The Worldwide United Methodist Church sent a message to Texas during the General Conference held in Ft. Worth, TX. The General Conference passed a resolution calling for the specific abolition of the death penalty in Texas. The United Methodist Church has had a position against the use of the death penalty for more than 50 years and reaffirmed that specific position in separate resolutions for the whole church as well.
The Texas specific resolution originated from St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock, TX. Rev. Bill Martin, retired clergy and member of St. John’s stated upon the passage of the resolution, “We in Texas who oppose capital punishment deeply appreciate this prophetic witness from The United Methodist Church. It represents a direct application of the Church’s affirmation that we ‘cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life’ and our belief that the death penalty ‘violates our deepest belief in God as the Creator and the Redeemer of humankind.’”
This resolution was developed in part due to the intensity of which Texas uses the death penalty without regard to the many problems within the death penalty system: problems of wrongful conviction, poor representation, the arbitrary nature in which it is imposed, and the great expense it represents to the state of Texas. The Rev. Julius Trimble of the East Ohio Conference and committee chair presenting the Resolution to the General Conference delegates, also pointed out that in Texas the Governor cannot commute a sentence without the vote of the Board of Pardons and Parole; and the specific event of Governor Perry, after a vote from the Board on commuting the death sentence of a mentally ill inmate, denying that vote and proceeding with the execution.
Vicki McCuistion, program director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and member of Wimberley United Methodist Church hailed the decision of the General Conference, “The passage of this resolution sends a strong message to Texas and our state officials that our excessive execution policy is recognized as extreme and in need of great reform by the delegates of the United Methodist Church from the United States and around the world and must be reevaluated sooner rather than later.”
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church is held every 4 years with delegates from the US and around the world to determine the business and direction of the United Methodist Church.
The text of the resolution follows:
Texas Death Penalty (81149-C1-R9999)
To Be Added to The Book of Resolutions:
Whereas, The United Methodist Church strongly opposes capital punishment, and
Whereas, in the state of Texas over 400 persons have been put to death since the state resumed executions in 1982;
• among the persons executed since 1982 at least six were mentally retarded, at least twenty suffered from mental illness, and thirteen were juveniles when their crimes were committed;
• among those executed eighty-three African Americans were put to death for crimes against white victims, and only one white person was executed for crimes against African Americans;
• eight persons sentenced to die have later been proven innocent and removed from death row;
• capital trials have at times been characterized by “unreliable witnesses, lack of evidence, incorrect experts, official misconduct, and inadequate defense attorneys”;
• the Innocence Project of Texas has pointed to the likelihood that one or more innocent persons have been executed; and
Whereas, over 250 organizations of all kinds, including religious, civic, political, legal, and humanitarian groups, have officially called either for a moratorium on executions or for the abolition of the death penalty in Texas, and
Whereas, at least ten major newspapers in Texas have endorsed either a moratorium on executions or the abolition of capital punishment in the state,
Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2008 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting in Fort Worth, Texas,
Express its deepest appreciation to all those organizations and individuals in the state of Texas who have valiantly struggled and continue to struggle for a more humane society in which the death penalty is rare or non-existent.
Call upon the Texas Legislature either to abolish the death penalty completely or to stop executions in the state until such time as all capital cases can be tried in a completely equitable way,
Call upon the Texas Pardon and Parole Board and the Governor to commute the sentences of persons currently on death row to life in prison without parole or to life in prison.
Instruct the Secretary of the General Conference to have copies of this resolution sent immediately to all members of the Texas Legislature, to each member of the Pardon and Parole Board, to the Governor of Texas, to the Texas Conference of Churches, and to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.