They're not a cult. They don't believe in "tough love." They're a church, and they are standing behind two pastors accused of murder.
Members of the Church of God in Christ emphasized those messages Wednesday as they huddled on the steps of the Wyandotte County Courthouse in Kansas City, Kan., to show support for two church leaders accused of killing their 9-year-old son.
Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock said that the boy's mouth had been taped shut and that something like a sock had been stuffed in it... The boy suffocated, Hancock said.
"Our love and our faith and our support remain strong," said Emanuel Newton, bishop of the church's jurisdiction in western Missouri. "We are supporting them even in this dark hour."
Neil and Christy Edgar, pastors of God's Creation Outreach Ministry, a Kansas City, Kan., church, are in jail and charged with the felony murder of their adopted son, Brian Edgar. The Edgars also face felony child abuse charges involving three other adopted children: two boys, ages 16 and 12, and a 9-year-old girl.
Prosecutors allege that the siblings were frequent victims of abuse that involved binding and gagging before bedtime. The three siblings are in protective custody.
A group of about 40, including two dozen church members, used song and prayer to convey much of their message.
"Let them know," Newton yelled during a prayer, his voice boosted by an amplifier. "...the good they have done, the thousands of people who have a life because of these two people.
"Thank you for them. Thank you for them. Thank you for them."
Police took Neil Edgar into custody early Monday after he brought Brian's body to KU Med in Kansas City, Kan.
Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock said that the boy's mouth had been taped shut and that something like a sock had been stuffed in it. He said there were signs that Brian had vomited and that he had been bound around the chest.
The boy suffocated, Hancock said.
Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic said Wednesday that the investigation was continuing. He asked "anybody who has anything, any information" to contact police. Meanwhile, Kansas City, Kan., detectives said they were following leads Wednesday.
Clifford A. Jackson, superintendent of the Church of God in Christ's jurisdiction in western Missouri, said he has known the Edgars for about nine years and never saw signs they abused children. He said the church does not preach the tough discipline of children.
"The Bible teaches us to bring up our children," Jackson said. "We are to teach children the principles and the standards of righteousness."
Newton added: "We don't believe in the abuse of not only children, but anyone."
Jackson could not say how many members the Kansas City, Kan., church has. The denomination, which is Pentecostal, has five churches in its western Missouri district.
Jackson castigated those who have judged the church through recent media reports.
"This church is not a cult. It's part of a national organization," he said. "It is not a cult, as some have supposed."
Newton and Jackson said the church had no plans to close the storefront congregation at 817 Central Ave.
"This will only make our church stronger," Newton said.
Jackson could not remember seeing the Edgars' children in the church, but said they must have been there. Jackson said he last spoke with Neil Edgar during a Thanksgiving service at which Edgar preached.
A man who identified himself as Tony Edgar and said he was an older brother to Neil Edgar admonished those who are rushing to judgment.
"I feel sorry for the young (boy); I feel sorry for what has happened," he said. "...If my brother is wrong, then the courts will find him."
Tony Edgar said he was unaware that his brother had adopted Brian Edgar in 2000, but then left the news conference without answering other questions about the family.
"There are some good things about the Edgars," he said. "It's not all bad."
The Star's Steve Everly and Lynn Franey contributed to this report.
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