Our ancestors focused much attention on strangers, aliens, foreigners, those fleeing persecution. Central to the self-understanding of all who hold the Hebrew scriptures as sacred is this line from Exodus:
You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.Exodus 22:21
Except for our Native American kindred, we US citizens were all once strangers in a strange land. The recent declaration of the ELCA as a sanctuary church body is one more way that we are seeking to recognize that, and to live into our deepest values as followers of Christ’s Way. It is a statement that says to our undocumented neighbors, “You matter. We see you. We stand by you.” One undocumented friend of mine said, through tears, “You have no idea what this means to me. Sometimes, with ICE raids happening all around me, I feel like all White people hate us.” There will be no one correct way to do this. I was honored to be able to stand up at the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly as the Bishop of the Oregon Synod, the first synod to declare itself a sanctuary synod, and say, “This action does not demand that any congregation, synod or ministry engage in civil disobedience or illegal action. Instead, it declares to the world that we stand in solidarity with those who are loved by God but remain at the margins of our culture. Instead, it invites each church and synod to discern its own place in God’s welcome to all. Some will physically house those in danger or protest at ICE facilities, but many more will pray for the children separated from parents, provide food or assistance to the hungry at the border, offer citizenship classes for their neighbors, visit the detained or write letters to legislative leaders.”
For some of us all this may be unsettling. We may never agree. But as children of God, which is who we are, we are loved by our Creator even when we disagree.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.Ephesians 2
For that I say, “Thanks be to God.”