Despite strong pleas to revisit the issue, synod decided that the Christian Reformed Church does not need to conduct a new study of capital punishment
The request came from Classis Grand Rapids East, noting that the current CRC position was formulated in 1981. Synod 1981 declared capital punishment should be used only under “exceptional circumstances,” such as a “substantial threat” to the foundation of society, and should not routinely be imposed for first-degree murder.
The classis said that developments since then have changed the picture. These include DNA discoveries that have found some convicted criminals were innocent. A synod report in 2005 on restorative justice also should be considered, delegates said.
The United States incarcerates more people than any other developed nation, a disproportionate number of them people of color, said Rev. Emmett Harrison of Classis Grand Rapids East.
“The issue of capital punishment is perhaps the tip of the iceberg,” Harrison said. “What we have is a broken criminal justice system that is badly in need of reform. I thought we are a reforming body that would take a stand on the side of justice.”
“It was a good study for its time,” said George Monsma, an elder also from Grand Rapids East. “But we know more now.”
Rev. Tom Draayer of Classis Rocky Mountain said the request lacked clarity, but encouraged the classis to return next year “with a more clearly formed overture.”
Delegates voted against a new study by a 129-44 vote.
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