The talk in Terre Haute, Ind., is about execution.
That’s not so surprising considering the execution of convicted murderer Timothy McVeigh is set to take place at the federal prison just outside this western Indiana city next Wednesday, May 16.
On April 19, 1995, McVeigh placed a bomb at the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.
Churchgoers have discussed this tragedy and the upcoming execution with growing frequency as the day of McVeigh’s death approaches.
“What would happen if McVeigh accepted Christ and asked forgiveness?” asked Bernie Jackson, pastor of First Baptist Church Terre Haute, part of the American Baptist Churches USA. “How would we respond differently to him?”
Jackson told the Baptist Center for Ethics an eight-year-old in his congregation was listening to some adults discussing the matter and said in a “simple faith” way, “What would Jesus do? Forgive.”
“Like any Baptist church, our congregation has many diverse opinions,” Jackson said. But, like a good Baptist, he said, he is not going to promote a certain stand for his congregation to take.
Instead, Jackson is asking his congregation to think about all aspects of the bombing, McVeigh and the execution.
“I’m just asking people to think about it,” he told BCE. “People need to take advantage of this time to pray for reconciliation and forgiveness for all those involved.”
Jackson is opening First Baptist Church the Monday evening before the execution for those who wish to gather and pray.
It isn’t the church’s place to promote a certain stand, Jackson said, but the church needs to be asking people the hard questions about forgiveness and reconciliation that will cause them to consider these issues in their own lives.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.