What would you do? Local faith leaders discuss church member charged in murder

Hartford County Sheriff’s Office via AP Alexander Kinyua. Kinyua Though members of Baltimore’s Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church are shocked at … Continued

Hartford County Sheriff’s Office

via AP

Alexander Kinyua. Kinyua

Though members of Baltimore’s Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church are shocked at murder and cannibalism allegations against fellow church member Alexander Kinyua, they still plan to offer Kinyua and his family their support.

“We’re going to stand with the family,” Faith Evangelical Pastor Eric T. Campbell said outside his church Sunday. “We’re going to support the family, and Alex, too.”

Kinyua, of Harford County, Md., was charged last week in the killing of his roommate, Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, and has also confessed to eating some of his victims’ organs.

Some contributors to The Washington Post’s local faith leader network were asked what they’d do if they faced a similar situation with a congregant.

From the Rev. Tom Knoll, pastor at
First Trinity Lutheran Church
in the District.

“First, according to our system of justice we are innocent until proven guilty. That being said, I can understand why the church stands by the family and the young man accused.  Given the nature of the crime this situation strongly indicates that psychology counseling is also desperately needed here.  This is one thing that the church could advocate for in this case. 

“Second, Jesus taught that despite our sin there is always forgiveness.  Matthew 18:21-22 indicates that forgiveness as Jesus describes it is unlimited.  This does not mean that those committing a crime should go unpunished.  Christians believe that it is the right and duty of the state to provide laws and carry out appropriate justice when those laws are broken.  Nevertheless spiritual support should be given to all no matter what the situation or how gruesome the crime.”

From Bill Haley, pastor, the Falls Church Anglican and director of formation at the Washington Institute:

“In the Christian faith, offering forgiveness is not only commanded, it is also the most Christ-like thing we can do.  ‘Father, forgive them,’ Jesus said.  But to forgive is very hard, for to forgive requires that something valuable has  been taken from us.   However, when we do this hard work, and sometimes it takes seventy-times-seven conscientious acts of the will to forgive, both the offended and the offender can find liberation.”

In response to a shooting that claimed two lives last month at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Md., the Rev. Eugene Sutton Taylor, bishop of the Maryland Episcopal Church, also wrote about the idea of forgiveness.

“The words and actions of Jesus Christ that demand of his followers the power of forgiveness.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

“It doesn’t get much more direct from Jesus than that.”

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  • sjgl8032

    A pity there are so few comments on such a timely topic as the need for forgiveness in a society that appears determined to render judgment.

  • Ilisidi

    All this is very well and good, but in order to be forgiven one must be truly repentant (not just saying “I’m sorry” to get out of trouble). Has this person done that?

  • splank1

    @sjgl8032: The comments sections of this and other (on-line) newspapers are often vulgar, tongue-in-cheek, and/or taking the least charitable path. Maybe relative silence means people are taking a quiet, serious moment to reflect. If that’s what’s going on, we can be happy.

  • lgaide

    Rev. Knoll makes the same mistake most people make when quoting “innocent until proven guilty.”. He leaves out an important word – presumed. The accused could be guilty beyond ANY doubt, but our system if justice is required to PRESUME he is innocent until he is convicted in a court of law. Even if he is found “not guilty”, that does not mean that he did not commit the crime. It just means that he was not convicted through lack of evidence, poor work by the prosecuter or even jury nullification (letting a guilty person go free).

  • vzepijdu

    Having buried a teenager in the 90s, I know how devastating murder is to the victim’s family. The murderer’s family is also devasted. I replied “yes” above because I would allow that family their needed reprieve. As far as the offender, I have struggled with that for years. I’ll let the police, courts, and God be the ones passing judgement and I will move on and try to be as good as I can for my family and community.

  • dcrswm

    He is still a person with a family, there is still suffering on both sides of this. Do what you need to do…..

  • prariegurl

    I would pray for him and his family, but would do nothing to try to shield him from the consequences of his actions.

  • chowlett1

    I’m in doubt about what I would really do faced with such a grotesque crime, admitted to by the culprit. I would certainly want to support his family, but unless I knew him quite well I don’t know what support I could offer besides prayer. He seems far beyond any practical help I could offer. I do know there are such things as false confessions, but there are such a mountain of details backing it.

  • shirl12309

    Regardless, even if he is guiltylwe must forgive him if we want to be forgiven. We are all guilty of something. Though this crime is horrific it is no less condemming than a liar, thief, fornicator or adulterer.

  • theFSM

    I disagree. I would argue that cannibalism deserves a harsher punishment than lying or stealing. However, I understand that Christians worship a God who demands human sacrifice (Jesus), and thus is desensitized to violence.

  • SODDI

    But yet they won’t let a gay couple get married.

  • GALOSTinDC

    If Gd is Gd of us all, then S/he is both accustomed to violence and still touched by it.