A few weeks ago, Bishop Alan Gates of the Diocese of Massachusetts and I signed an Amicus Brief on behalf of our dioceses joining 85 other religious organizations in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Yesterday Alan and I joined with Episcopal City Mission in supporting Centro Presente in a witness at Boston City Hall. We heard from immigrants here in this country through Temporary Protection Status (TPS) and from their children.
The Rev. Arrington Chambliss, Executive Director of Episcopal City Mission, Bishop Fisher, Bishop Alan Gates of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Photo: D. Fisher
These are two separate political issues relating to immigration, but my participation in both is rooted in one theology. Biblical imperatives about welcoming the stranger abound throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Here are just a few:
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19: 33-34).
If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you (Leviticus 25:35).
You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9).
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35).
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:1-2).
At a prayer service before going to City Hall, Natalie Finstad of Episcopal City Mission described a key aspect of the early Church as she understands it from the book Transforming Mission by David Bosch.
“The nature of the early Christian mission manifested itself from the new relationship that came into being in community. Jew and Roman, Greek and barbarian, free and slave, rich and poor, woman and man, accepted one another as brothers and sisters. It was a movement without analogy, indeed a ‘sociological impossibility.’ Small wonder that the Christian community caused so much astonishment in the Roman Empire and beyond. In fact, the Christian community and its faith was so different from anything known in the ancient world that it often made no sense to others.”
Community. At City Hall, Mayor Marty Walsh took up that theme.
“They (immigrants here through TPS) are our neighbors and coworkers. They’re members of our faith community. They own homes and businesses. Taking this protection away these young people and family members will not make our community safer. To the contrary, it’s going to introduce chaos.” (Cristela Guerra for The Boston Globe)
Chaos. Ten-year-old Gabriela Martinez of Leominster contrasted her dreams with chaos. She told the crowd that she wants to teach English as a second language to help immigrant families. She said that she doesn’t want to see families destroyed or divided. “In order to accomplish our dreams, our parents and family need residency, not just TPS,” the fifth-grader said. (Boston Globe)
Much of recent theological reflection has centered on finding out what God is up to in the world. We have a dynamic God, a community of divine Love always active, and not confined by, the church’s walls. I see God acting in the work of Amy Grunder, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). We had a long conversation in which she said she needs more allies in Western and Central Massachusetts. I see God acting in the testimony of Centro Presente and in the support of Episcopal City Mission and continuing collaboration of our two Episcopal dioceses. And, I see God at work in our Church, The Episcopal Public Policy Network is following these legislative developments closely and provides us with everything we need to advocate.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has given us a working definition for the 21st century. “We are the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream God has for it.” Some of the change will come about if we resist the forces of chaos and become the community God intends for us to be.