On May 24, a blog post by Bishop Bill McAlilly, bishop of the Nashville Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, set off a wave of activity as he raised his concerns about the reinstatement of the electric chair in Tennessee.
Bishop McAlilly cited scriptural evidence from John’s gospel (Jn 8. 1-11), where Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery and offers his position on capital punishment. Further, McAlilly reminded Methodists of their official denominational position against the death penalty, as detailed in the Book of Discipline, and he summarized his overall stance, thusly: “The problem with the death penalty is not whether lethal injection or the electric chair is more or less cruel. The problem is that it ignores the sacred worth of all human beings, and suggests that there are people unable and unworthy of redemption.” Bishop McAlilly concluded with a charge, adding, “I urge the people called United Methodist across the state to be in contact with their elected leaders to express our church’s opposition to the death penalty.”
Three days later, nearly seventy United Methodist clergy from West Tennessee and Nashville gathered at legislative plaza for a time of worship, including singing, prayers, silence, and a brief homily. The rather impromptu gathering has sparked plans for more worship services, deeper engagement with elected officials, and potentially a resurgent showing of Tennessee clergy willing to publicly challenge death penalty policies.
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