EUROPEAN AMERICAN LUTHERAN ASSOCIATION OF THE ELCA SUMMONS CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY TO ADDRESS RECENT STATE LAWS INVOLVING IMMIGRANTS
With an increasing amount of states passing or proposing various laws regarding the presence of immigrants, legal and illegal, within their boundaries, the European American Lutheran Association Board of Directors at their annual meeting in Atlanta, GA during July, approved a resolution addressing this issue.
The resolution mentions that the biblical witness calls for care and hospitality toward the stranger and that in 1998 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a message on immigration advocating fair and generous laws. The resolution also states the Bishops of the ELCA, later in the same year, joined Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services in issuing a document entitled “Call for Fair and Just Immigration Reform”.
The resolution also states some recent state laws make it a crime to be a person out of status and requires local police to practically act as federal immigration agents. In addition it notes some laws limit the free exercise of religion by criminalizing even humanitarian ministries often provided by clergy or congregation members.
The “Visions and Expectations” document of the ELCA for rostered leadership and parts of Holy Baptism from Evangelical Lutheran Worship are also mentioned. With the former the resolution states leadership is expected “to be committed to justice in the life of the church, in society, and in the world”. “including testimony against injustice and oppression whether personal of systemic.” With Holy Baptism, it is noted the baptized are called to “serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth”.
In its resolves the resolution calls for the 2011 Churchwide Assembly, meeting in Orlando, FL, August 15-19, to affirm the 1998 actions of LIRS and the synod bishops. In addition current bishops are encouraged to repudiate punitive laws passed within their jurisdictions and that congregations and institutions welcome and serve persons regardless of their documented status. Finally, it asks that all members of the ELCA “be encouraged to protest all laws and proposed laws that ignore the Bible’s witness to care for the stranger among us and violate our baptismal covenant to serve all people and strive for justice and peace in all the earth, by writing local, state, and national legislators, and participating in public rallies and protests against laws that criminalize the free exercise of this expression of biblical faith.”
A copy of the resolution can be seen at the website of the European American Lutheran Association, http://www.elca-eala.org.
The European American Lutheran Association (EALA) is one of six ethnic associations within Multicultural Ministries of the ELCA’s Congregational and Synodical Mission unit. The EALA was constituted in Chicago, October 2008 at the request of the other ethnic associations, Afirican American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino. 97% of the ELCA’s membership can identify themselves as European American, descendants of European immigrants.
NEWS RELEASE: EALA Initiated Immigration Resolution Approved by ELCA Churchwide Assembly on Last Day
At its final Plenary Session Friday morning, August 19, the Churchwide Assembly passed an Immigration Resolution, which was heavily based on the one approved by the European American Lutheran Association Board of Directors at its July Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The Assembly vote was 882 for and 40 against or a 98.66% rate of approval. It was passed without amendment.
In introducing the resolution which was entitled, “Confronting Injustice in State Immigration Initiatives”, John Emery of the Assembly Reference and Counsel Committee, indicated that the committee recommended resolution approval because it was consistent with a 2009 Assembly Resolution, “Toward a Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform” and also with the mission of this church.
Three voting members spoke in support of it. The assembly resolution sponsor and Florida- Bahama Synod Vice-President, Cheryl Stuart shared her experience when the State of Florida Legislature was considering an Arizona style Immigration Resolution earlier this spring, which was defeated. She said the legislation sponsor mentioned he was most upset that during the 3 hour debate some would suggest the Bible or religion would have anything to do with this issue. Bishop Julian Gordy of the Southeastern Synod noted that he was Chair of the Conference of Bishops Immigration Task Force and that starting in September Alabama clergy who bring undocumented children to Sunday School could be arrested and criminally charged. He said the type of laws passed by a growing amount of state legislatures were “not welcoming, not helpful, unnecessarily harsh, and, in many provisions, hateful.” He ended by saying these laws should be resisted by this “immigrant” church. The third voting member, Carl Teinert, Vice-president of the Southwest Texas Synod said that he was thankful for a church which advocates for those without voice in our society. All three were stopped by the one-minute speaking rule put in place by the assembly for this last session. Seeing no other speakers by any of the microphones, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson then called for the assembly vote.
The approved resolution speaks of the Biblical basis for a ministry of welcome and asks for the following in one of its resolves: ”that all members of this church, including its leaders, be encouraged to protest laws and proposed laws that ignore the Bible’s witness to care for the stranger among us and to serve all people and strive for justice and peace in all the earth, by: communicating with legislators, governors and the media; participating in public gatherings opposing unjust immigration policies; and taking all actions that demonstrate welcome and live out accompaniment of immigrants;”
In addition it calls for an annual “Stand for Welcome Sunday” and in its final resolve “that the Presiding Bishop and Synodical Bishops are called upon to communicate this resolution and the commitment of the ELCA to stand with and advocate for immigrants to the U.S. Administration, Congress, all governors and state legislatures, and the media.”
The European American Lutheran Association (EALA) is one of six ethnic associations within Multicultural Ministries of the ELCA’s Congregational and Synodical Mission unit. The EALA was constituted in Chicago, October 2008 at the request of the other ethnic associations, African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino. 97% of the ELCA’s membership can identify themselves as European American, descendants of European immigrants.