US denies visas to foreign church delegates

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Ekklesia reports that the US has denied visas to people attending denominational conferences:

When the Baptist World Alliance held its global conference in Hawaii earlier in August, it was missing about 1000 attendees from around the world.

In June, the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches in Grand Rapids, in the US state of Michigan, was missing 74, and the Seventh-day Adventists’ general conference in Atlanta was missing about 200, Religion News Service reports.

The three church groups said foreign delegates’ visas were denied by US officials, meaning some nations lacked representation at the global assemblies which occur only once every several years.

The Rev Susan Davies of the United Church of Christ said she was “outraged” at the WCRC visa denials. Organisers of the gathering erected a banner to mark their absence.

”I was deeply saddened” by the visa problems, said the Rev Clifton Kirkpatrick, the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which merged with another group in Grand Rapids to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

”I don’t think you hear of government events or corporate events that have this percentage of people denied visas.”

Will this make exchanges with our partners in mission more difficult. What will we need to do to ensure easy exchanges for visitors?

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Matthew Buterbaugh+
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Matthew Buterbaugh+

Let's hold our next General Convention in Curaçao or the Dominican Republic. They're in the Episcopal Church, no visa worries, and everyone would be too busy lying on the beach, sipping mojitos to get angry about the controversy du jour.

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IT
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This is extremely common for academic conferences and has been since 9/11. Routinely, our scientific colleagues are refused visas to attend or present. This is not limited to visitors from the Middle East, either. There are many horror stories of academic colleagues waiting in long lines, only to be turned down by some peach-fuzzed consular official.

The unwelcoming aspect of entry into the US is also putting off colleagues from Europe and Japan, who can enter without visas, but resent being treated as potential criminals at the port of entry.

It has also become an issue for people with perfectly legitimate visas who go home for a visit. I have had a Brazilian postdoc, and a Chinese PhD student, each delayed for over a month (basically stranded in their home country) because of strange delays in processing their renewals. This happens so frequently that some students don't go home to visit during their course of study.

Susan Forsburg

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John B. Chilton
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John B. Chilton

Akinola was famously turned back at the Jordanian border causing a disruption in the start of the first meeting of Gafcon. Perhaps the Jordanians are more concerned about Yelwa. Or perhaps CANA was not handling his travel arrangements on that occasion.

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Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen
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Dä'ved Äyan | David Allen

What will we need to do to ensure easy exchanges for visitors?

Hold meetings in a country where this does not happen.

I hear Cuidad Juarez has a number of convention openings at present.

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Jim Naughton
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All this and Peter Akinola, who never answered questions about what he knew of the massacre at Yelwa roams free.

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