When it comes to immigration issues, there is the obligation of the State to enforce the law. But, for the Church, there is also the obligation to minister to those in need. Now that President Trump is cracking down on immigration–rightly so, many of us would say–our Lutheran Hispanic congregations and our various Hispanic ministries are dealing with a sense of panic and insecurity among many of those to whom they are ministering. LCMS president Matthew Harrison has written a letter of encouragement and support to synod members in Hispanic ministry.
The letter has a lot of nuance, but it is full of sympathy for the immigrants’ plight. Read it after the jump.
Note the reference to an official study of the issue from the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, written back in 2012: “Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues.”
Photo by Erik M. Lunsford, LCMS News & Information
Earlier this month, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison sent the following letter to LCMS church workers serving Hispanic ministries in the Synod. In light of significant policy changes the country is facing, he reminds them that the LCMS stands with Jesus’ mandate to “love your neighbor” in the case of immigrants, providing assistance within the bounds of the law.
The Epiphany of Our Lord, A.D. 2017
January 6, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters laboring in the Hispanic ministries of our Synod:
Please accept the following words of encouragement and hope as you serve among Hispanic people in your respective communities, ministering to the spiritual and human-care needs of your own members, their families and others who are blessed by your proclamation of the Gospel and by your compassionate care to those in need.
May God’s grace, peace and mercy, in Jesus Christ, our Lord, strengthen and sustain you in these challenging days as the families and communities you serve hear about possible deportations and the separation of families.
First of all, you are not alone.
Our heavenly Father has promised His daily and constant protection. Jesus promises: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29).
Luther also invites us to confess our faith in the heavenly Father’s loving care: “He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me” (Small Catechism, “First Article of the Apostles’ Creed”).
Second, you are not alone as the precious ones of the Lord.
By your Baptism into the Body of Christ, you are one with Christ and with all who have been baptized into His holy name. And more specifically, you are one with your fellow members of your church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Your church body, of which you are a precious and valued member, is doing everything possible within its capacities to assist you in compassionate action toward those affected by the significant policy and enforcement change the country is facing. We have and will continue to stand with Jesus’ mandate to “love your neighbor” in the case of immigrants, documented or not, even as we provide assistance within the bounds of the law.
We are already making our voice heard, both in Washington, D.C., and on the Synod’s Council of Presidents, in support of a thoughtful, prayerful and compassionate response to our broken immigration system, advocating for a response that does not act harshly and disrespectfully toward the undocumented and rejecting the callous separation and detention of families.
As a church body, we have not been silent on the issue of immigration as it applies to the compassionate treatment of people whom God has “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). Already in 2006, “A Joint Statement Regarding Immigration Concerns” was jointly penned by then-President Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick and myself and distributed to the church. In November 2012, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, in response to a Synod convention resolution, issued “Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues.” Through appropriate offices and personnel at the International Center in St. Louis, Mo., we will continue to advocate for reasonable policies, dignified treatment of people and against the separation and detention of families, especially women and children. We are in this critical matter together! As Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26).
As in the past, the LCMS Office of National Mission wants to respond immediately—in partnership with our respective districts, in doing all that we are able under the law—to defend, protect and advocate on behalf of members of our LCMS Hispanic congregations who have specifically been identified and have begun the process of deportation. There is due process, and—while not guaranteeing success in every case—there is a time to intervene and advocate, as we are able, with the contacts and resources the Lord has placed at our disposal. With this in mind, please contact the Rev. Bart Day (314-996-1730, firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernández (314-956-2005, email@example.com) directly to report the initiation of a deportation process for any of our LCMS workers or members.
Sincerely and in the powerful name of Jesus,
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod