I am a conflict avoid-er by nature. When a controversial topic comes up, I might simply listen and offer nothing of my own perspective, even though I may hold strong views.
But in baptism, Jesus calls us to boldness for love’s sake. That and All Saints’ and the wider church’s call to me as pastor includes “to speak for justice in behalf of the poor and oppressed.” Justice is God’s love in the public square. Both baptism and ordination invite taking a stand on some matters of public controversy.
So even as I pray, “Make us bold, O Lord!” I also pray, “Keep us in love!” A spirit of hostility and division infects this country’s politics, media, and culture. That evil spirit infects us, tempts us.
As All Saints prays, its leaders also remind themselves of this congregation’s “Respectful Communication Guidelines.” These guidelines are not intended to help us avoid tension or hard conversation. Quite the opposite! They help us engage both in Christ-honoring ways. Oh, how this world needs people practiced in peaceful disagreement!
Immigration reform is a controversy that the Evangelical Lutheran Church has spoken to more than once–first in a social message in 1998 and again in a social policy resolution in 2009. Both stand outside the particular politics of the moment. They affirm “long-standing Lutheran commitments to both newcomers and just laws that serve the common good.” They also lift up scripture that witnesses to a God who “identifies with the human stranger.”
The 2009 resolution affirms that the immigration system is broken–separating families, marginalizing people, putting communities at risk, and treating all immigration issues as national security issues. It invites leaders to “reunite families and integrate the marginalized,” “protect the rights of people at work,” “establish just and humane enforcement,” “revitalize refugee protection and integration,” and “address root causes of forced migration.” H.R. 15 isn’t perfect, but its passage would be an important step in these directions.
It’s on the strength of these statements and of my own sense of God’s justice that I will participate on Thursday in a walk and prayer vigil for immigration reform, hosted by Quad Cities Interfaith. It will begin at 4:30pm on Thursday, August 20 at the corner of 4th and Main Streets in downtown Davenport and proceed to the Irish Immigrant monument by the transit station.
I invite you to come, walk, and pray. Or simply read the ELCA statements above and consider how your faith informs your stance on immigration.