Bishop David Bard writes a pastoral letter to the Michigan Area on welcoming refugees.
In these times of deep political divide, we struggle with the conflict between political views and our beliefs as followers of Jesus Christ. Our church struggles with how to speak about, and to, our wider world. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are invited to speak, to think more deeply and to reflect more broadly about our world.
John Wesley often addressed the significant issues of his day including slavery, alcohol abuse, and the political situation in the colonies. In our reflections, we should not be limited by binary red and blue thinking. Instead we are invited as Christians to think with and through our Scriptures which provide us with our primary images and metaphors for engaging the wider world. We are invited to use the resources in our tradition and to listen to the breadth of human experience. We need to offer theologically rooted moral reflection on the wider world in which we live and to which we minister; in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.
In recent days as policy changes on immigration and refugees have been announced, I have reflected on them using Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. As I listen to the Scriptures that encourage us to do justice, that enjoin us to welcome the stranger and alien, that call us to do all in love, I cannot help but think that the recent actions are not in keeping with the best of our faith and the deepest soul of our country. As I listen to the voices of students in our colleges, professionals with loved ones who live overseas, and families seeking only the safety and opportunity missing from their country of birth, these actions trouble my spirit. The stories of our faith are in so many cases stories of wandering people: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and his family, the Israelites led by Moses and Aaron and Miriam. The Law enjoins us to “love the alien as yourself,” and the aliens or immigrants of the time were not only people who were ethnically different, but who were also religiously different. The life of Jesus was, in part, the life of a refugee as he and his family fled political violence in Roman occupied Palestine. These stories of our faith provide grounding for moral principles of hospitality, compassion and care for the stranger and foreigner. I am grateful to live in a country where such theologically grounded moral principles have been an important part of our moral fabric. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
To be sure, security matters. “All nations have the right to secure their borders” (The Book of Resolutions, “Welcoming the Migrant to the US”). At the same time, “the primary concern for Christians should be the welfare of immigrants” (“Welcoming the Migrant to the US”). In securing our borders, we need to make sure that we keep intact the heart and soul of the country we are wanting to protect. These recent actions threaten our heart, our soul, our character.
I invite you to continue to think with me about how our nation’s policies might more adequately reflect the heart of our faith. I invite you to pray and work for a world that more adequately embodies justice, kindness, compassion, hospitality and love.
Bishop David A. Bard