When I wrote my previous blog entry describing my visit to Death Row at the Idaho Department of Correction, I was told that there were no executions planned. Since then, I have learned that an execution is scheduled to take place in Idaho on November 18. This would be the first non-voluntary execution in over 20 years. The person who is scheduled to be executed is not the person that I had the opportunity to meet and pray with when I visited Death Row. On November 18, Paul Ezra Rhoades is scheduled to die by lethal injection. This means that in both states of our Annual Conference, we have an opportunity to speak up and voice our faithful conviction that the death penalty should be abolished.
I know that this topic brings many deep feelings to the surface. There are many who believe that the Old Testament Biblical mandate for retribution, or “an eye for an eye” should be practiced. This is often the case when a heinous crime has been committed. But on the other side of the question of the death penalty is the argument that the New Testament Biblical witness of a restorative justice is what we as Christians should practice.
Our Social Principles clearly state why we oppose the death penalty and urge its elimination from all criminal codes. Although we are on one hand deeply concerned about the proliferation of criminal acts, including murder and homicide, ultimately, as we profess our faith in God who loves all persons, even sinners, “ We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.”
Here is an opportunity for you to speak your faith to the powers of the world. I encourage you to write a letter to the Governor of Oregon and the Governor of Idaho as I have, urging them to stay the executions that are imminent and to add your voice to those who are supporting legislation to eliminate the death penalty in both our states.