Nan Ross writes for the Diocese of Atlanta:
An untold story about convicted murderer Kelly Renee Gissendaner is that she is loved and admired by many inmates and others who serve at Lee Arrendale State Prison north of Atlanta.
Gissendaner, 47, a graduate of a prison-based theology certificate program, is set to become on Monday the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945.
“Kelly has changed; she’s been transformed,” says the Rev. Cathy Zappa, a Diocese of Atlanta priest who has served as Gissendaner’s teacher, spiritual director, and chaplain for nearly four years. “Though far from perfect, she is making a positive difference in the prison and beyond.”
… One of the people in her world is internationally renowned author and professor of systematic theology Jürgen Moltmann of the University of Tübingen, Germany.
Gissandaner wrote to him after reading one of his books for her theology foundations course work. They became pen pals, and Moltmann came to visit her and spoke at the certificate program’s 2011 commencement.
“Kelly said about their correspondence that she wanted Dr. Moltmann to know how much she’d learned from him,” said Zappa. “He wrote back and said how much he’s learned from her. He sent her a handkerchief, which he said was to hold all her tears.”
The Rt. Rev. Rob Wright and 500 other leaders have signed a letter pleading for Gissendaner’s life [PDF].
Image (from left): Jürgen Moltmann, Kelly Gissendaner, and the Rev. Cathy Zappa at Gissendaner’s graduation from the theological certificate program. • Diocese of Atlanta