Loving Even My Dad’s Killer
A version of this text was originally delivered as testimony before the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in St. Louis, MO, in support of overture 11-02.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve as the Young Adult Advisory Delegate from the Presbytery of the Peaks. I enjoyed every aspect of General Assembly, from the politics to the many wonderful worship opportunities. We, commissioners and delegates, did incredible work in St. Louis, and we left empowered to take the message of action to our communities.
Near and dear to my heart was overture 11-02. In its amended form, 11-02 calls for:
“an immediate moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty in all jurisdictions that impose capital punishment and for the commutation of all death sentences to sentences of life imprisonment.”
I have a personal experience with the death penalty. I am the daughter of the late Corporal Eric Sutphin, who was killed by William Morva during a manhunt in 2006. My dad was and is my hero. He was so courageous, humble, and light-hearted. The community loved him and I loved being a police officer’s daughter. I have every reason to hate William and want revenge; yet, my faith has led me to a place of forgiveness. I fought to get William off death row, but the Virginia State Government chose to move forward with the execution last July. The execution provided no solace for my loss. Instead, I now have two people to mourn.
In God’s Kin-dom, we do not kill. We, the Church, must speak out and demand change. We cannot continue to allow the death penalty when it unfairly targets people of color and people living in poverty. We cannot continue to fund expensive trials and executions, when the money would be better spent on much-needed and underfunded victim support programs. We cannot continue a system that has proven time and time again that it does not deter crime, but instead frequently kills the innocent. We cannot continue this system of taking a life for a life, when God’s love is abounding. As stated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism #68, “the sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life and the life of others.”
May we fight for life.
May we love the prisoner, too.
Author Bio: Rachel Sutphin is an inquirer under care of the Presbytery of the Peaks. She will be attending Columbia Theological Seminary in the Fall. At CTS, she will pursue a dual degree with a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Practical Theology, with a concentration in Pastoral Care.