Lately I have been in a cycle of spiritual re-awakening. I am re-embracing what it means to be Methodist. I grew up Lutheran, but was married at FUMC as I joined the Rahn Family. As a current Lay Leader of the church, I have been drawn to the Book of Discipline and how it may speak to me, and the congregation.
As many of you know I work daily in my life on social justice issues. Creating a school for high school dropouts has put me face to face with issues of poverty. I live with the poor, and it’s an honor and hardship I am blessed to be called to do. Some of my toughest moments have been with the criminal justice system. Our system is very broken. I have sat with many crying mothers as their children rely on public defenders, faced with tough sentencing laws, and little room for forgiveness. Luckily, in the many court cases I have been a part of, I have not experienced a student murdering another (only attempted). I have had to have difficult conversations about consequences, self-forgiveness, and reminding the convicted that they are children of God, no matter what.
At the top of our system of punishment is the death penalty, which affects our approach to sentencing. We are the only industrial nation that continues to have the death penalty. On Sunday, the 300th person on death row in the US was proven innocent by DNA evidence. I believe the hardest task we have as Christians is forgiveness. Forgiveness of ourselves and others. It’s the hard work we are called to do. I am proud that the United Methodist Church for over 50 years has declared its opposition to the retention and use of capital punishment and urges its abolition. In spite of a common assumption to the contrary, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” does not give justification for the imposing of the penalty of death. Jesus explicitly repudiated retaliation (Matthew 5:38-39).
The Book of Discipline (Par. 164G) states,
“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.”
I am thankful I am a Methodist. I pray for Policy change.