The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville congregation also has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
Karen Massey, a neighbor to Adkisson, told the Knoxville News Sentinel about a lengthy conversation she had with Adkisson a few years ago in which she told him her daughter had just graduated from a Bible college. She said she was surprised by his reaction when she told him she was a Christian.
"He almost turned angry," she told the newspaper. "He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it." She also said Adkisson spoke frequently about his parents, who "made him go to church all his life. … He acted like he was forced to do that."
The shooting instantly created heroes inside the crowded church.
Greg McKendry, 60, died as he attempted to block the gunfire. Kemper described the burly McKendry as "a refrigerator with a head." She said McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."
Church members said one of the people who tackled the gunman was John Bohstedt, who played "Daddy Warbucks" in the performance.
A second victim was identified as Linda Kraeger, 61. She died at a hospital hours later. Five of the wounded remained hospitalized.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report