By Mennonite Church USA staff
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV)
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (NIV)
Life is sacred. Jesus’ life teaches us to love one another without retaliation and that all people are loved by God and have the capability for being redeemed. The death penalty removes the opportunity for reconciliation with God and people.
The federal government announced plans this week to reinstate the death penalty for the first time in almost 20 years. The executions of five people who have been convicted of crimes are scheduled for later this year.
We continue to stand against the death penalty as Mennonite Church USA and commit to address this issue as the United States government reinstates the death penalty for federal crimes. May God give us the courage to stand for the life and redemption given to us through Jesus rather than death and violence.
“In view of our Christian responsibility to value all human life, we are compelled to set forth our opposition to all capital punishment,” it says in our resolution on the death penalty passed by the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly in 2001. The resolution acknowledges the deep grief of those impacted by murder, and also that the criminal justice system has sentenced innocent people, and the death penalty is applied in ways that are racially discriminatory and disproportionately impact people in society who are vulnerable.
This commitment also goes back to 1965 when both the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church called for federal and state governments to abolish the death penalty.
“We resolve that Mennonite Church USA appeal to state and federal governments to abolish the death penalty,” the resolution reads. “We further urge congregations to take action to support abolition of the death penalty through prayer, letter writing, and public vigils at murder sites and at prisons where executions occur.”