In a joint statement released Wednesday, March 1, the four leaders of the Anglican, Episcopal and Lutheran churches in Canada and the United States call on their churches to “be mindful of the global refugee and migration crises and the injustices and conflicts” that have caused the number of refugees now in the world to be the highest in history.
The statement, issued by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, begins with a reflection on the meaning of Ash Wednesday.
It’s a time, the bishops say, not just for personal repentance, “but indeed of the need of all humanity to repent of our indifference to the brokenness of our relationships, to the suffering of millions of people worldwide who are starving, oppressed, enslaved, or seeking sanctuary even if it be in a place far from their homeland.”
The bishops voice their concern about current government policies on refugees and migrants.
“Given the current political climate in the United States, it is important to say that while both our countries recognize the need for measures ensuring homeland security, we also stand up for the long established policies that welcome migrants and refugees,” they say.
Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at a meeting in Chicago last October. Photo: William Nunnally/ELCA
The bishops say they are not claiming these policies are “beyond reform.” But “fair and generous policies,” they say, both strengthen the economy and follow biblical teaching as they understand it.
“Fair and generous action and deliberations” on refugees and migrants, the bishops say, “are from our perspective, deeply grounded in the Law of Moses, in the teaching of the Prophets and in the Gospel of Jesus.”
The circumstances that force people to flee their homelands are among the reasons why millions of people have, for the past 2,000 years, sought the “compassion and justice” of God by praying to Jesus, the bishops continue. The danger faced by refugees is often so great that they don’t even survive the journey to their destination, they add.
The bishops also acknowledge and commend the “good work” done for refugees and migrants by members of their own churches, partner churches and by intergovernmental bodies. “We call on our Churches not to weary of this good work in the name of God,” the statement reads.
The bishops conclude with a wish that this Lent will be “especially marked” by prayers and advocacy for refugees and migrants, “on the run, in United Nations camps, in waiting, in our communities…And let it be marked by a continuing resolve in welcoming the stranger in our midst, for such hospitality is in keeping with the faith we proclaim” (Matthew 25:31-40).
An executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump putting limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees, has met with protests, legal challenges and chaos at airports in the U.S. since it was issued January 27.