Based in Downtown Bentonville, Arkansas, Mike currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer at Pure Charity, a nonprofit dedicated to building world class technology solutions for Nonprofit Organizations, individuals, and Community Advocacy.

A Christian Response to Refugees (Part I)

The following is a collection of responses from the largest U.S. Christian denominations to President Trump's Executive Order affecting refugee resettlement in the United States.

...

For the past year, I have been involved locally in resettling refugees in our community through Canopy NWA.  In December we received the first three families to become new members of our community.  Words can't express that joy.

When the President's Executive Order affecting refugee resettlement in the United States was announced, I was truly at a loss.  The order was expected, but the impact suddenly became crystal clear and very personal.  The future of five families en-route to our community was immediately in jeopardy.  Plane tickets were bought, homes were being prepared, families were going to be reunited, and their long journey to home was almost over.

This picture and the quote below seem to capture the moment...

”We’ve lost something very precious. And traded it for a cowardly, foolish illusion of safety. I’m ashamed.”
— Adam McKay

While the country continues to process its thoughts on the Executive Order, I have been reading and collecting responses to the Executive Order from U.S. Christian faith leaders. 

With news reports that 8 out of 10 evangelical Christians supported Trump, I needed to know if the U.S. Church was united or divided in these two conflicting narratives of security versus compassion.  

The process has not been scientific, and I am sure I am leaving relevant information out.  However, I tried to determine the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. and went to the home page of their website to see what I could find.  The information below is listed in the order that I believe goes from the largest to smallest denominations.

Warning:  I'm not a theologian and I did not attend seminary, but I guess that goes for the majority of us.  Maybe this is how the rest of us try to figure this stuff out.  Plus, by this point, it is late and I've had two glasses of wine.

(Note:  if you have information that I should add, please send it to me.  I will be glad to correct or update.)

Here are the responses I have collected...

Catholic Church

Given the structure of the Catholic Church, I was redirected to Catholic Charities directly.  Catholic Charities operates one of the largest immigration and refugee organizations in the world.  I also think they are taking their marching orders from the Pope, so this will serve as the church's position.

Post:  Catholic Charities USA Registers Dismay over Administration’s Suspension of Refugee Resettlement Program; Reiterates Commitment to Serve the Most Vulnerable

They seem to be pretty clear where they stand...

The Catholic Church in the United States has always assisted refugees and migrants coming to our country, regardless of their country of origin. At the same time, the US has historically opposed those leaders who oppressed or tortured their citizens. How can we now justify closing our borders to their innocent victims?
– Sister Donna Markham OP, PhD, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA)

However, just to double check, I did search other sites, and this is probably one of the better examples of the Church's position

Post:  Statement of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., On Wednesday’s Executive Actions on Immigration

Wednesday’s Executive Actions do not show the United States to be an open and welcoming nation.  They are the opposite of what it means to be an American.  
Closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.

I think their point is sufficiently made.  

The Catholic Church has been caring for refugees since the beginning of the church.  In fact, I think they could literally say, "yes, we were there when this whole idea started."  Thankfully, 2,000 years later they are still here.  

I think it's safe to assume they are not going anywhere.

 

Baptist

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC.net)

I could not find anything posted on their homepage, and the last post of the current SBC President's page is from July 8, 2016 (I assume the post relates to the events in Dallas where a sniper killed five police officers and wounded seven others, alongside two civilians, at the end of a peaceful protest against recent police shootings of African-Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota.  The post is not specific).

However, I did find a post from the former President...

Ronnie Floyd (former President of the Southern Baptist Convention): Navigating Through the Refugee Issue from a Biblical Perspective

...and a post from the leader of the International Missions Board (part of SBC).

David Plat (President of the International Mission Board):  A Heart for the Refugee

...and a post from the leader of the SBC policy arm.

Russell Moore (President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission):  The letter Russell Moore will send Trump about the refugee order  

Floyd supports the President's Executive Order.  

Platt says

"My aim in addressing the refugee crisis is not to propose a particular political position for our country, but to say to the church that the way so many of us think and talk about refugees today seems to spring from a foundation of fear, not faith."

Moore (who we know the President doesn't like) seems to take a stronger position than Platt...

"Clarify, through a rigorous interagency review and coordination, the extent of the Executive Order to resolve the status of green card holders, Iraqi military interpreters, and other ambiguities; Implement additional screening measures in order that the Refugee Admission Program may be resumed as soon as possible, including for refugees from Syria; Work to ensure the safety of Americans serving in majority-Muslim countries and to preserve their ability to continue serving the “least of these” in the region; and Affirm your administration’s commitment to religious freedom and the inalienable human dignity of persecuted people whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Yazidi or other, and adjust the Executive Order as necessary."

So, a little bit of a mixed response, but because of Dr. Moore's position within SBC he, most likely, represents their official position.  Good.

 

American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. (abc-usa.org)

There was an easy to find post on their website homepage in the "spotlight" section.

Post:  Immigration and Equality – A Pastoral Response by Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, ABCNJ

There is not an outright call to reverse the Executive Order, there is a strongly worded statement that does not support of any action that turns away immigrants or refugees as noted in Dr. Spitzer's quote...

American Baptists welcome without prejudice or discrimination all refugees and immigrants who legally seek entry into this country. We also support just laws which promote compassionate and fair immigration policy. The United States has always been a land of immigrants, and we should not forget our heritage.
 
...the rejection of refugees fleeing persecution is in direct contradiction to the command of Jesus Christ to care for our neighbor."

For a denomination that has been fighting for issues of equality since their beginning, this response would be expected.  Good stuff.

 

Pentecostal / Assemblies of God (AG.org)

Post:  Response to the Executive Order on Immigration by Dr. George O. Wood

Dr. Wood's statement...

Rather than making a public policy statement, on which there are different perspectives from within our own Fellowship, and realizing that even a general superintendent should not assume to speak for the entire Fellowship on issues where opinion is divided and where the issue involved is one in which believers have opinions that do not agree, I felt it wise to remind us of what our real mission is as followers of Christ.
 
We are to pray for our leaders – federal, state, and local. We are to love those who do not agree with us (our “enemies”). We are not to swerve from our fundamental responsibility to bear true witness to Jesus so that lost people can find salvation in Christ. We are to express ourselves in public and in private with appropriate language. The tenor of our language also should always bring honor to our Lord. We are a spiritual body of Christ and not a political party.

...would make me believe that this is basically a non-statement.  An initial reading of his post certainly does not call for a reversal of the Executive Order, and seems to be more forced than passionate in its support of refugee care.  

 

Lutheran

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca.org)

Boom, right there.  Picture image banner on their homepage that you couldn't miss.  Let's dig.

Post:  ELCA presiding bishop addresses President Trump’s refugee executive order

...took about five seconds to see their passionate and intentional actions to communicate their position to the Trump administration.

"...earlier last week I communicated with the Trump administration asking that it not stop the U.S. refugee admissions program or stop resettlement from any country for any period of time." - Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

No surprise here either as their Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services is also one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S.

(Please note that I did spent five minutes searching for a statement from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod but could not find one.)

 

Presbyterian/Reformed

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA.org)

Post:  Presbytery of New York City urges president to rescind order on refugees

Well, no need to read that.  I think we know exactly where they stand.

I actually did read it, and found some of the strongest language yet. 

The presbytery approved the resolution that condemns the ban, saying it “contradicts the very foundations of our biblical faith to welcome the stranger and give safe haven to the refugee.” - Rev. Laura Jervis

Nice.

Presbyterian Church in America (pcanet.org)

Well, they just plain need a new website.  If there's a message in there somewhere, good luck finding it.  Their biggest news is announcing their new logo, so I'm just assume they have other issues that they are still trying to work through.

If anyone at this denomination reads this, call me.  I'll be happy to do a new website for free as long as you post about caring for refugees.

 

Methodist 

United Methodist Church (umc.org)

Post:  Bishop Ough issues statement on Trump immigration order

Today, I stand with colleagues representing several faith traditions to strongly denounce President Trump’s widespread attack on immigrants and refugees. President Trump’s reckless, ill-conceived executive orders will divide families, impose a religious test for Muslims facing forced migration, penalize communities providing sanctuary and wall off the United States from our neighbors. These actions are expensive, unnecessary and profoundly antithetical to our values of compassion, dignity and justice for all individuals regardless of nationality, religious affiliation or legal status. - Bishop Ough

Check.  Got it.  Loud and clear.  Thank you.

African Methodist Episcopal Church (ame-church.com)

Again, right there.  Their statement is the first thing you see, the only thing you see, when you go to their site.

Post:  Council of Bishops Response to President Trump’s Actions

This faith community is not messing around and holding nothing back...

"We ask that every member of this denomination, and people who are committed to justice and righteousness, equality and truth, will join with us to thwart what are clearly demonic acts."

and then go on to call for...

...a meeting on Friday, February 17th with members of the Congressional delegation from each of the states. 

They are ready for a fight, and, again, I would expect nothing less from a faith community that has been fighting for equality and freedom since their beginning in 1787.  Bravo.

 

Episcopal & Anglican

Episcopal Church (episcopalchurch.org)

First thing I noticed is they had a statement that was posted on January 25th (before the Executive Order was officially announced) that opposed any change in U.S. policy 

Post:  Presiding Bishop, other Episcopal leaders call on Trump to maintain refugee resettlement efforts

On Feb 1st they announced...

Post:  Episcopal Church expands its stand with refugees, immigrants and the undocumented

Do we need to go on?

Anglican Church in North America (anglicanchurch.net)

The first thing I found was a call to prayer...

Post:  A Call to Prayer for Immigrants, Refugees, and Government Leaders

In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, changes in US immigration policy, and the way these changes will affect us all, I ask you to join me in prayer.  Please pray for the poor, the refugee, and all immigrant families whose lives are made more complex, and sometimes more desperate by these events.  Please also join me in praying for all those in positions of public trust who seek wisdom in the formation of the laws and policies of our respective governments.  - The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America

...and to date, that is all that I see.  

I can respect that.  We should be praying about these issues and praying that our response reflects God's wisdom, grace, and compassion.

Bishop Hunter, Bishop of The Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others, posted "Loving Our Global Neighbors: A Message From Bishop Todd Hunter."

We don’t live in a theocracy, and we can’t impose our will on a government (but write them or call them if you feel so moved), but we can do what we can do. 
 
The widow, the orphan and the stranger all have a special place in the heart of God. We want his heart—and we want their good. We respect public policy—and acknowledge it is a complex task to get it right. But as Christians we don’t have to choose between security and love...

There's also a "Write Your Government Officials" button in the margin of the post.

At first glance, the ANCA seems to be taking a slower, more contemplative approach.  I think that ultimately those prayers will turn to action, but we should honor this call to prayer and wait for God to grant wisdom in their next steps.

 

Seventh-day Adventist Church (adventist.org)

I did't find a response or post on their website regarding the President's Executive Order, but I do find countless places where refugee care is part of their work.  In fact their "Adventist Refugee & Immigrant Ministries" work seems really thorough.  For now, I think you can say they are in, but I'll check back soon to see if any formal responses.

 

Holiness

Church of the Nazarene (nazarene.org)

Yep, easy to find statement right there on the homepage.

Post:  BGS echoes call for compassion after latest refugee rulings

They are clearly not for the President's Executive Order and state...

In light of recent executive orders issued in the United States and decisions by other world governments regarding the status of refugees, the Board of General Superintendents for the Church of the Nazarene urges governments everywhere to quickly put into place systems whereby eligible and legitimate refugees can find refuge and safety in our countries. Further, we urge the President of the United States, Congress, and other state departments to make this temporary order a matter of urgency so that the United States may continue to be known as a nation of compassion and hospitality to those who are oppressed, vulnerable, and marginalized.

...and then they go on to reiterate a statement from November 2015 where they spoke about before about caring for refugees and immigrants.

Seems clear where they stand.  

 

In closing...

If you have hung in there long enough to reach this point, thank you.  It's a lot to digest.  I would encourage you to take some time to read all of these posts/positions for yourself, and then let me know what you find.

I have some observations, but I'll share those in a later post.  Until then, thanks for hanging in there.  I hope this helps as you navigate through these issues in the context of your own community (and maybe go to your church's website to see what they posted).

Grace & peace,

Mike

(& if you didn't find your denomination in here, chances are you are in a church that came out of one of these faith traditions.  Dig in, figure that out, and then see how that aligns with where your church is today.)

 

Life is Meaningless

Yassin Falafel...the story of a Syrian Refugee in America