17 March 2008

Former Duke Chaplain, Will Willimon, on the Death Penalty

On his blog, "A Peculiar Prophet," Bishop Will Willimon (formerly Duke University Chaplain) discusses the Death Penalty, some very interesting food for thought on this issue. Can one be a Christian and be in favor of the death penalty? Of course there are those who identify as Christian and are in favor of the death penalty, but how well have we explored the question of the compatibility (or incompatibility) of being in favor of the death penalty and worshiping Jesus Christ?

From Will Willimon:


On Monday, March 31, come hear Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, speak at Highlands United Methodist Church, Birmingham at 7 p.m.

There may be sound arguments in favor of the Death Penalty. Unfortunately for us Christians, none of these arguments can be made on biblical or Christian theological grounds. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church oppose capital punishment. That provision states as follows:

The Death Penalty
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

- From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church--2004.

Based on statistics from the Bureau of Justice, Alabama leads the nation in the rate of new death sentences for the past five years. With a population of 4.5 million people, Alabama imposed 13 new death sentences, greater than the 11 imposed in Texas with a population of 23.5 million.

Senator Hank Sanders from Selma has regularly introduced a bill in the Alabama Legislature for a number of years seeking to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. It has had no success thus far. It has been introduced again this year.

United Methodist, Bill Clark (member of Highlands UMC) has recently presented a resolution to the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association which calls for a joint resolution of the Governor and the Legislature to direct a study of the death penalty process with a moratorium being declared during that study.

I invite you to join us on March 31 in thinking about and praying for the issue of the Death Penalty in Alabama.

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