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63 Colorado Evangelical Leaders Sign Letter Calling for a Respectful Immigration Dialogue

Effort Precedes Tonight’s GOP Debate
BOULDER, COLO., OCTOBER 28, 2015 — In an open letter published this morning as a full-page ad in the Boulder Daily Camera, 63 Colorado pastors and other evangelical leaders call on GOP presidential candidates to craft respectful, solutions-based messages on immigration.

In a key state for 2016, the letter counters harsh rhetoric toward immigrants from some presidential candidates and other political leaders.

“The immigrant community and our community are one and the same,” the letter states. “Together, for several years we have diligently worked to create space to dialogue and learn from one another about how the broken immigration system has affected our communities, keeping us divided. And, we have come to this shared conclusion: Immigrants are vital in our communities, and we must treat them with respect and dignity. Our laws must reflect that conclusion.”

“So many of us feel that we need to do something to stand up to the negativity around the immigration debate,” said Michelle Warren, an Evangelical Immigration Table leader in Colorado. “We are desperate for a conversation that welcomes immigrants with compassion.”

Letters Urge Congress, Administration: Welcome Refugees

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 1, 2015 — In letters today, the Evangelical Immigration Table urges Congress and the Obama administration to welcome refugees and significantly increase the number of refugees the country admits in the next fiscal year.

“The United States of America has a proud history of welcoming refugees, and local churches have long been eager partners in the process of integration. As evangelical Christians, our faith compels us to respond with compassion and hospitality, recognizing that each is made in God’s image and is a neighbor whom God commands us to love,” the letters state. “ … We are calling upon our government to do more.”

The full letters are available here.

The following are quotes from Table leaders:

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:

“When others are in desperate need, we remember Jesus’ golden rule to treat others as we would want to be treated. Let’s rescue refugees. It’s the Christian thing to do.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:

“World Relief has worked with local church partners throughout the nation to resettle more than 250,000 refugees since the late 1970s. As the world faces the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, we are ready and eager to do all that we can to welcome and help integrate those fleeing persecution. At this unique moment in history, we challenge our generous nation to do more, and we challenge each local church throughout the country to commit to welcoming a refugee family.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO and President, Christian Community Development Association:

“The current refugee crisis drives home the urgent need for leaders at home and abroad to work together to address the needs surrounding migration. People are leaving their countries of origin to flee poverty, violence and war, making migration a necessity for survival, not a sin. We need to look at the root causes of our current crisis and work together to create sustainable solutions that work for those who are migrating and for those who are receiving them.”

Bishop Jose Garcia, Director of Church Relations, Bread for the World:

“Throughout history the United States has been a ‘city of refuge’ for countless immigrants escaping political persecution and oppression. As a nation ‘under God’ we have the faith and moral imperative to become the hands and heart of God by reaching out and welcoming the stranger.”

Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities:

“The United States has been blessed with such an abundance of resources that we have the opportunity to bless others. We have the educational and employment opportunities that allow refugees to contribute in meaningful ways to the United States and to fulfill their God-given potential. Increasing the number of refugees is consistent with our biblical mandate to take care of the least of these.”

Dr. Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“These millions of refugees, fleeing the most brutal kinds of persecution and oppression, are some of our world’s most vulnerable and defenseless people. Over and over again in Scripture we see that God has an interest in whether or not the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow are treated with compassion and care. By welcoming those whose religious and personal liberties have been trampled on by tyrants, we can embody our conviction that all people are made in the image of God, whether they are without a family, a home, or a country.”

Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA:

“Our greatest strength as a people lies in our God-graced ability to save lives. When the world cries out for help, we respond. Accordingly, this current refugee crisis requires our nation, this proverbial ‘city on a hill,’ to shine the light of compassion once again. Let us open our hearts and homes to the suffering and those fleeing destruction. Let us ‘be light’ once again.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and President, Sojourners:

“When people are in such great trouble and fear that they leave their homes with no place to go, the test of loving our neighbors—as Jesus tells us to do—is to welcome them with compassion, grace, and love—without political considerations. The Pope has asked the churches to take in the ‘strangers’ from Syria. Catholic or not, it is time for Christians everywhere to respond.”

Robert Zachritz, Vice President, Advocacy & Government Relations, World Vision US:

“It can be hard during a time of crisis to have a response of love instead of fear. Scriptures admonish us to love the refugee in our midst.”

 

 

Evangelical Immigration Table Celebrates Three-Year Anniversary

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 12, 2015 — In three years, the Evangelical Immigration Table has broadened and deepened its network of leaders calling for a just, compassionate immigration process rooted in biblical values.

Since leaders of national evangelical organizations launched the Table on June 12, 2012, nearly 1,700 local and national leaders have signed its Statement of Principles. Signatories urge legislators to advance meaningful reform that:

• Respects the God-given dignity of every person.
• Protects the unity of the immediate family.
• Respects the rule of law.
• Guarantees secure national borders.
• Ensures fairness to taxpayers.
• Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.

In the Table’s three years, local and national organizers have held hundreds of pastors meetings, prayer events, press conferences and fly-ins. The Table’s documentary film, The Stranger, has screened more than 3,000 times in 46 states and Washington, D.C., since its June 2014 premiere.

The following are quotes from Table leaders:

Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
“Three years ago an impressive group of evangelical leaders came to the same commonsense principles for immigration reform. The movement now includes thousands of local pastors and organizers across the country. Our voice is louder, and our message is the same. We want immigration reform.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:
“On the three-year anniversary of the Evangelical Immigration Table, I am amazed to see the shift in evangelical attitudes towards immigrants and am proud of the work the Table has done to mobilize hundreds of individuals for immigration reform. The growing consensus around immigration reform reflects the deep conviction that many evangelicals have that we are to welcome and love the stranger as we would Christ Himself. We hope that our Congress heeds the calls of many evangelicals in passing immigration reform that would allow millions of our fellow brothers and sisters who live in the shadows of our country to become fully integrated members of our society.“

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association:
“I remain proud to stand among evangelical leaders who came together three years ago across the denominational, political, cultural and racial spectrum to call on our elected officials to replace the broken immigration system. Since then we have seen growing support from the broader evangelical community. But we have waited too long. In our work, the CCDA encounters families still living in fear of separation and people remaining in the shadows. Our elected officials must act on their moral courage and find solutions that will support immigrants, our economy and our communities. We remain committed to this effort.”

Shirley V. Hoogstra, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities:
“Advancing the well-being of people through immigration reform is what Christian Higher Education wants to be ‘for.’ This coalition of evangelicals brings dedication and hard work to a tough problem. It is in unity that we have hope.”

Dr. Russell Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
“In the past three years, I’ve been grateful to see God at work in churches all across this country. God is reminding us that ‘immigrants’ are not an abstraction. They are our neighbors, created in the image of God, and many of them are our brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that three years from now, we see not only a more just system in the public arena, but also more and more churches that reflect the glorious unity and diversity of the kingdom of God.”

Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:
“Today we celebrate the collaborative work of the Evangelical Immigration Table. Together, we have won the moral argument for the need of immigration reform. We stand on the edge of a proverbial ‘Jordan River,’ inches away from stepping into the Promised Land. We never would have crossed the desert of apathy and fragmentation without the Evangelical Immigration Table.”

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition:
“The work of this broad coalition of evangelical leaders for immigration reform has been nothing short of inspiring. Political leadership should take note of the faith-inspired, principled, and trans-partisan efforts of evangelicals and move on immigration reform. We are praying together for solutions.”

Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and President, Sojourners:
“To see evangelicals coming together to support immigration reform across our racial, cultural, theological, and political differences has been one of the most hopeful signs we have seen for a long time. This is gift to the church, and a blessing to the country by showing divisive politics the way forward.”

‘The Stranger’ Celebrates More Than 3,000 Screenings in First Year

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 4, 2015— Today marks the one-year anniversary of the world premiere of The Stranger, a compelling documentary film that looks at our current immigration system from a biblical perspective.

Since its premiere, more than 3,000 screenings of the film have taken place across 46 states plus Washington, D.C. The film, which is still available for download at www.thestrangerfilm.org, highlights the stories of three families caught in our broken immigration system.

The Stranger is just as relevant now, if not more so,” said Linda Midgett, the filmmaker. “There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding about immigration laws in our country. I’m thrilled that we’ve had more than 3,000 screenings, but I hope more people continue to watch the film and encourage their churches and communities to do the same.”

“In the past year thousands have been able to witness the plight of our undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters through The Stranger,” said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “As millions wait in expectancy for our immigration system to be reformed The Stranger reminds us of the urgent need for reform to pass.”

One year later our country is still dealing with an immigration system that results in families being separated. But the film has helped to change the hearts and minds of evangelicals across the country.

The Stranger is impacting Iowa, and our first showing in our church was a success,” said Luis Gabriel Arredondo, Cultural Ministry Coordinator at the Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa. “The best comment I heard was, ‘We need to let the truth be known.’ The film captured a wide range of situations that helped people get a broad understanding of this issue. This is bringing real-life stories to our community, which longs to speak for the voiceless, for the sojourner who is a stranger to many.”

The Stranger puts a human face on the challenging discussions surrounding immigration reform, said Will Stoller-Lee, Director of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “It introduces us to the lives of three families, trapped in the current broken immigration system. The stories of these families help show that these are not strangers at all, but people you might already know in your own neighborhood, at your school, in your church, or at your workplace. It will change the way you view immigrants in our society and transform how you think about immigration reform.”

While delving into one of the most complex issues of our time, The Stranger returns the conversation to Scripture, and to the stories of real people.

“Good movies make you care. Good movies make you see the possibilities. Good movies speak to your soul. The Stranger does all those things exceptionally well,” said Tim Moore, Senior Pastor of Walk Worthy Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. “But this movie was also about real people whose lives have been needlessly put on hold, families spent into near bankruptcy trying to do things right. I’m praying for the sequel, where these lives are filmed living their God-given potential, contributing to the country that has always been her best when opportunity to live the American dream was the hope of every immigrant.”

“While our country continues to debate the need for immigration reform, millions of men, women and children created in God’s image continue to live in the shadows,” said Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President of Public Policy and Research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who is in the film. “The Stranger has served remarkably well in telling a small portion of the story of the human toll involved in our nation’s broken immigration system. I pray that God will continue to use this film to spur us all to action for the sake of our nation and the stranger in our midst.”

Follow The Stranger on Facebook and Twitter.

Evangelical Churches, Pastors Engage on Immigration

On Reform, Recent Poll Indicates Broad Support in the Pews

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 22, 2015 — Evangelical Christians on the local and national levels continue to call for solutions for our broken immigration system and to address immigrants from a biblical perspective.

In the past week, more than 250 leaders from local churches around the country signed up for Evangelical Immigration Table webinars in English and Spanish on the biblical response to immigration and resources available to pastors as they engage their congregations in the conversation.

“Politicians may not be taking a serious, collaborative approach to solving the broken immigration system, but church leaders are working to ensure that their congregations look at immigration through a biblical and not a partisan lens,” said Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association. “We must bring attention to the fact that our immigrant brothers and sisters suffer daily because of injustice in our current immigration laws.”

From Alabama to Iowa, local pastors are continuing to speak out on the moral imperatives for reform and urge a constructive political conversation around immigration from candidates for president. Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, sounded a similar note in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Reiterating his theme, Moore said, “The immigration skirmishes over the past several years have turned the topic into a culture-war issue it should never have become. America isn’t a silo of limited resources that will be spoiled by adding more people. Evangelicals have rightly insisted that people should never be regarded as a burden on society, and many of our healthiest and most evangelistic churches are filled with first-generation immigrants. More than that, evangelicals increasingly see the need for a tough but fair solution to our nation’s immigration crisis that highlights both justice and compassion.”

Meanwhile, more churches are engaging on immigration, including some of the largest churches in Iowa. Among pastors, the number signing on to the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform continues to grow as well.

“There is no doubt the issue of fixing our broken immigration system remains at the forefront of people of faith,” said Rev. Tony Suarez, Executive Vice President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). “Our moral convictions do not allow us to look the other way while children and families suffer.”

“Thanks to widespread Bible reading, prayer, preaching, and awareness campaigns, the groundswell of evangelical support for immigration reform continues to build in churches and communities across the country,” said Galen Carey, Vice President for Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals. “Politicians seeking support from evangelicals in 2016 should take note and offer voters a positive vision for an immigration policy that is pro-family and that promotes economic growth.”

And this spring, LifeWay Research found that nearly 70 percent of evangelical Christians support broad immigration reform that provides not only for border security but also for an opportunity for immigrants lacking authorization to earn legal status and citizenship. The same percentage say Congress should act this year. The findings moved Daniel Carroll Rodas of the Denver Seminary to write in the Christian Post about an evangelical community interested in the biblical perspective on immigration.

“We are experiencing a significant shift in how evangelicals understand immigration,” said Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “Welcoming the stranger is a biblical and moral imperative, and fixing our current immigration system is urgent. LifeWay Research’s recent polling confirms that most evangelical Christians want Congress to take action and lead our country toward a more just, compassionate immigration system. We call upon Congress and the future presidential candidates to embrace the call of the faith community.”

“Despite the failure of Congress to act, we will continue our work of bringing people of faith together around the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners. “We will also hold all presidential candidates accountable for their policy positions on immigration, and we will keep at it until the job is done.”

“Recent research confirms that immigration reform is important to students,” said Shirley V. Hoogstra, President of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. “Those who are undocumented and have no pathway toward legal status face hurdle after hurdle in obtaining the education that will allow them to fulfill their God-given abilities and to better their lives, their communities and the country they have lived in for most of their lives. The CCCU has joined the Evangelical Immigration Table to urge Congress to act and ensure that all students in the U.S. have the opportunity to pursue an education that will give them a brighter future.”

While voices ranging from political to cynical are leading the immigration conversation in Congress and among presidential candidates, more and more evangelical Christians are taking a biblical approach.

“Christians recognize the Bible calls us time and time again to treat the most vulnerable with compassion and care, with several passages specifically mentioning the refugees in our midst,” concluded Robert Zachritz, Vice President of Advocacy & Government Relations for World Vision. “Doing so in a manner that shows respect for the rule of law while also providing a path to citizenship is a way to bring hope to people in desperate situations.”

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The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.

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