The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church on 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 codes.
The United Methodist Church cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life. It violates our deepest belief in God as the Creator and Redeemer of humankind.
– The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 2004
2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the call by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church for an end to capital punishment in the United States. Since its initial stance, the church has not wavered in its opposition to the death penalty. In opposing executions, the United Methodist Church has repeatedly recognized that the death penalty has no demonstrated deterrent effect and that it is, therefore, in place only for retribution. The church recognizes that such vengeance is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and feels that “When another life is taken through capital punishment, the life of the victim is further devalued.” (Book of Resolutions) The Church calls on its members to take overt action to bring an end to capital punishment and guarantees the Church’s support for such efforts.
What You Can Do
- Pray for victims of crime and their families, those who have been wrongly convicted, and those on death row and their families.
- Educate people in your congregation and community about the United Methodist Church’s teachings and capital punishment. Talk to your pastor about your church’s involvement.
- Advocate by contacting your elected officials and joining together with Methodist and other religious and social justice groups.
Groups and Resources
- The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
- The Death Penalty Information Center
Death penalty facts
- Approximately 3,300 people are on death row in the US; 89 of them in Tennessee.
- Since executions were reinstated in 1977, over 130 death row inmates have been exonerated; 2 in Tennessee.
- 90% of Tennessee’s death row inmates could not afford to hire their own defense at trial.
- Inmates convicted of murdering a white person are more than 3 times as likely to be sentenced to death than those convicted of murdering an African-American.
- Capital punishment is a far more expensive system than one whose maximum punishment is life without parole, diverting resources from real crime prevention efforts.
- At least 5-10% of those on death row suffer from severe mental illness while at least 100 of those executed since 1977 suffered from some form of mental illness.
- A recent survey of former and past presidents of top U.S. academic criminological societies show that 88% of these experts reject the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.
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