Teach-in on Capital Punishment and the Church
May 1, 2015—In the wake of the scheduled lethal injection execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, the only woman on death row in the state of Georgia, a loud cry emerged from the faith community. Many of these efforts grew out of the deep love and concern for Kelly from seminary professors and current and former seminary students who have taught in the Certificate of Theological Studies Program at Arrendale State Prison. But the Gissendaner case has sparked national attention, and reveals the urgent need for conversation within our faith communities about capital punishment and the American criminal justice system more generally.
On Good Friday, some Columbia Theological Seminary faculty kicked off a series of teach-ins on these themes by theological schools in the Atlanta area. The multi-school event is titled, “Worshipping an Executed God: A Teach-in on Capital Punishment and the Church.” The event was held from 10:00 am to noon in the Broyles Leadership Center at Columbia Seminary.
The interactive teach-in was facilitated by Anna Carter Florence, Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching, and featured remarks from some of Columbia Seminary’s excellent faculty:
- Beth Johnson, J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament: The Bible and Capital Punishment
- Mark Douglas, Professor of Christian Ethics; Director of MDiv Program: Reformed Theology and Capital Punishment
- Stan Saunders, Associate Professor of New Testament: Contemporary Trends in Incarceration and Punishment in the U.S.
- Jake Myers, Assistant Professor of Homiletics: Church Engagements with Capital Punishment
With about 50 other participants listening, it was clear that all of the presenters were passionate and thoughtful about the issue. To view all of the presentations, click here!
“Nationally, there has been a shift in public opinion. While more people are against capital punishment, proponents have retrenched and are fighting hard to protect what they see as a practice essential to security,” said Mark Douglas, one of the presenters and an organizer for the event. “This event was unusual in that we all laid out our own views quite clearly, but we hope that students and others will go back and think carefully about their own views on justice and capital punishment.”
Future teach-ins will be held by Candler School of Theology, the Interdenominational Theological Center, and McAfee School of Theology. To date, there has been no notice to reschedule the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner.
Columbia Theological Seminary is committed to “educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers seven graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through the Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.ctsnet.edu.