Episcopal, Lutheran leaders in the U.S. and Canada issue Ash Wednesday message on refugees

Posted Mar 1, 2017

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined March 1 with Anglican and Lutheran leaders in North America in issuing an Ash Wednesday message titled “Remember the Refugees and Migrants.”

Curry joined Anglican Church of Canada Primate Fred Hiltz, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Bishop Susan C. Johnson, in sending the message. 

The following is the full text of the message:

“On this day many people will participate in a liturgy including the Imposition of Ashes.  Some presiders blot these ashes upon our foreheads and we are reminded that we are but dust and to dust shall we return.  Others trace them upon our forehead in the sign of the cross, a reminder of the place to where the Lenten journey takes us.  Even at the outset of this holy season we are reminded that while for some the cross is a stumbling block and for others mere foolishness, it is for those who are being called, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23).  Remembering Christ crucified we are mindful not only of our personal need for repentance and renewal in doing the work of God, 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.

This Lent we call our Churches to be continually mindful of the global refugee and migration crises, and the injustices and conflicts that have swelled the statistics to a number greater than ever in the history of the world.  We acknowledge the good work done by so many of our synods and dioceses and parishes in sponsoring refugees, welcoming them, accompanying them and advocating for them as they settle in our countries.  Similarly, we commend the compassionate work of our partner churches in other lands and intergovernmental bodies caring for migrants and refugees. We call on our Churches not to weary of this good work in the name of God.

“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.  That is not to say any of them are not beyond reform.  But it is to say that fair and generous policies strengthen the economy of our nations and enriches the social and cultural fabric of our countries – a fabric woven by both the First Peoples of these lands and all those who have settled here through numerous waves of migration throughout our histories. 

“Fair and generous action and deliberations are from our perspective, deeply grounded in the Law of Moses, in the teaching of the Prophets and in the Gospel of Jesus.  For some two millennia millions of people have found consolation in the suffering of Jesus upon the cross and in his holy name they have prayed for the compassion and justice of God in the midst of the terrible circumstances of their lives – circumstances that compel them to flee their homelands, making their way over dangerous treks of land. Sometimes they find refuge in new nations and frequently they make their way to ports where they can board vessels and make what are often treacherous voyages in the hope of reaching a land free of the oppression they have known.  Some make it.  Many don’t.

“May this Season of Lent be especially marked by our 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 strange in our midst, for such hospitality is in keeping with the faith we proclaim. (Matthew 25:31-40)”


Comments (15)

  1. Pjcabbiness says:

    We also have a Christian duty to protect our nation from infiltration and harm by foreign persons who espouse and promote a totalitarian ideology and theology. As Christians, we need to be open to the Alien and the immigrant but we must be careful, deliberate and wise in our approach to this issue.

    1. Actually, we do NOT have a “Christian duty to protect our nation.” We may have an American duty to do so, but let us not wrap this pragmatic responsibility with religious vesture. Christ calls us to risk loving and embracing everyone.

      1. Ray Donnelly says:

        Amen, Brother. Church and state are not synonymous nor congruent. Our Christian calling is the higher commitment.

      2. P. Barnwell Collins says:

        Thank you, Christopher Epting.

      3. Kathleen Hammerquist says:

        Thank you, Christopher. You said it better than I could have. We are called to lay down our lives.

      4. Emily Chatfield-Lusto says:

        Excellent and loving distinction. We need to say this over and over. Thank you for saying it now.

      5. Kenton Sandine says:

        Christopher, I so much appreciate your response to complex conditions. Our fears become visible when we publicly contradict Jesus’ saying, “Be not afraid.” While Jesus is not advocating foolhardiness, he would not have made the remark had he not observed fellow citizens being overwhelmed by fear. Fear, in this context, is self-serving. Jesus was not self-serving.

    2. Jon Spangler says:

      I must agree with Christopher Epting’s response to your post, which is based on sound Christian theology.

  2. Tony Oberdorfer says:

    Our Christian calling hardly demands of us that we embrace those bent on our destruction and the demise of Christianity. By definition anybody who suggests that cannot be a true Christian.

    1. Richard McClellan says:

      Not every immigrant is bent on the destruction of our faith. In fact, it could be a moment of evangelization. Methinks Bishop Curry would see it that way as well.

  3. Richard McClellan says:

    Here here Christopher! Too many Christians in America would have you believe that Christ’s burial cloth was the good ole red, white and blue. This is no way any attack to the OP but being a Christian should, excuse the pun, TRUMP being an American. God bless us this Lenten season.

  4. Sue Heilman says:

    Yes, Jesus would choose loving his enemies, ie. the rare immigrant that might harm him or us, rather than cast out the multitudes out of fear.

  5. Bill Louis says:

    If there was a large container filled with 1000 gum drops but ten and only ten were poisoned. How many would you eat? On the same note if only10 of 1000 refugees came to this country to do us harm and your neighbor’s children or were harmed or killed, what would you say to your neighbor? I do not believe its over cautious to know who we are allowing in our country without knowing who they are and if they intend to do us harm. To do otherwise is foolish.

    1. The Rev. D. Rebecca Dinovo says:

      Hi Bill, The extremely thorough vetting system that has been in place in the US does a very good job at doing exactly what you (and all of us) desire when admitting refugees, which is “knowing who they are and if they intend to do us harm.” It’s been soooo good a system that NOT A SINGLE REFUGEE has ever killed anyone in an act of terror in America since the Refugee Act of 1980. But using your logic, let’s think about it this way:
      Chance of dying in an auto accident in your lifetime: 1 in 606.
      Chance of dying in an auto accident per year: 1 in 47,718.
      Chance of dying at the hand of refugee attack per year: 1 in 3.64 BILLLION.
      (Yes that is BILLION, not million… see the CATO Institute to fact check this and note that your numbers are waayyyyy off). You see, we’re totally okay with the risk of automobile use because it’s super convenient and fast, but providing refuge to millions of refugees and innocent children who are suffering and dying in Syria and around the world during the worst refugee crisis in world history is “too risky.” ?
      The logic dazzles the mind. Fear is driving these policies and the support of them, but fear of what? The facts and hard evidence don’t seem to factor into the equation. Christians need to be in line with the Gospel mandate and Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger as to Christ himself.

      1. Bill Louis says:

        Reverend Rebecca,
        I’m not sure what to say you and others who support allowing just anyone into our country without proper vetting. Anything can be justified with numbers (and Scripture). I chose 10 out of 1000 for 1% as an example not a fact.

        The vetting system you speak of the 2-3 year process is being used for those that come into our country legally and I’d have to agree that its working fairly well. However, it does not address the hordes of undocumented immigrants and refugees that have been swarming over our borders over the past several years. All those people had to do to be admitted was say the word “asylum” and they were passed through and given a court date for which a vast majority failed to appear.

        Lets discuss your logic for a moment. Auto accidents: vehicular transportation is a cornerstone of our culture. Without it we would have no food, jobs or an economy. Drivers must pass a test to have a license to drive. There are laws that govern the privilege of driving a motor vehicle and many lose that privilege when they violate the law. There are choices one makes the they get behind the wheel. Some make bad choices like driving intoxicated or texting while driving or driving inattentively. Those things are just some of the bad choices drivers make that cause a majority of fatal accidents. If we applied the same kinds of rules, licensing and adhering to laws for refugees then we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

        As for terrorist attacks per capita; If you used 3.64 billion for a base number you are may be talking about every person on planet Earth. There are many countries where terrorist attacks are more likely than in others like Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Niger, Afghanistan and recently Europe. Terror attacks are more likely to occur in countries where terrorists have gained a foot hold than in others where they have not so what is the incidence when just those countries are taken into consideration?

        There have been over 150,000 terrorist attacks since 1970, most of them can be attributed to the last ten or fifteen years. So that 3.64 billion number you suggest should be a lot smaller but even <1% in this or any other country would be unacceptable.

        Some examples of recent attacks where refugees are welcomed unfettered by extreme vetting are: France 2016, 12 attacks, 90 deaths, 453 injured, Germany 2016, 14 deaths, 76 injuries and Pakistan, too numerous to count. This year alone (2017) there are 295 incidents in more than a dozen countries. Why should risk bringing this to our country by allowing people to come improperly vetted?

        One other question to ponder, why are the oil rich countries of the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar not responding to providing refuge to millions of refugees and innocent children who are suffering and dying in Syria? Why does the USA need to function as the foster parent of the world?

        We have an abundance of poor families with children and homeless people including veterans to feed, clothe and shelter in our own country. They are strangers too. The expected response is that we have programs for them but if they are working so well then why are there still poor and homeless?
        You speak of the Gospel mandate to welcome strangers. I agree as Christians we need to follow Jesus' example but not blindly. Is it un-Christian to be cautious? I. think not.

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