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“It was a good study for its time,” said George Monsma, an elder from Classis Grand Rapids East. “But we know more now.”

Despite strong pleas to revisit the issue, Synod 2013 decided that the CRC does not need to conduct a new study of capital punishment.

The request came from Classis Grand Rapids East, noting that the current CRC position was formulated in 1981. Synod 1981 declared that capital punishment should be used only under “exceptional circumstances” such as a “substantial threat” to the foundation of society and should not routinely be imposed for first-degree murder.

Classis Grand Rapids East said developments since then have changed the picture. They include DNA discoveries showing that some convicted criminals were innocent. A 2005 synod report on restorative justice should also be considered, delegates said.

The United States incarcerates more people than any other developed nation—a disproportionate number of them people of color, said Rev. Emmett Harrison.

“The issue of capital punishment is perhaps the tip of the iceberg,” Harrison said. “What we have is a broken criminal justice system that is badly in need of reform. I thought we are a reforming body that would take a stand on the side of justice.”

“It was a good study for its time,” said George Monsma, an elder from Classis Grand Rapids East. “But we know more now.”

Rev. Tom Draayer of Classis Rocky Mountain said the request lacked clarity, but encouraged the classis to return next year “with a more clearly formed overture.”

Delegates voted against a new study by a 129-44 vote.


Synod 2013 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. from June 7-14. For continuous Banner coverage of Synod 2013, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

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