Episcopal leaders step up fight against death penalty

Episcopal News Service reports that long-held opposition to the death penalty on the part of Episcopal leaders is gaining traction as more states move to abolish capital punishment:

The Episcopal Church officially has opposed the death penalty for more than half a century, and its advocacy is gaining traction as momentum builds across the country to end capital punishment. Bishops and other church leaders are writing letters, joining coalitions, testifying before legislators and publicly demonstrating their opposition to the death penalty.

The Church first passed a resolution against capital punishment in 1958, and that has been reaffirmed by multiple conventions since then. Read story here.

Comments (8)

My concern is this. One of the key arguments is that the death penalty is misapplied in practice. It's disproportionately applied to African Americans. There are numerous, and chilling, miscarriages of justice. These facts are true of the rest of the criminal justice system as well.

If the death penalty is abolished and nothing is done about equity and accuracy, then I would argue that the criminal justice system would have been made only marginally better. If we vastly improved equity and accuracy, then I could frankly live with the death penalty.

I don't necessarily think it'll be a binary choice, but there is much work to be done on equity and accuracy apart from the death penalty.

This question occurred to me because of conversation on this blog and elsewhere recently: is this an example of the effectiveness of General Convention passing resolutions? Or do those resolutions not have any bearing on the current effort in Connecticut and elsewhere?


Hi Jesse, I would say it's a clear example of the effectiveness of GC passing resolutions -- as they are taken up and used throughout the church.

General Convention has felt strongly enough to pass these resolutions consistently over many decades, even while the political winds have shifted against and for the death penalty. Our Office of Government Relations therefore has a powerful mandate to work on this issue, sign letters, endorse campaigns, and join coalitions. The Episcopal Public Policy Network has the same mandate to lift this concern up to the wider church and encourage prayer, advocacy and action.

All of us from bishops to laypeople who are active in this issue, whether in public statements, demonstrations, ballot measure precinct-walking, letter-writing, etc., can say, with assurance, that our church has spoken on this issue. We speak with that force and moral authority behind us.

This is also an issue where we can join forces with other churches and faith groups to amplify our voice. There will be a measure on the ballot in California in November to abolish the death penalty--first time we have tried this in a long time. A major behind-the-scenes strategist of this campaign is an Episcopalian. She's working closely with Roman Catholic bishops and dioceses all up and down the San Joaquin Valley (traditionally considered a conservative part of our state, not left-coastish at all) to mobilize voters to support this measure. That's even though she would find herself on the opposite side of other issues from most of these RC bishops (women's issues, LGBT). I expect there will be statements, even joint statements issued by religious leaders from many faith traditions joining in one voice to urge passage.

If we vastly improved equity and accuracy, then I could frankly live with the death penalty.

Well I couldn't.

There are issues of equity and "miscarriages of justice" that lead to the commission of crimes---to say nothing of their prosecution. Even of the GUILTY of horrible crimes, I say, "there but for the grace of God go I".

We ALL need God's Mercy and, modeling ourselves on Christ ("Father, forgive them"), we should offer mercy of our own.

JC Fisher

This is simply bizzare. How can we say that we are opposed to the judicial death of convicted murderers and rapists (I am strongly against the death penalty by the way) but advocate for the elective death of the most innocent among us, the unborn?

Wherefore art thou consistency?

Well, Jason, I find it "simply bizarre" that anyone can equate a sentient human being (regardless of criminal status), w/ a non-sentient embryo (first trimester, of which the only truly "elective" abortions occur).

So there we are: mutual incomprehensibility between us, I guess.

Lord, grant us More Light!

JC Fisher

And, FWIW Jason, I don't "advocate for elective death", I---and TEC via General Convention---only advocate for the RIGHT TO CHOOSE. But I suspect you know that.

JC Fisher

What JC Fisher said.

Also, abortion is an individual choice--which, given that it affects an individual woman, is as it should be.

The death penalty is done by the state, however--which means it is done in my name. No thank you.

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