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Southern Baptists: let immigrants become legal

Southern Baptists: let immigrants become legal

The Courier-Journal reports that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Arizona adopted a resolution adopted a resolution calling for “governing authorities” to secure the U.S. border but also to provide a “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.”

The resolution by the historically white denomination denounces nativism and ethnic bigotry and notes the increased ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity in the nation’s population.

But the “legal status” clause generated debate, according to Associated Baptist Press. Though the resolution said it was not calling for “amnesty,” former convention vice president Wiley Drake of California said that “is exactly what this is. This is amnesty any way you phrase it.”

Baptist messengers defeated a motion to delete the “legal status” clause by a 766-723 margin.

Paul Jimenez of South Carolina, chair of the resolutions committee, defended what he called a “realistic and biblical” proposal: “As churches see immigrants here among us, our first question is not ‘What is their legal status?’ The question first and foremost is ‘What is their gospel status?’”

Full resolution below:

ON IMMIGRATION AND THE GOSPEL

June 2011

WHEREAS, The Kingdom of God is made up of persons from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language (Revelation 7:9); and

WHEREAS, Our ancestors in the faith were sojourners and aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 1:1-14; 1 Chronicles 16:19; Acts 7:6); and

WHEREAS, Our Lord Jesus Christ lived His childhood years as an immigrant and refugee (Matthew 2:13-23); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures call us, in imitation of God Himself, to show compassion and justice for the sojourner and alien among us (Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Psalm 94:6; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:29; Zechariah 7:10); and

WHEREAS, The Great Commission compels us to take the gospel to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and the Great Commandment compels us to love our neighbor as self (Mark 12:30-31); and

WHEREAS, The gospel tells us that our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40); and

WHEREAS, The Bible denounces the exploitation of workers and the mistreatment of the poor (Isaiah 3:15; Amos 4:1; James 5:4); and

WHEREAS, The United States of America is increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, language, and culture; and

WHEREAS, Approximately 12 to 15 million undocumented immigrants live and work within our borders; and

WHEREAS, The relative invisibility of the immigrant population can lead to detrimental consequences in terms of health, education, and well-being, especially of children; and

WHEREAS, Recognizing that Romans 13:1-7 teaches us that the rule of law is an indispensable part of civil society and that Christians are under biblical mandate to respect the divinely-ordained institution of government and its just laws, that government has a duty to fulfill its ordained mandate, and that Christians have a right to expect the government to fulfill its ordained mandate to enforce those laws; and

WHEREAS, The governing authorities of a nation have the right and responsibility to maintain borders to protect the security of their citizens; and

WHEREAS, Undocumented immigrants are in violation of the law of the land; and

WHEREAS, Many of these persons, desiring a better future for themselves and their families, are fleeing brutal economic and political situations; and

WHEREAS, The issue of immigration has prompted often-rancorous debate in the American public square; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011, call on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders and to hold businesses accountable for hiring practices as they relate to immigration status; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we pray for our churches to demonstrate the reconciliation of the Kingdom both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is “Whosoever will may come.”

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