Pastoral Letter

February 27, 2023

Pastoral Statement on the Execution of Thomas Creech by the State of Idaho

On Wednesday, February 28, the State of Idaho plans to continue its history of utilizing execution as a means of punishment. As your pastor, I wanted to share with you a few important items to consider but first, know that wherever you stand on these difficult discussions, your church and your pastor love you.

The UMC has stood firmly against the death penalty throughout its history. Instead, we believe there are times that death through lifetime incarceration is appropriate to keep people safe and provide consequence for crime. Our Social Principles say, "The death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore, and transform all human beings." You can read more about this from our denomination here. In addition, Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth, the episcopal leader of the Oregon-Idaho Conference, issued this statement today.

Beyond our denominational stance, I am also personally and professionally impacted by this conversation. As a former police officer, I have arrested people that are not safe to be in society, persons who have harmed and even killed others. Years later, as part of my masters of divinity work, I received a specialization in prison ministry and restorative justice. In that work, I spent significant time in maximum security prisons including death row. I have stood in the death chamber and prayed with those condemned to die shortly before their death. Having seen this personally and close-up, I am convinced that state-sanctioned execution does not create healing for vicitims or families. In fact, I personally observed that it created more lasting damage to victims' families, prison staff, and to the heart of society. I have also witnessed how ineffective it is as a detterent through in person conversations with those who have commited horrendous acts. I'd be happy to share more detail on those experiences with you soon.

As a result of my faith, our denominational stance, and my own personal lived experience, I came to the conclusion that I cannot support the death penalty in any form. It does not mean we release those who are dangerous and must be incarcerated. But, it does not mean we take another life in return. If you feel the same way, here are some steps you can take:

May God bless you as you discern your own response to issues of justice such as this. It is my prayer the church be active in its resolve to reflect the kingdom of God in every way possible.


Pastor Rob