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Neighbors hear ‘endless bursts’ of gunfire from new church group in Grainger County

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — Residents of Thorn Hill told WVLT News on Friday that they are still learning more about their new neighbor, Rod of Iron Ministries. The group is known nationally as World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, Inc.

It’s common to see the group worshiping with AR-15s, which has left some neighbors with questions and concerns.

“I don’t like violence in any way,” said Thorn Hill resident Leroy Shelton.

Residents said they heard endless gunfire Thursday morning from 225 acres of property purchased by Rod of Iron Ministries in Grainger County. Administrator Gregg Noll said they had already started firearms training on the property but did not use firearms unconsciously or in worship ceremonies.

A few residents told WVLT News they feared the group’s use of firearms would foster violence, while several others said they were welcome in the neighborhood as long as they were peaceful.

“We believe we are joint heirs with Christ,” Noll said. “It’s (the guns) there for symbolic, ceremonial purposes – never to be used in that kind of setting. The only time you use the firearm is at a range or in a shooting situation. life or death We are very clear about this People are overtrained at Rod of Iron Ministries.

World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, Inc. is based in Pennsylvania, but Noll said conservative Christian values ​​and the mountains of East Tennessee drew them to the area. Their goal is to turn the property into a retreat that offers a shooting range and trails to visit.

The retreat center is expected to be completed within the next five years. The public will be able to visit the property next spring.

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