism. There is no "Official Company Line" on that point... only personal opinions... and some of them are quite rigid and based in them having made tradition law, rather than an honest assessment of scripture.

Anonymous said...

For the poster on 4/02 the "House of God" is not is not a holy place. It is simply a convenient place for God's Temple, which is the Church, which is the gathering of the saints to meet. There is no religious implication put on a building.
Also, no one has the right to judge another person that right is God's. It is not up to us who is going to heaven or hell.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bcos1, for your kindly written post in reply to mine. I appreciate your taking the time to write that in response to what I shared. I, too, am sorry that you had an unfortunate experience with the girls who were accusing you of things you did not say nor believe.

My best to you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Anonymous, I do realize that the building does not constitute the church - it is the people who make up that body. But thank you for pointing that out.

My best to you, too.

Anonymous said...

Shot in the back!

What had he been up to?

Anonymous said...

Heres a man that had the chance to live his dream, and that he did. He was well liked, by the congregation that he served, had a beautiful family, warm loving friends, and just like that he was snuffed out. We wont know for along time to come just what those reasons were, for his wife to supposeably, have done this horrible crime. I cannot help but wonder, if some of the members of that congregation might be involved. Something said out of context, misconstrewed, ( calling upon his spiritual guidance, taking him away from his immediate family, to tend to matters that could have waited. All can be contributing factors when this unfolds.

Anonymous said...

I have had some contact with Church of Christ people in college. Everyone was very nice. It seems to me that the church wants to earnestly seek God's formula to the right kind of church, and use some inductive reasoning to come up with guidelines and rules by looking at the first new testament churches referenced in the Bible. I think that the church that formed in the church of Acts was a product of its time, and that a lot of things done were necessary due to the way things were. I believe the groups were very small and informal, and that many members were very poor. I don't agree with some of the guidelines, but I never heard any of them tell me I was going to hell because I didn't follow those rules. The way they explained the musical instrument thing to me was that it wasn't in the new testament, and so they didn't use them. They also said that there was nothing wrong with musical instruments, it's just that there is a difference between entertainment and praise, and that they wanted to avoid getting caught up in the entertainment value of music and focus on God. I think a person can worship using these guidelines, and if done in good faith, they are doing good. I think if you worship using other guidelines, and if done in good faith, you are also doing well. The only true rules are those laid out in the Bible directly.