Presbytery overture seeks immediate end to executions

GA logo longThe Layman

A Presbyterian Church (USA) presbytery is asking this summer’s General Assembly (221st) to call for a “an immediate moratorium on all executions in all jurisdictions that impose capital punishment.”

Overture 026 from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta also asks for Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons to communicate the call for a moratorium – including the denomination’s opposition to capital punishment – to the United States President, Congress and the governors and legislators of the 34 states with persons on death row.

While giving thanks that 18 states have abolished the death penalty, the overture’s rationale states that “we believe that one of the greatest tragedies that can occur is the execution of an innocent person by the state, yet we know that this has occurred repeatedly throughout history. Human judgment is always fallible, including the judgments of juries and judges deciding death penalty cases. It has been recognized by numerous authoritative sources that the death penalty has been imposed in a racially discriminatory manner.”

It concludes that, “As Christians, we recognize God as sovereign in all spheres of human life, including the political sphere. We declare that God’s commandment against killing is still good law. We follow a Lord who taught us to go beyond ‘an eye for an eye.’ We believe that human individuals and institutions are sinful and make mistakes. And, as humans, we lack any power to correct our errors if we wrongly execute another human being.”

If a second PCUSA presbytery concurs with the overture, then the 2014 assembly will consider the measure at its meeting June 14-21 in Detroit, Mich.

According to the Office of the General Assembly, “A Book of Order amendment that went into effect on July 7, 2013, states that overtures from presbyteries will require a concurrence from at least one other presbytery (see G-3.0302d) before being referred to the assembly.”

The PCUSA’s General Assembly official web site can be found here. The Layman’s coverage of the 2013 GA can be accessed here.