Death Penalty

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

In September 2013, Bishop Robert Hirschfeld stated, "As followers of Jesus, we are constantly called to holiness, which demands that we rise above our visceral instincts and our tendencies to react to violence with further violence. Instead, Jesus' teachings and the example of his life always reserved room for repentance, amendment of life, and forgiveness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when one of his disciples struck one of Jesus' accusers with a sword, cutting off his ear, Jesus exclaimed, 'No more of this! ...Repealing the Death Penalty in New Hampshire is a way of saying, with our savior, "No more of this!" to the violence in this world."

A Pastoral Letter to the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire on the Death Penalty from the Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld

Bishop Hirschfeld’s testimony to the the House Committee on Criminal Justice in support of House Bill 455 to repeal the Death Penalty in New Hampshire.

The Rev. Canon Gail Avery’s testimony to the House Committee on Criminal Justice in support of House Bill 455 to repeal the Death Penalty in New Hampshire.

Diocesan Representatives to the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty


The Rev. Jason Wells

Marti Hunt  

History of our Involvement in this Issue

The 1958 General Convention of the Episcopal Church opposed capital punishment on the "theological basis that the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God; and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of man." This opposition to the death penalty was affirmed in 1969, 1979, 1991, and 2000. As early as the 1979 General Convention, the resolutions called on ‘dioceses and members of the church to work actively to abolish the death penalty in their states.” 

The New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded as a project of the NH Council of Churches when Bishop Douglas Theuner (8th Bishop ofNew Hampshire) was president of the Council. In 2010, the 210th Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire passed a resolution calling on Episcopalians in the state “to urge their governor and state representatives to repeal the death penalty statute in New Hampshire.” This resolution had nineteen named supporters including Bishop Douglas Theuner. The 
resolution passed overwhelmingly. 

In 2012 with support from then-Bishop Gene Robinson, the Diocesan Council voted to become a partner organization within the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. In May 2013 the diocesan Prison Concerns Committee published a position paper unanimously supporting repeal of New Hampshire's death penalty statute. Their position states, “that the death penalty is a failed public policy. The policy is arbitrarily applied, reflects racial and class bias, costs millions of dollars per case that might be spent to prevent crimes or aid victims, may traumatize murder victim family members and delay their healing, and runs the risk of executing innocent persons.”