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Embarking on a 'shared Lenten journey,'
Christian leaders press immigration reform

See also:
www.interfaithimmigration.org
http://advocacydays.org
www.ncccusa.org/immigration

www.churchworldservice.org/immigration
 

New York, February 19, 2010 -- Responding to a "divine mandate" and as a "patriotic act," the chief executives of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service are pressing "comprehensive immigration reform" in the United States.

In a letter to the leaders of the 36 communions that compose their organizations, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, and the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS Executive Director and CEO, said the urgent need for immigration reform must be a shared Christian concern in the season of Lent.

"As in years past, we are at a significant moment of convergence where our faith commitments and values and the needs of millions of disenfranchised people converge," Kinnamon and McCullough said in a February 16 letter to heads of communion.

"We join together in stating our commitment to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that is humane, effective and that upholds the human and civil rights of immigrants."

The letter expressed concern for the 12 million immigrants living in the U.S. who "find themselves without the hope of becoming citizens, reuniting with family members or enjoying the legal protections that most of us take for granted. Yet many of these people have lived and worked in our communities for years, becoming our friends and family, and often performing the daily tasks that enhance our quality of life."

The two executives said in their letter that they joined with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Leadership Conference "and millions of other people of faith" in calling for immigration reform that "will improve and protect the lives of millions of people."

They called on heads of communion to consider the following actions:

1.) Host a prayer vigil or community event to pray for immigrants and call for immigration reform, inviting your members of Congress and local media to attend  

2.) Dedicate a sermon, bible study theme, or series of Sunday School lessons to Christ’s teachings to welcome the stranger, love our neighbors, and work for justice  

3.) Call, write, and meet with your members of Congress – individually and as a community group - to urge them to support immigration reform  

4.) Organize members of your community, or send representatives, to Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) March 19th – 22nd and a rally for immigration reform on March 21.  

5)  Get connected to and utilize resources related to your denomination’s efforts on immigration reform.

The full text of the letter follows. For a printable version, see www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/HOCimmigration100216.pdf.

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”          Deuteronomy 10:19

February 16, 2010 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ: 

As Christian leaders, we write to you on the eve of our shared Lenten journey about an issue of urgent concern to all of us in this nation:  Comprehensive Immigration Reform. 

Today, more than 12 million immigrants living in the United States find themselves without the hope of becoming citizens, reuniting with family members or enjoying the legal protections that most of us take for granted.  Yet many of these people have lived and worked in our communities for years, becoming our friends and family, and often performing the daily tasks that enhance our quality of life.   

Unless there are major policy changes enacted by the U.S. Congress, many of these people will continue to languish in the shadows and be subjected to abuse, discrimination and hardships that are contrary to the Gospel values of love, unity and the affirmation of the dignity of all people. 

The preamble to the “Resolution on Immigration and a Call for Action” adopted by our member churches at the 2008 General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service states 

“In a world fragmented by fearfulness, Christians proclaim a divine love that casts out fear (1John4:18) and binds even those the world calls enemies (Matthew 5:44).  In a society still divided by race and increasingly divided into haves and have nots, Christians affirm a vision of community in which every neighbor is valued as a child of God (Genesis 1:27) and all neighbors have enough (Luke 6). In a world fractured by suspicion of those who are “other,” Christians have heard a command to welcome strangers (Genesis 18, Hebrews 13:2), even as Christ has welcomed us (Romans 15:7).” 

These words remind us that as Christians we are called to affirm our interrelatedness and interdependence with every child of God, and are called not only to come to the aid of one another, but are commanded to rise to support those who are marginalized in our society.   

In response to this divine mandate, and as a patriotic act in the spirit of our nation’s best values and traditions, we join together with our brothers and sisters from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Leadership Conference and millions of other people of faith throughout the country in calling for comprehensive immigration reform that will improve and protect the lives of millions of people, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and international agreements.

We understand that change of our immigration system will not be easy.  Yet we also believe change is possible. We are encouraged that President Obama and key leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties have agreed that reform is needed, that key legislation, such as Representative Gutierrez’s "Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity" bill (CIR ASAP) has already been introduced, and that additional reform legislation from Senator Schumer and others will be introduced in the weeks ahead.   

We also know that for humane immigration reform to be enacted, your faithful witness as to the importance of comprehensive immigration reform will be needed.  We ask you to be present, be connected and help organize immigration reform efforts in your local community.  Actions to consider include: 

1.) Host a prayer vigil or community event to pray for immigrants and call for immigration reform, inviting your members of Congress and local media to attend 

2.) Dedicate a sermon, bible study theme, or series of Sunday School lessons to Christ’s teachings to welcome the stranger, love our neighbors, and work for justice 

3.) Call, write, and meet with your members of Congress – individually and as a community group - to urge them to support immigration reform 

4.) Organize members of your community, or send representatives, to Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) March 19th – 22nd and a rally for immigration reform on March 21st

5)  Get connected to and utilize resources related to your denomination’s efforts on immigration reform.

Many congregations have already hosted prayer vigils, met with their members of Congress, are coordinating bus loads of congregants to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and are ready to provide help to other congregations who want to act now. Resources for hosting a prayer vigil and meeting with Congress, policy positions and electronic postcard for individuals to sign, and a community calendar to post events, can be found at www.interfaithimmigration.org. Information on EAD can be found at http://advocacydays.org, and additional resources can be found at www.ncccusa.org/immigration or by contacting Jen Smyers, Associate for Immigration and Refugee Policy Church World Service.  Jen can reached at 202.481.6935 or jsmyers@churchworldservice.org

As in years past, we are at a significant moment of convergence where our faith commitments and values and the needs of millions of disenfranchised people converge.  We join together in stating our commitment to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that is humane and effective and that upholds the human and civil rights of immigrants. 

Our prayer and hope is that you will invite your fellow believers to join you in advocacy for justice in this crucial and historic time. 

Many Blessings,                                              

Michael Kinnamon,                                                         John L. McCullough
NCCCUSA General Secretary                                       CWS Executive Director and CEO

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Ecumenical Officer, Armenian Church in America 

The Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ 

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin
President of the National Council of Churches
and Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches 

The Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
Ecumenical Officer, Swedenborgian Church in North America 

Bishop H. Julian Gordy
Southern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 

Bishop Johncy Itty
Episcopal Church
Chair, Church World Service Board 

His Eminence Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch 

Bishop Charles Leigh
Apostolic Catholic Church 

The Rev. Michael Livingston
Executive Director, International Council of Community of Churches 

The Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA 

The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary, Reformed Church in America 

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary, Church of the Brethren 

The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA) 

Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader
Ecumenical Officer, United Methodist Church 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church 

The Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr.
General Secretary, General Commission on Christian Unity
and Interreligious Concerns, United Methodist Church 

The Rev. Herman Weinlick
Ecumenical Officer, Moravian Church in America 

Bishop John F. White, Sr.
Ecumenical Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church 

David L. Wickman
Head of Communion, Moravian Church in America


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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