Today, I’m going to touch on another hot-button issue: the death penalty. The United Methodist Church’s stance is clear:
“We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.” — The United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶164G
To this end, the Great Plains Conference has partnered with the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty (KCADP). Right now, there is a bill (HB 2129) pending that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. My understanding is that Governor Brownback has promised to sign any repeal bill that reaches his desk (he’s a devout Roman Catholic, and the Roman Catholic church, like the United Methodist Church is opposed to the death penalty). You can learn more about KCADP’s efforts and how you can participate at http://ksabolition.org.
The United Methodist Church opposes the death penalty even for the guilty (and I agree with that), but there is also the matter of those who are wrongly convicted. According to the KCADP website, “Since 1973, more than 145 people have been released from death row due to evidence of wrongful convictions.” As one who worships Jesus Christ, who was unjustly convicted and executed, I have to pay attention to that fact. The possibility of executing an innocent man or woman—an injustice that cannot be rectified—is just too great. When you add in the fact that the state is facing a budget crisis and the death penalty costs more than life in prison, I find the arguments against the death penalty overwhelming.