From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: Political and church leaders fall short of Jesus' justice, dean says
Wed, 12 Jun 2002 15:45:08 -0400
June 12, 2002
Episcopalians: Political and church leaders fall short of
Jesus' justice, dean says
by Val Hymes
(ENS) "Why on earth do we have the death penalty in this
country?" demanded Dean C. David Williams of the Cathedral of
Newark in a sermon closing the Seventh National Prison Ministry
Conference in Indianapolis June 9. "Would those in power today
have demanded that Jesus pass a lie detector test and give a DNA
sample before they would help him?" the former Rikers Island
Williams and other speakers urged the 70 lay and clergy
prison ministers attending the conference to challenge the
Episcopal Church, political and corporate leaders, to take the
lead in criminal justice reform.
Most politicians have been baptized, Williams said, about
half of America's presidents were Episcopalian, and "countless"
members of Congress belong to the Episcopal Church.
"Has everyone in this world gone insane?" he asked, weaving
into his sermon those who watched the tormenting, trial and
execution of an innocent Jesus 2,000 years ago. "If you execute
my king," Williams said, "it must be over my objections and
sometimes over my dead bodyWe have abrogated our responsibility
for what is right and wrong to the courts. Billions of
government dollars are spent on the containment of two million
Williams said, "Would our leaders today have voted for the
death penalty because Chief Justice Pilate condemned him to
death? And what did Jesus say on the cross? 'Forgive them for
they know not what they do.' The irony of ironies: the innocent
calls for forgiveness for his accusers."
"We are a nation obsessed with punishment," he added. "The
politics of expedience literally built the largest prison system
ion the world, larger than China and Russia together."
The "quality of justice" for African American males is
different than that for white males, depending on the color of
their skin and their money, Williams pointed out. "The man who
steals a carton of toilet paper gets a five-year sentence. The
corporate executive who steals billions gets a slap on the wrist
Our correctional system is a system of injustice."
"It is too late to save Jesus," Williams added, "but maybe we
can stop it from happening to someone else. Let us make an oath.
>From now on we will fight for true justice and true freedom
until all God's people are free. Then and only then will the
church be a true advocate for the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
The conference, "Restoring God's Kingdom," held June 6-9 at
Christ Church Cathedral, focused on restorative justice and the
restoration of spiritual health for those who minister to
prisoners officers, victims, families and the community.
--Val Hymes is coordinator of the Prison Ministry Task Force of
the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
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