The Lutheran theological tradition recognizes that God entrusts the state with the power to take human life when failure to do so constitutes a clear danger to the common good. Nevertheless, the statement Death Penalty expresses ELCA opposition to capital punishment in this society, because of what our church has learned through the ministry with and to people affected by violent crime. The ELCA objects to the use of the death penalty because it is not used fairly and has failed to make society safer.
The statement presents arguments from multiple points of view held by those within both the church and society and calls for continued discernment. However, it concludes that current capital punishment practice in the U.S. undermines any possible moral deterrent. The actual use and means of execution convey a fundamental message of bias and brutality. This social statement was adopted by the 1991 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
Follow these links to find resources for understanding this social statement: