The Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ will be among more than 15 faith groups reviving the call for the abolition of the death penalty during an event Oct. 16 in Portland, Ore. The public dinner, organized by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, will bring together leaders from each faith tradition to express their opposition to capital punishment and encourage lawmakers to make Oregon the 19th U.S. state to abolish the practice.
"The governor has expressed opposition to the death penalty, and there is currently a moratorium on them," said the Rev. Walter John Boris, conference minister of the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC. "But that doesn't change the law – this is an effort to change the law."
During the ecumenical event, a representative from each faith group will have a few minutes to state his or her denomination's position on the death penalty. Boris will speak for the UCC, citing the denomination's long history of opposing the death penalty, and the need to love our neighbors and to face hatred with love. After each statement, event organizers from Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will announce the group's strategic plan to have capital punishment repealed in the state and encourage attendees to become active in the fight.
"This is a long-standing position of the conference and, now that local groups have decided to turn up the heat a little bit, we are certainly participating," Boris said.
Since 1969, the UCC has publically opposed the death penalty and has reaffirmed that stance many times, most recently at the 2005 General Synod. The Central Pacific Conference also took a public stand against capital punishment with a resolution passed at its 1988 annual meeting. The conference's resolution affirmed support of the General Synod's stance, encouraged its congregations to also support the issue, and committed the conference to work with groups such as Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and its counterparts in Idaho and Washington.
"Jesus calls on us to extend forgiveness and work for reconciliation," said Boris. "When the justice system offers the death penalty as punishment, the desire for vengeance is fed, and hatred is nurtured. As followers of Jesus, we call, instead, for love, forgiveness, and reconciliation."