Priest's jail sentence is terminated
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
THE GOVERNOR of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, reversing an earlier
decision, has agreed to release from prison a man who was convicted in 1986 for
his part in a murder, but who was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church
in the United States last summer.
James Tramel was 17 when his school room-mate, David Kurzman, killed Michael
Stephenson, a homeless man whom he mistook for a member of a gang. Mr Tramel
took no part in the murder, but fully accepted his legal guilt and moral
culpability. In prison, he took a Master's degree in theology, ministered to
sick and dying prisoners in the hospice, led worship, and taught and counselled
prisoners preparing for release.
Mr Schwarzenegger's decision a year ago to reverse the unanimous decision of
a parole board that Mr Tramel should be released outraged church opinion (News,
15 April 2005). The Bishop of California, the Rt Revd William Swing,
personally supported Mr Tramel's calling to the priesthood, and challenged the
Governor to substantiate his claim that Mr Tramel was a danger to society.
The Bishop said, after a sermon delivered on Easter Sunday last year: "I
have no quarrel with the Governor personally. . . I am only moved to cry out
against a system that takes a resurrected life, throws it back into prison for
a subjective rationale, and buries that life indefinitely."
Mr Schwarzenegger has not announced why he changed his mind. Bishop Swing,
who ordained Mr Tramel, will introduce him to the congregation at Grace
Cathedral in San Francisco on Easter Sunday morning. He is to be an assisting
priest at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley, and is engaged
to be married to another priest, the Revd Stephanie Green, who visited the
prison to help him with his theology degree.
The Bishop told the Los Angeles Times on Monday: "You don't have to
believe in resurrection. You can just look up and see it."
Mr Tramel told the paper: "I feel humbled. I feel the weight of my
responsibility to justify the faith people have put in me."