The teachings of the Gospel challenge us to engage the realities of our world in ways that take us beyond the surface. As we reflect on the realities of our world today, we understand that prisons are not a place for rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Vengeance begets violence as people are condemned by the death penalty. Racial disparities are integral pieces of maintaining white supremacy through the courts, from cash bail to mandatory minimums. Corporate interests and profit are furthered through the growing presence of private prisons. As Christians working towards a more just society, we believe there is a moral imperative for the criminal justice system to serve as an agent of rehabilitation, rather than a vehicle for oppression and exploitation.
We direct our energy for criminal justice reform at two aspects of the larger system: cash bail reform and capital punishment. Below you will find resources, ways to take action, and community updates on cash bail and the death penalty.
The Death Penalty
Several times in the past decades, the North Carolina Council of Churches has spoken about the inhumanity and racial bias of capital punishment. We have been on the forefront of this issue for years, from one of our first policy statements in 1970 urging the “abolition of capital punishment” and declaring the “death penalty has been used disproportionately against black people in our society, thereby reflecting classist and racist tendencies in our criminal justice system.”
While North Carolina has not carried out an execution in a decade and a half, other states continue to do so. Meanwhile, prisoners sentenced to death in North Carolina remain on death row, uncertain of their fate.
As Christians, we believe the abolition of the death penalty is a moral imperative.
Cash Bail Reform
As part of the N.C. Bail Reform Working Group, the Council has created a network of faith leaders (lay and clergy) across the state who are taking a dual approach to cash bail. While working to educate the public and mobilize for policy change, they are also posting bail for those who qualify in order to mitigate the deleterious effects of the current system.
The Council will seed this work with a cash bail fund we have established at Mechanics and Farmers Bank with an estate gift we received last year. We expect other faith communities to contribute to the bail fund and as we are successful in ushering arrestees through the court system, the money will flow back into the account to be used by others until we work ourselves out of a job by helping end cash bail.
Resources on the Death Penalty
- Abolition Sabbath Weekend Toolkit
- Legislative Bulletin: Faith and the Death Penalty
- Resolution on the Death Penalty
- Voices Archive (Op-Eds)
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Resolution on the Death Penalty
- Episcopal Church Statement on Federal Executions
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Global Ministries (Disciples of Christ & United Church of Christ) Death Penalty Teaching Material
- Mennonite Church USA
- Presbyterian Church USA
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church
Resources on Cash Bail
- Episcopal Church Diocese of NC
- Mennonite Church USA, The Landscape of Policing – Incarceration and Bail
- Presbyterian USA
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church
The Council takes positions on issues through policy statements that inform, guide, and frame our work. Policy statements are adopted by our governing body, often upon the recommendation of one or more of the Council’s program committees which are made up of representatives of our member bodies.
Death Penalty Issue Statements
- Resolution on the Death Penalty (4/23/1987)
Cash Bail Reform Issue Statements
Below is a list of our partners statewide with a link to their website for more information:
Death Penalty Partner Organizations
Cash Bail Partner Organizations
Take Action on the Death Penalty
The North Carolina Council of Churches is promoting the weekend of Oct. 8-10, 2021, as Death Penalty Abolition Sabbath and are encouraging all faith communities to learn, preach, and pray about this matter. Please use the toolkit provided –key scriptures, sermon starter, litany, and prayers– on this abolition sabbath weekend and share with your denominations and faith groups in your local communities. This abolition sabbath has been planned by the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty in which the Council is a member.
JOIN THE COALITION
The NC Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, in which the Council is a founding member, is a group of people, organizations and faith communities from across North Carolina who are working to end the death penalty and spread the message that capital punishment is wrong, unjust and racist. Join us!
- Follow NCCADP on Facebook and Twitter. Please like and share.
- Visit nccadp.org, which is full of data, stories, photos, video and more.
- Sign up to receive NCCADP’s newsletter.
- Invite them to speak, offer a panel of impacted voices, or facilitate a discussion about race and the death penalty with your congregation. Email Noel Nickle, email@example.com.
- Donate to their work at nccadp.org/donate. We are a 501(c)(3) organization.
Take Action on the Cash Bail
The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland
North Carolina Council of Churches
(919) 828-6501 Ext. 101