Tennessee Governor Denies Clemency in Adventist Death Row Case
After Tennessee Governor Bill Lee denied clemency to Donnie Edward Johnson on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, the Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church has decided to hold a prayer vigil for Johnson, an Adventist on death row for murdering his wife more than 30 years ago. Johnson, who holds Bible studies inside the prison and started a radio program called “What the Bible Says,” is an elder of Riverside Chapel, and a part of the church’s prison ministry.
“We are praying even at this hour, with the governor saying he has denied clemency, that God will change his decision,” said Furman Fordham II, Riverside Chapel pastor. “We are still asking God and hoping, if it is His will, that He would stop this and preserve Don’s life.”
The meeting will be held at the church at 6 p.m. (CDT), on May 16, the day Johnson is scheduled to die. This will be the church’s second prayer vigil; the first was held on Saturday, May 11, in front of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. “We will be giving individuals an opportunity to express where they are relative to this journey. To pray for Don, to pray for the governor . . . we will be here at 7 when the decision is finally executed or not. If it is execution — we are still hoping it will not be — we will stay on sight so we can mourn, encourage one another in the Lord, and praise God that Don has everlasting life.”
Several Adventist Church leaders have asked for mercy for Johnson, with letters hand-delivered to Gov. Lee this week.
In one letter, Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N.C. Wilson asked Lee to “prayerfully consider granting mercy to Mr. Johnson by sparing his life so he may continue providing this important spiritual ministry.”