death penalty Faith

Faith in Action on the Death Penalty

See below for a number of faith based opportunities for discussion and learning on the Texas death penalty around Texas in the coming weeks and months:

Houston – St. Paul’s UMC United Methodist Women to Examine the Death Penalty

Sunday, September 16 12:15pm
5501 Main • Houston, TX 77004 • 713-528-0527 •

The St. Paul’s United Methodist Women invites St. Paul’s Family to an examination of the death penalty. The event will be Sunday, September 16 at 12:15 p.m. and include a potluck lunch provided by UMW members in Fondren Hall. Speakers will tell their stories in relation to the death penalty after which the floor will be open for respectful questions. A brief description of the speakers follows:

Sam Millsap. During his tenure as District Attorney for Bexar County (San Antonio) 1982-1987, he approved the death penalty prosecution of Ruben Cantu, a juvenile offender who was executed in 1993 based on the testimony of a single eyewitness who has since changed his story. Millsap now acknowledges that Cantu may have been innocent, and he speaks throughout the country about his experiences with the Cantu case and his concerns about the fairness and reliability of the criminal justice system.”

Jan Brown. The mother of a then 9-1/2 year old girl who was murdered in 1987, Brown will tell the story of her experience as a member of a victim’s family while the case worked its way through the judicial system– and beyond.

A speaker provided by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) will address the realities of the death penalty in Texas.  For childcare during this event, email

Dallas – Feast of Beginnings – Sister Helen Prejean

Northaven UMC
11211 Preston Road, Dallas, TX 75230
Sunday evening, September 16

6:00 PM Dinner – SOLD OUT
6:45 PM Musical selections from “Dead Man Walking, The Opera”
7:00 PM Presentation by Sister Helen Prejean   Register Now for 7 PM Presentation  Cost: $7.00 (Please arrive no later than 6:45)
8:00 PM Question and Answer Session
8:30 PM Book sales and signing

Northaven’s annual Feast of Beginnings features Sister Helen Prejean who has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty.   Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. After many years of teaching religion to junior high school students, she began working at Hope House in New Orleans where she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate at Angola prison. She became his spiritual advisor and, after witnessing his execution, wrote a book about the experience. That book, Dead Man Walking, became a movie, an opera and a play.

Since 1984, Sister Helen has traveled around the world educating people about the death penalty and counseling death row prisoners. During that time she has accompanied six men to their deaths. She is a tireless advocate and profoundly spiritual person.

Austin Area: Month of Faith in Action

If you belong to a faith community in Austin, please coordinate with your clergy and congregation to join TCADP’s Month of Faith in Action to promote dialogue about the death penalty in Texas. There has never been a more important time for people of faith to engage in education and action on the death penalty, and to take a leadership role in speaking out against this culture of violence and vengeance.

We are encouraging congregations to hold activities and events in solidarity with each other September 15 to October 14, however, you are welcome to schedule an event any time in the year that accommodates your calendar.

Austin – Month of Faith in Actions Events Currently Scheduled:

The Empty Chair – Documentary Screening
University United Methodist Church
2409 Guadalupe Street, Austin
Sunday, September 16, 9:45 a.m.
Fellowship Hall

In conjunction with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s month of Faith in Action, the Explorer’s class will be sponsoring a Sunday School hour on September 16 in the Fellowship Hall for a viewing of “The Empty Chair”. The film is a documentary which tells the stories of four families confronting the loss of loved ones and their perspectives on the death penalty. It provokes meaningful questions about faith, forgiveness, and justice. We hope you can join us for the viewing of this film and meaningful discussion about faith and the death penalty.

Social Justice Fifth Sunday Presentation
Dr. Linda White, Murder Victim Family Member
First UMC
Family Life Center – Corner of 13th and Lavaca, Austin
Sunday, September 30, 10:00-10:45a.m.

Dr. Linda White is a former board member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation and former Vice-President of the TCADP Board. After her daughter, Cathy, was murdered, she raised her granddaughter, Ami. She recently retired from teaching psychology and criminal justice classes at Sam Houston State University. In 2001, Linda and Ami arranged to meet with Cathy’s killer. They learned answers to their questions about Cathy’s final moments and became activists in supporting non-violent solutions to crime. Linda speaks nationwide about her struggles, her healing and her work for a system of restorative justice.

At the Death House Door – Documentary Screening
St. John’s UMC
2140 Allandale Road,  Austin
Thursday, October 4, 7:00p.m.

The Risk-Taking Mission and Service Committee at Saint John’s United Methodist Church is sponsoring a discussion about the death penalty in Texas on Thursday evening, October 4 beginning at 7:00p. There will be a viewing of the documentary “At the Death House Door:  No Man Should Die Alone”, which tells the story of Rev. Carroll Pickett, former death house chaplain at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, TX. Following the film, Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, will lead a Q&A.  Saint John’s is located at 2140 Allandale Road (enter from Wynona Street). This event is free and open to the public.

Anthony Graves to speak at Wesley UMC
November 18, 10:00am Worship
Wesley UMC
1164 San Bernard Street
Austin, Texas 78702-2030

On October 27, 2010, Anthony Graves walked out of the Burleson County Jail after spending 18 years in prison – including 12 years on death row – for a crime he did not commit. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Anthony and declared him innocent after conducting their own investigation of the case. He is the 12th person in Texas to be wrongfully convicted and  removed from death row and one of 140 death row exonorees nationwide.  Since his release, Anthony has spoken about his experience with the Texas death penalty system to audiences throughout the United States and around the world. He served for a year as the Director of Community Outreach for the Texas Defender Service and now is working with attorney David Dow on individual capital cases and juvenile issues. He is looking forward to starting school in the fall, 2012.

The Month of Faith in Action will culminate in a special event featuring Sister Helen Prejean:

Faithful Considerations: A Discussion with Sr. Helen Prejean and Austin Faith Leaders”

The conversation will include Rev. John Elford, University UMC and Pastor Nestor Menjivar, Pricipe de Paz Baptist Church and will be held on Friday, October 12, 2012, 7:00pm at St. Edward’s University:   RSVP to reserve free tickets!

Download posters for distribution –

Sister Helen Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981. While living in the St. Thomas housing project, she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison.  Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which was nominated for a 1993 Pulitzer Prize and was number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks.  In January 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as Patrick Sonnier.

Rev. John Elford is Senior Pastor of University United Methodist Church in Austin. He has also served as Senior Pastor at St. John’s UMC in Corpus Christi, John Wesley UMC in Victoria and as Associate Pastor and Director of Music at First UMC in San Angelo. John has degrees from the University of Toronto and Union Presbyterian Seminary in Virginia. His wife, Rev. Linda Seaman Elford, is the pastor at Crestview UMC in Austin.

Pastor Nestor Menjivar is originally from El Salvador.  He came to the U.S. as a small child and grew up in San Francisco, California.  He did his undergraduate work in management and information systems and took seminary classes from Golden Gate Seminary.  He is married with three children and has been pastoring at Iglesia Bautista Principe de Paz in Austin for the last ten years.  He is passionate about Christ and believes strongly that the church needs to be a voice for justice and compassion.  This has led him to be involved in numerous activities promoting immigration reform, education, and social justice.

The conversation will include the challenges of moving Texas away from a culture of vengeance toward a culture of accountability that does not rely on the death penalty; how faith leaders and people of faith can take a more proactive role in educating their congregations about this issue; and the challenges of addressing the death penalty from the pulpit.  Reserve your tickets today! Free to the public. 

Dallas –  “A Faithful Conversation on the Death Penalty”

Save the Date: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 7:00pm

Featuring Dallas area clergy and Judicatory leadership, including Dr. Frederick Haynes, Friendship West Baptist Church and Rev. Wes Magruder, Associate Pastor, First Rowlett UMC and North Texas Conference Board of Church and Society Chair.  More details coming soon with online RSVP for free tickets.  Check the link for developments:


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