Evangelical Churches, Pastors engage on immigration
On Reform, Recent Poll Indicates Broad Support in the Pews
May 22, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — 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 Postabout 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.”
The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.