For full reports and exact statements of the denomination's position on a particular issue, the reader should look to the references provided.
The CRC has declared that modern states are not obligated by Scripture, creed, or principle to institute and practice capital punishment. It does, however, recognize that Scripture acknowledges the right of modern states to institute and practice capital punishment if it is exercised with utmost restraint.
A study report adopted by Synod 1981 states that "capital punishment should . . . pertain . . . only to those exceptional instances . . . as are called forth by a substantial threat to the foundation and structure of a free and responsible democratic society, and thus to the safety and welfare of the people” and that the administration of justice should be surrounded "with such safeguards as will tend maximally to preserve and enhance life." The report concluded, "Given that human life is sacred, that the magistrate is fallible, that time for repentance is desirable, and that imprisonment will normally satisfy the demand for justice . . . it is not desirable that capital punishment be routinely inflicted upon persons guilty of murder in the first degree. Only under exceptional circumstances should the state resort to capital punishment" (Acts of Synod 1981, pp. 72-73, 489-91).
In the 1970s the issue of capital punishment was under a great deal of discussion in both the secular and religious worlds. The CRC began to study the issue formally in 1976 and adopted the recommendations of a study committee report in 1981. That report remains the most current study of capital punishment in the CRC, and its recommendations have not been challenged or altered in subsequent years.
References to Agendas and Acts of Synod
Acts of Synod 1976, pp. 105-6, 668-74
Acts of Synod 1979, pp. 45-46, 137, 468-508
Acts of Synod 1981, pp. 72-73, 448-91