Monday, 23 March 2009


About 120 people were attending the evening service at Pentecostals of Sheboygan County, 621 Broadway, when the Rev. John Putnam had Jason Wilke, 26, draw and fire a steel-tipped practice arrow across the front of the church.
Putnam called it a "teaching tool."
Police call it illegal.
Wilke, of Sheboygan Falls, was cited for using a missile indoors, and Putnam was cited for aiding and abetting that ordinance violation. Both will be fined $109.
But Kohler Police Chief Bill Rutten said no criminal charges will be filed.
"Our department did not feel that it rose to the level of endangering safety," Rutten said. "Anytime with bows and arrows or firearms, there's always that chance for a malfunction to happen, but nothing did happen aside from the firing into the target, so we're thinking that an ordinance violation is appropriate in this case."
Rutten said Wilke, at Putnam's direction, stood on the far left side of the occupied front row and fired at a foam target on the right side of the stage, shooting the arrow across the congregation but slightly away from them.
"Even if their had been a malfunction, the likelihood of something bad happening (is slim)," Rutten said.
Putnam, 30, defended the illustration when contacted at his office on Thursday.
"We use props all the time for messages," he said. "It was a completely controlled, choreographed demonstration."
Not all churchgoers agreed.
One man stood up and objected as Wilke drew the compound bow, telling Putnam firing the arrow was unsafe and illegal, according to two parishioners. Putnam told the man to be quiet and sit down, which he did until Wilke drew the bow again.
The man objected a second time, after which Putnam said he asked the man to leave. Putnam said the church will seek a restraining order against the man, who he said was yelling and "causing a disruption."
The man then reported the incident to Sheboygan Falls police, who responded to the church and spoke with the pastor. The incident was turned over to the Kohler Police Department on Monday since Putnam is the former chaplain of the Sheboygan Falls Police Department.
One woman in attendance described the scene differently from Putnam, saying the man's objection was "very gentle and very respectful."
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said church leaders closed the rear doors of the church after the man left, and Wilke then fired the arrow.
"Our family was a little scared," she said. "They can easily ricochet and kill a person. That's happened."
Putnam said he was challenging churchgoers to be active in sharing their testimonies with others. He was elaborating on a passage that details spiritual "equipment" given to Christians, such as the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit and the belt of truth.
"I used the practice arrow just as the fact that an arrow by itself — your testimony by itself — is no good, so you have to have a bow, and the bow is that equipment," Putnam said. "And you have to have a target, and still with all that if you never pull it back and release it then it still does not accomplish its objective."
He said the illustration — which was practiced in the church basement before the service — endangered no one.
"Was it completely safe? Absolutely — it was completely safe," Putnam said. "If I knew it would cause this kind of problem, I certainly would have reconsidered."