Presiding Bishop, other Episcopal leaders call on Trump to maintain refugee resettlement efforts

Church ‘shows the face of God through the care and compassion in that work’

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jan 25, 2017

[Episcopal News Service] The presiding bishop and the director of Episcopal Migration Ministries both spoke out Jan. 25 in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s actions on immigration.

In addition, the Episcopal Public Policy Network issued a policy alert offering Episcopalians ways to become advocates on immigration and refugees.

Those efforts came on a day when Trump signed executive orders to begin construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting “sanctuary cities.” The Washington Post reported that Trump, in an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security, also signed the first of a series of directives to put new restrictions on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

Trump’s orders can be found with others he has signed here.

Trump aides suggested that more directives could come later this week, according to the Post, including additional restrictions on people from Muslim-majority countries. The newspaper reported that it had received a leaked draft of a presidential executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” that calls for halting visas to people located in “countries of particular concern.” The newspaper said the order would fulfill a Trump campaign promise to start vetting would-be immigrants and visitors to the United States based partly on their opinions and ideology, and will immediately cease the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry; the Rev. E. Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries; and the public policy network spoke out against those anticipated actions.

Curry said refugee resettlement work is a ministry that the Episcopal Church and other churches and faith-based organizations cherish.

“The work of Episcopal Migration Ministries is God’s work, and we show the face of God through the care and compassion in that work,” Curry said. “I ask President Trump to continue the powerful work of our refugee resettlement program without interruption, recognizing the long wait and screening process that means refugees wait months and sometimes years to enter the country.

“We ask that we continue to accept as many refugees as we have in the past, recognizing the need is greater than ever. We ask that refugees from all countries receive consideration to come to the U.S. and not to ban those who come from countries most in need of our assistance.”

Stevenson said any action to suspend the U.S. refugee resettlement program for a significant time “will mean that many of those who are the most vulnerable, the most at risk of further violence, the least likely to be able to fend for themselves, are now to be left without hope.”

“Such a position does not reflect who we are as a nation, or as a people of faith,” he said.

Each year the Episcopal Church’s Episcopal Migration Ministries works in partnership with its 30-member local affiliate network in 26 states, along with dioceses, faith communities and volunteers, to welcome refugees from conflict zones across the globe. This year, EMM anticipated welcoming 5,000 refugees to the United States from 32 countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Afghanistan and Syria.

The agency assures safe passage and provides vital services for thousands of refugee families upon their arrival in America, including language and cultural orientation classes, employment services, school enrollment and initial assistance with housing and transportation. For each family, the goal is self-reliance and self-determination.

EMM is one of nine such U.S. resettlement agencies that contract with the federal government to help resettle refugees approved for entry to the United States. Much of EMM funding comes through those contracts.

Stevenson said Trump’s anticipated restrictions on refugees would be characterized as steps to make the country safe. “Yet, isolating ourselves from the world does not make us safer; it only isolates us,” he said. “Being afraid of those who differ from us does not make us wise, or even prudent; it only traps us in an echo chamber of suspicion and anger, and stops us cold from loving as Christ loved.”

The United States cannot solve the problem of violence in other countries, Stevenson said, but “we can act morally and show leadership” by offering refugees a new life in a safe place. He pledged that EMM will “continue to minister to those who have fled their homes because of persecution, violence or war.”

“Through our network of affiliates across this country, and with the help of the wider Episcopal Church, we will welcome these men, women, and children who did not choose to become refugees,” Stevenson said. “In partnership with the other resettlement agencies, we will work with our government and local communities to provide a place of welcome.”

EMM had previously scheduled a webinar at 4 p.m. EST on Feb. 1 to discuss the causes of refugee crises and examine questions such as who is a refugee; how a refugee is resettled to the United States; how resettled refugees benefit their communities; and how people can engage with local communities to welcome refugees.

“The president has full authority to limit the number of refugees each year,” EPPN said in its policy alert. “It is critical that President Trump hear from faith leaders that oppose any kind of ban or drastic reduction on resettlement.”

The alert called on Episcopalians to speak against any policy that would bar refugees from resettlement based on religion or nationality, and encourage our government not to reduce the number of refugees who enter the United States.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (31)

  1. Peach McDouall says:

    Bravo, Bishop Curry! Keep speaking out, and the folks in the pews will echo loudly!

    1. Chip Burson says:

      Will we as a denomination, as Christians, and as Americans stand as one, speak as one, and ACT as one regarding any attempt by elected officials, their appointees, or their agents to in any way attempt to be “selective” toward refugees, immigrants, OR citizens (in direct conflict with our Constitution) upon religious (or non-‘religious’/denominational), or spiritual beliefs or commitments? Will our single representative voice for this be our Presiding Bishop, please? And will we all speak and act prayerfully in this regard? In the span of history the story of ‘Militant Christianity’ in all its forms, not just the Crusades, is a shameful burden we carry and for which constant prayer for forgiveness for these sins of thought, word, deed, and inaction is but the least we can do. And, yes, through Action let “the face of God be seen and known”; and through the voice of our Presiding Bishop and through us all may the voice of the people and of God be heard.

  2. Don Plummer says:

    Statement issued by The Rt. Reverend Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta.

    “To welcome the immigrant and refugee with compassion is to be an American guided by the words the Statue of Liberty has inscribed on her base.
    “To welcome the immigrant and refugee with compassion is among the highest expressions of faithfulness there is according to Jesus.
    “Remember Jesus and his family were immigrants and refugees too.”

    1. Roger Press says:

      Thanks, Bishop Wright, for speaking out. We had a spirited discussion in our Adult Formation class at the Church of Our Saviour about Trump’s EO directed at immigrants from seven countries arising out of why we pray for Donald Trump by name (though many had difficulty with that), wondering what we, the Church (laity and the leaders) can and should do by way of response. We thank you and Presiding Bishop Curry for your past statements and look for future fearless guidance from our spiritual leaders.

  3. Vicki Gray says:

    Thank you, Michael. Keep leading we’ll follow.

  4. Kilty Maoris says:

    It is the time the churches stayed out of the immigration fray. Remember they don’t pay taxes and therefore forfeit any right to tell the government and people of other governments they have any rights to be here. They don’t. What part of breaking the laws of the land do you pro-emigrants not understand? They don’t belong here and certainly are not welcome with their crime, disease and penniless state. Those coming here are the scum of other countries. Uneducated, litters of kids, no ability or desire to learn to speak English or become a part of this society. No to any more immigrants.

    1. Kevin Miller says:

      As a church, we have a moral obligation to speak out when the marginalized are oppressed. Our concern cannot just be for those within our borders. If we are to be the church, we are to extend concern to everyone!

    2. Charles M Hawes says:

      I suggest you read Isenberg’s new history of class in America. It’s titled White Trash and it’s tracing your family’s history here and mine. While you’re at the reading thing, try the Sermon on the Mount. It’s good stuff.

    3. Charles M Hawes says:

      Kilty, I suggest you read Isenberg’s new history of class in America. It’s titled White Trash and it’s tracing your family’s history here and mine. While you’re at the reading thing, try the Sermon on the Mount. It’s good stuff.

    4. The Rev'd Dr Suzi Rev'd Dr Suzi Robertson says:

      They absolutely do pay taxes. They pay Social Security and will never get anything back from it.

    5. Lawrence Gall says:

      Kilty, it was only a generation or so ago that your ancestors were seen by many Americans as trash, as people whose values and beliefs were alien to the “American Way”. Sadly, we have a long history of xenophobia in the country, dating back at least to the “No-Nothings” of the mid-19th century.
      Should the church exclude itself from attitudes that are fundamentally in conflict with Christian values? Maybe you need to read your Bible again.

    6. Francy Hall says:

      May God cleans your heart and your mouth.

    7. Ellen Brooks says:

      I am a newcomer to the Episcopal Church, believing God led me to this church during cancer treatment. For months, I was friendly and tried to become a part of the congregation. But with the exception of the priest and one lady, no one really tried to get to know me. After months, I noticed visitors only attended one or two times but did not return. At this time I was still trying to become a part of the collective. Then I stopped being proactive and it hit me that only one or two people were approaching me to start a conversation. Well when the election campaigning began the congregation including clergy, from the pulpit, sneakily ridiculed Trump and sure enough many in the congregation snickered and applauded.. Today my prayer request included Icel. It felt as if the air was sucked out of the sanctuary. I believe everything is possible through Christ, including salvation to all. On the way home from Church I argued with myself about whether I lead by Christ to this Church. I started going to this church because I thought it proclaimed love to one and all. But it seems to be a closed environment only accepting those Christians sharing their political views.


    Thank you for your thoughtful leadership in this difficult time!

  6. Father Mike Waverly-Shank says:

    We should never forget the words of Exodus 22:21. You shall not wrong a sojourner nor oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

  7. Mike Geibel says:

    An EO that requires local police to detain and report illegal aliens who commit crimes against US Citizens is not a requirement for mass deportations. My local diocese has “locked out” the orthodox parishioners of St. James in Newport Beach so it can sell the church for luxury condos. Over $1 million is budgeted for aiding Syrian refugees but not a penny for disabled or troubled veterans of the Iraq war. Sadly, I have ended by membership in the Episcopal Church and will miss my friends there very much.

    1. Joel G. Hafer + says:

      Mr. Geibel, I believe it is the responsibility of our government to take care of our veterans. The church does not have all the means necessary to care for our veterans, even though we do all that we can.

      1. Mike Geibel says:

        Mr. Hafer:
        The LA Diocese voted to contribute $1.5 million for IRIS, an organization dedicated to assisting Syrian and other refugees to resettle in the US. The same budget allocated “zero” to aid U.S. Veterans or the families of veterans killed in action. The Diocese cathedral is located in Echo Park, a community that is 60 percent Hispanic. The convention voted Los Angeles a “sanctuary diocese” but the gates and doors to the Sanctuary are locked at night. I lock my doors at night, too .

        There is a legal path to citizenship which the Church can choose to finance for deserving families, and it has done so for many years. In this dangerous world, Americans are increasingly targeted by zealots and anarchists who hate America, and the freedoms it stands for, and making sure that we have the right protections in place is a prudent measure.

        In this most divisive election campaign where the electorate was given the choice between two flawed if not evil candidates, I could support neither. I cringe at the nightly vitriolic attacks between warring factions on the left and right where attacks seem motivated by hatred for the messenger without carefully considering the merits of the message. In a nation divided, the Church clearly has joined one side in this war of slander and confrontation, and I simply choose to opt out.

        We have found a new place of worship that is not embroiled in internal and external name-calling and political warfare: a place where we can again go home after church, enlightened and uplifted, rather than angry and frustrated. We have found a small but growing church that is a place to put aside politics and personal differences, and to socialize and welcome each other on the common bond that we all believe in God and Jesus Christ, and to celebrate our blessings.

        1. M. Costan says:

          Sadly I am opting out as well. They distort gods words to justify the way they pick and choose who to help. Some of the things I’ve read on the Facebook pages of the local priests is alarming to say the least.

    2. M. Costan says:

      Sadly the Episcopal Church has become mainly a political party. I suspected it when I started attending but I can’t ignore it anymore.

      What’s disturbing is how they pick and choose who to sympathize with. They remain silent on many tragedies that doesn’t serve what is apparently propaganda. This illegal immigrant issue is a good example. They said nothing when Obama enacted the exact same policy. The list of countries that are being vetted was made by Obama.

      Now some Parrish’s, maybe all of them for all I know, have quit using the presidents name in prayer.

      It upsets me that I was involved in a denomination that doesn’t practice what it preaches. I was warned by others when I started attending years ago but I chose not to believe it.

      Oh well. There’s a reason membership has dwindled and they have been admonished by the world Anglican Church.

  8. Alan Bobowski says:

    Regardless of whether the President’s ban on admitting refugees was motivated by ignorance of the refugee process or motivated only by demagoguery, the result is cruel. I’ve learned a lot about the process of admitting refuges to this country because of my recent experience as an ESL teacher working with refugees from Tanzania (who were sponsored by the local Episcopal churches, by the way)

    Before refugees can be admitted to the United States they must be certified as refugees by the UN. This can only be done once the refugee has fled their native country and can take up to 3 years. It involves a great deal of verification of the details the refugee gives regarding their need to flee. Then four separate US agencies conducted their own, independent, investigation into the refugee’s story. This vetting can take another 3 or 4 years.

    During this period the person or family is living in a refugee camp which have been described by those who have visited or worked in them as “very mean places”. In some refugee camps the men patrol the borders of the camp on a nightly basis to prevent local bandits from breaking in and stealing what little food or possessions the refugees have. In other camps, which are lucky enough to have schools, children cannot attend because the rags they wear as clothing are unsuitable for school attendance. Many refugees, even if they have access to enough water, are unable to wash themselves because they haven’t soap or towels. Unless these items are provided by international charities such as Lutheran World Relief, the refugees have to go without (which is an excellent organization to get involved with if your church is concerned about refugees).

    To stop refugees who have meet the requirements for settlement in the United States from leaving those appalling conditions and starting a new life in the US is cruel. To reduce in half the number of refuges accept by the US and condemn 50,000 people a year to live even longer in these refugee camps is cruel. To take these actions because of ignorance or demagoguery is unconscionable.

  9. Isabel F. Steilberg says:

    Very carefully worded (and rather mild) statements from the Presiding Bishop and the director of the Episcopal Migration Ministries.

  10. David DeSalvo says:

    Many of the young people who come to the US to attend our Episcopal schools go on to become compassionate advocates for truth and justice. We want these bright young people to continue to grow in love and kindness through the openness of this country to immigrants, refugees, and freedom seekers everywhere.

  11. Lisa Gialdini says:

    Thank you to the Church and Clergy who have spoken out against this unconstitutional EO. As Americans, we are better than this. And our memories are way too short. I am a second generation American and I am appalled by the comments of Kilty Maoris. As my sainted mother always used to say, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Never forget that but for an accident of birth and the grace of God, you or I could just as easily be in the place of these refugees.

  12. Anne Lauer says:

    It is imperative that Christians of all denominations speak out loudly and consistently against this directive, which runs counter to our faith, our values, and our history. It is also essential that we join hands as Christians to exert the greatest pressure and the loudest possible voice on this topic as it wends its way through court proceedings. This is a sad time for our United States.

    1. Bob King says:

      Imperative? Essential? Really? Is this still the church that embraces “scripture, tradition and reason” as its three foundational legs, and allows significant latitude in theological interpretation? This tone makes me wonder about the future of our communion.

  13. Lisa Ann Mauro says:

    I am a lifelong Episcopalian and feel all Churches must stay out of politics. Immigration in the year 2017 is very complicated issue. It is not what is was in the 1900s, etc. Terrorism, drugs, human trafficking are very prevalent among ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. We must put bans also on people who are coming in from most Middle Eastern countries. Please Bishop Curry stay out of this. While you feel “this is what Jesus would do”, we still have to live on the earth and it is a dangerous place. We as a nation need a leader who will keep us safe and we now have one. It is a sad time for the Episcopal Church if it’s leaders are dictating congregants to follow this. I am a Christian and only Christ knows what is in our hearts. It’s between you and God in the end as Mother Theresa said.

  14. Bob King says:

    There is a lot of hyperventilating going on here, on both extremes. Sad to say that the Episcopal Church is nowadays pretty reliably on one of those extremes. Here is the statement I would have preferred to see coming from my church:

    “Jesus commanded us to love one another and to care for the least of our brothers and sisters. Those who are fleeing war and political or religious persecution fall squarely in that category of ‘least’. Christians will always pray for their delivery to safety and will encourage governments to include humanitarian objectives alongside other considerations. While we understand that a temporary suspension of the refugee program allows the new administration time to put its team in place and make changes to admission criteria that it deems essential, we fully expect and will advocate that the resettlement program resume as soon as possible, and that legitimate refugees of whatever faith, properly vetted for our nation’s security, will always be welcome in the United States of America.”

    There IS a sane middle ground here. We can advocate that the US remain a place of refuge while allowing the new administration a reasonable amount of time to take ownership of the process during a period of significant risk. It is sad that our church leadership seems unwilling to escape its knee-jerk extremism, and it is particularly insulting when ECUSA equates its leftist political agenda with the essentials of Christian faith.

    1. Anne Lauer says:

      Sadly, the “new extreme vetting” is not that. The only apparent additional “vetting” during the past few weeks has been intimidation on the part of airport-based security officials. A large number of nonpartisan studies would indicate that we as a country have had the most thorough vetting in the world since the incident with the underwear bomber in 2009. In addition, other studies would show that any list intended to protect Americans, (who are 7 times more likely to be attacked by an American-born citizen than an immigrant), would include other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, whose citizens were dominant in the design and delivery of 9/11 and Pakistan, where extremism is a chronic issue. But as most commentators have accurately noted, none of the countries in which this particular President has business interests are on the list, despite their previous track record. In sum, discerning citizens must understand this has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with fear-mongering and partisan politics.

      1. Anne Lauer says:

        I would add Matthew 25: 35-36 I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you cam to visit me. Please take a look at the report Amnesty International released today about the prisons the Syrian regime is operating and the results of that effort. I had every hope this new government could work until this ban; this has nothing to do with partisan politics. It has everything to do with our daily efforts to serve God.

  15. Ronald Davin says:

    Is the attack in France yesterday something that the Church seems to be endorsing ? Should we not be rallying behind the President as he is simply trying to protect us, and our children ?

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