Thursday, March 22   Sign in or Register
Evangelical Focus
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud

Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.

Is the sexual exploitation of women an issue in your city?



Death penalty

Faith and death penalty

Calvin College in Michigan organised a forum about death penalty. “It hurts victims rather than helping them”, said a victim’s family member.

AUTHOR Belén Díaz, Evangelical Focus MICHIGAN 10 MARCH 2016 17:10 h GMT+1

On March 7, Calvin College in Michigan hosted a forum on faith and the death penalty, sponsored by Equal Justice USA.

The panel of experts included a death row survivor, a local theologian, a murder victim’s family member, and a national evangelical leader.


The speakers, during the conference at Calvin College.

Each speaker shared their experiences and opinions regarding capital punishment, and there was a Q&A session afterwards.



The first speaker was Randy Steidl, a death row survivor. He told the audience how he was wrongly condemned, and finally released after 17 years in Illinois prisons, including 12 on death row.


Randy Steidl

In 1987, Randy Steidl was sentenced to death for the double murder of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Illinois.

Steidl, an innocent man, was finally free in 2004, after forensic evidence discredited two supposed eyewitnesses whose testimony led to his conviction.

He argued against capital punishment, stating that there are other solutions. “If you really want to punish a vicious killer, put him in prison for life. Let him die and go to hell, that way you are not going to be killing an innocent man.”

Steidl pointed out “156 people have been released since 1977”, and attacked those “prosecutors who rob people´s lives and they get by with it, because they have immunity.”


The next speaker was Rev. Bernard “Chris” Dorsey, a Professor of Theology and Preaching at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.

He started saying that “there are only 2 or 3 verses in the Bible that people use when they advocate death penalty, like Genesis 9, when it says 'Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed'.”

But “in that Scripture, you have individuals who kill and the punishment is not level against them.” “We have to uncouple our advocating of death penalty from some kind of scriptural argument”, he argued.


Rev. Bernard “Chris” Dorsey

He also explained that “in the days of Christ, after his death and resurrection, there was a period of time when the early Christians were adamantly against death penalty. This persisted for 300 years.”

Then, after the fifth century, Christians advocated for death penalty “not as a punishment for murder, but as a punishment for heresy. Not just in the Catholic church, but in the Reformed church as well.”

“The uneasy entanglement with state violence on behalf of the Christian church strips away the moral authority that Christians might have with respect to the administration of death penalty”, the theologian stated.

He concluded asking the audience to think individually about death penalty.

“As Christians, we must ask ourselves if we are comfortable with an argument in favour of state killing, based in evidences that suggest that it is not administered fairly. We have to acknowledge the reality that sometimes prosecutors get it wrong.”



Gail Rice talked about the murder of her brother, Bruce, a Denver police officer who was killed in 1997 during a burglary.


Gail Rice

Although she recognised that “there is no way to measure the loss”, her “Christian faith and serving as a tutor in Chicago-area prisons for more than 30 years” made her join Murder Victims Families for Human Rights (MVFHR).

“Perhaps because we have suffered so much because of violence, MVFHR´s members abhor acts of violence, and death penalty is a violent act of retribution and revenge. We do not want the state to kill in our name”, she affirmed.

She stressed that his brother´s murderer and other condemned to death penalty are “created in the image of God, for whom Jesus died, a man whom God loves just as he loves me.”

According to Rice, “death penalty makes a mockery of God´s preferential caring for the powerless, it cuts off the possibility of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation that Christ always wants us to work toward.”

“It is unthinkable to me that I can love my neighbour, return good for evil, and at the same time be working to get a person executed. Death penalty hurts victims rather than helping them”, she concluded.



The panel of experts finished with Shane Claiborne, a Christian activist and author.

“Capital punishment is a sign of how our whole world is addicted to violence. But that goes back to the garden when Cain killed Abel”, he began his talk.


Shane Claiborne

He argued that “if we believe that a murderer is beyond redemption, we can rip up half of the New Testament.” And for Claiborne, “Jesus is the lens through which I look at this issue. Jesus taught us that no one is beyond redemption. God’s grace is good, and it is for everyone.”

The activist believed that capital punishment is very much related to poverty and racism: “Every 9 executions, 1 is set free. Most of those who get killed are poor. Death penalty is inseparable from our racial history. The Bible belt has become the death belt.”

He recalled the story of the adulterous woman, stating that “the closer we are to God, the less we want to throw stones to people.”

Fortunately, said Claiborne, “80% Christian young people are against death penalty.”

“I think we can be in the right side of history and call for a better forms of justice than execution”, he concluded.

You can see the full session here.




    If you want to comment, or


19:27 h
All of these comments are easily rebutted. It would be helpful to the audience if both sides were represented, so they could consider both sides, as opposed to simple indoctrination.

YOUR ARE AT: - - Faith and death penalty
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

A marriage story A marriage story

The  great love story for everyone.

Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube

EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.