Sanctuary: A pause to reflect
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has called the Episcopal Church, a church of sixteen countries worldwide, into the Jesus Movement in which we ourselves reflect the holy love of Jesus in the world. In just a few short months, the Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation and author of “Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other and the Spirit of Transformation,” along with other notables from the wider Episcopal Church will visit us in our diocese over three days, November 17 – 19. This is a “Revival,” one of six the Presiding Bishop has or will give in Episcopal dioceses in 2017 and 2018. He will be sharing his vision of “The Jesus Movement” and how we are called to follow Jesus. Not just THAT we are called to follow Jesus, but WHAT that might look like on a day to day basis. He could, for example, help us discern how we are called to respond to the plight of immigrants. Do we make any exceptions to Jesus’ command to love our neighbors? What if our neighbors do not have legal immigration status, which an estimated 3.2 million people (8% of the total population) in California do not?
The sort of love that Jesus demonstrates throughout the Gospel is that which knows no boundaries – no excuses, no exclusions, no requirements. In fact, as 1 John puts it, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And, 1 John implores us in another verse, “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
The question for us is how God is calling us to BE for our immigrant brothers and sisters, both those with papers and those without papers? How are our actions consistent with Jesus – consistent with a people who call themselves “the Jesus Movement” – when we have so many questions about whether our brothers and sisters are “legal” or “illegal,” “residents” or “aliens?”
The answer, I believe, is Love. Do our actions – helping our undocumented residents or not – align with Jesus’ command not to turn our backs on the resident aliens: “You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice…. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:17–18). How best can we, the holy people of Jesus, best show our love to all people?
Have we obeyed what Jesus called the second great commandment, to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” (Matthew 22:39).
This, I believe, is the test.
If you have any questions or contributions, please email me at DeaconNancy@diosanjoaquin.org.
Helping families toward citizenship
There are multiple instances in scripture leading us to protect immigrants, one of those being Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Indeed, the Holy Family was led to flee their native land seeking sanctuary when Herod was seeking the life of the infant Jesus.
According to the Pew Research Center, there were 4.5 million US-born children under 18 living with undocumented parents in 2012. Unfortunately, immigration law is a complex matter, and what is in the best interest of each individual differs.
Some communities and some agencies, such as Faith in the Valley, have established Legal Defense Funds. Contribution to these funds ensures that undocumented persons and legal immigrants have access to legal advice, either from an attorney specializing in immigration or from an individual who is accredited through the Office of Legal Access Programs to assist individuals with the citizenship process. Without a trained immigration advisory or qualified immigration attorney, well-intended help can result in adverse consequences for those seeking citizenship.
An accredited immigration advisor will conduct a thorough assessment to determine first, whether the individual is likely to qualify for citizenship, and secondly, what steps are appropriate. Below is a listing of agencies that may offer accredited immigration assistance:
Be a community of love, hospitality and fellowship for Sanctuary Congregations.
While the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has not authorized its congregations to provide physical sanctuary, congregations can support those congregations of denominations and faiths who have declared themselves to be sanctuary congregations. If your congregation is linked with Faith in the Valley or another interfaith group, you may already be aware of nearby congregations that have discerned the call to provide sanctuary. In Fresno, for example, “sanctuary congregations” include Wesley United Methodist, First Congregational Church (“Big Red”), the Unitarian Universalist Church and Carter Memorial African Methodist Episcopalian Church. In January, 2017, the governing council of bishops directed that all African Methodist Episcopal churches in the nation would be sanctuary churches.
Local congregations can also provide support to sanctuary congregations through offering love, hospitality and fellowship for Sanctuary Congregations through tangible resources to Sanctuary Congregations. Ways to do this include: