Committee forwards three forceful immigration resolutions for votes by bishops, deputies

By David Paulsen
Posted Jul 9, 2018
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The Rev. Devon Anderson, deputy from Minnesota, and Julia Ayala Harris, deputy from Oklahoma, stand outside the Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, before a prayer service July 8. Photo: House of Deputies News

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] And then there were three – three immigration-related resolutions from the Social Justice and United States Policy Committee, including two that were taken off consent calendars and will be open for discussion in the House of Bishops and House of Deputies at the 79th General Convention.

The three resolutions combine parts of several resolutions on immigration into broad, forceful statements on the issues of separation of families in immigrant detention, the sanctuary church movement, and the dignity of immigrants in the face of federal policies that, deputies and bishops say, go against the Episcopal Church’s Christian values.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

In some cases, the resolutions deliberately point backward to resolutions passed by previous General Conventions, both to underscore the church’s ongoing engagement with these issues and to highlight recent government policies that have given Episcopalians a new sense of urgency.

“Much of the work we were asked to do was essentially reaffirming the work of past General Conventions,” Daniel Valdez, a deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles and committee member, said July 9 during deliberations on the resolutions. “Sadly, our voices haven’t been loud enough where a change has been made.”

The committee’s votes to move these resolutions to full legislative consideration comes a day after more than 1,000 bishops, deputies and other Episcopalians traveled by busload and carload to a prayer vigil held outside an immigrant detention facility a little more than a half-hour from Austin. The vigil on July 8 was organized to engage in prayerful witness to the plight of immigrant parents and children who have been separated from each other after being detained under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The administration’s decision to separate children from their parents in detention caused a national uproar in the spring, prompting President Donald Trump to issue an executive order to keep families together when they are arrested on the border, though the status of those families in detention remains an ongoing debate.

Resolution A178 specifically condemns such treatment of women and children in unambiguous language.

“The U.S. government’s intensification of and implementation of punitive immigration policies and practices, such as the detention and separation of children from parents and the practice of housing children in military bases, is inhumane and unjust, and only serves to traumatize the vulnerable, especially women and children,” the resolution says before urging the Office of Government Relations and all Episcopalians to advocate for those families.

The Rev. Brian Chace, a deputy from Eastern Michigan and member of the domestic policy committee, argued for moving the resolution forward without amendment, citing the acute crisis, the need to stand with the children and the resolution’s prominent proposer – the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president.

The committee agreed and voted in favor of A178 without amendment.

A trickier discussion followed on resolutions relating to providing sanctuary to immigrants. Resolution C009, “Becoming a Sanctuary Church,” was amended to incorporate elements of the related Resolution C018. Concern was raised about legal issues congregations might face under the banner of “sanctuary.”

Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple of the Diocese of North Carolina, chair of the bishops’ committee, reassured the committee that the goal of the resolution is to foster within the church a greater spirit of welcome to immigrants.

“In some parts, ‘sanctuary’ gets equated with harboring,” Hodges-Copple said, and some churches will choose to provide or will continue to provide a physical sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation. But she also hoped the church will see the broader sense of sanctuary and reach out to immigrants in ways that are appropriate for each congregation.

That resolution and the third immigration resolution to clear the committee were added to the legislative calendar, meaning the two houses won’t be able to approve them quickly as part of the daily lists of consent resolutions.

“Sorry, Gay,” Jane Freeman, a deputy from Ohio, said in a reference to Jennings, who was not present at the committee meeting but had told the House of Deputies a day earlier “the consent calendar is our friend.”

Mark Stevenson

The Rev. Mark Stevenson, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, introduces a video about the agency’s refugee resettlement work before the Social Justice and U.S. Policy Committee takes up immigration resolutions on July 9 at the JW Marriott hotel in Austin, Texas. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The resolution Freeman was discussing, C033 on respecting the dignity of immigrants, now incorporates elements of C001, immigration enforcement; C002, the DREAM Act; D001, residency status of Haitians; and D015, keeping families together.

The committee also bulked up the amended resolution with additional references to past actions taken by General Convention.

“What we wanted to be sure was there was a historical precedent going back to 2009 dealing with these immigration issues,” Freeman said. A 2009 resolution, for example, called for comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that Congress appears no closer to achieving nine years later.

The resolutions are expected to go to the House of Bishops first. The timing is not yet clear.

Resolution C033, in particular, generated quite a bit of testimony at an open hearing on immigration July 7, possibly because it covers such a broad swath of the issue while also identifying specific avenues for advocacy.

“I call upon my church, our church, to do what is right for immigrants,” the Rev. Roberto Maldonado, a priest and deputy from the Diocese of Oregon, testified at the hearing. Maldonado was one of about 25 people to speak about the various immigration resolutions.

“We are grateful for the General Convention’s longstanding commitment to respecting the dignity and humanity of all people, including immigrants and refugees,” Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of the Office of Government Relations, said in a email statement to ENS. “The resolutions under consideration reflect the importance and prominence of issues relating to migration. OGR has continued to prioritize this issue – from holding the Vigil for Family Unity to visiting a detention center last July to working closely with Episcopal Migration Ministries on refugee resettlement.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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Comments (28)

  1. Frank Harrision says:

    The United States is not a theocracy. Churches cannot create or enforce civil law. No matter how many “resolutions” are passed by a church these hold no civil weight. This being the case is one reason to take “complaints” to the voting booth. Another is this. There are many good Episcopalians who strongly disagree with one another in the area of civic politics. Some disagree on an end being sought whilst others disagree on the means suggested to achieve that end. Introducing political resolutions, therefore, at the General Convention may well be a strong factor in splitting more the church and driving good people out. Just some thoughts to consider.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      I don’t think opposing the separation of children from their parents is something that is partisan. If there are Episcopalians who think that is good policy, I find that to be disappointing.

  2. Bill Louis says:

    If I am reading this correctly the EC’s resolutions are to encourage illegal immigration by breaking Federal immigration laws and to allow churches to aid and abet the breaking of immigration laws by providing sanctuary and harboring fugitives. All that the Bishops and deputies need to do is to to vote FOR these resolutions to become complicit while ignoring there is a proper way to come into our country. What has the EC become?

    1. Frank Harrision says:

      “What has the EC become?” Well, certainly something far different than what it was when I was confirmed over 60 years ago. On the other hand, I am still hoping that there is something left of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church to which we pledge ourselves in the creed.

      1. John Hobart says:

        I think the EC has largely become a church for geriatric Democrats. While I will probably die an Episcopalian because that is the way I was raised, I am beginning to think that the youth and vitalism of Anglicanism in the United States may have already shifted to ACNA. Stale progressive politics isn’t a nutritious diet for growing spiritually. And I don’t mean to imply that I am a Republican. I think they should leave their politics at home also.

        1. Richard Smith says:

          I was confirmed 58 years ago. I will not die an Episcopalian because I have already joined ACNA. Come on over brother and hear true scripture rather than liberal interpretation of scripture.

          1. John Hobart says:

            Thanks for the invitation, but I prefer to stay where I am. But tell me, are your parishes attracting a lot of “millennials?” I have read some things that lead me to believe that “millennials” who grew up in the mainline protestant churches are largely embracing either more traditional forms of worship or non-denominational churches if they aren’t particularly liturgical in their outlook.

        2. Matt Ouellette says:

          I’m a millennial, and I’m a proud Episcopalian. I want nothing to do with a schismatic denomination that does not affirm me as a gay Christian and thinks my relationships are sinful. It is not true that our denomination is for old Democrats. Just because conservatives are angry that they can’t make this church in their image does not mean that it is for liberals only.

          1. John Hobart says:

            You are a data point not a trend. According to Pew and other sources PCUSA is getting older, more progressive, and fewer. It is well that one individual young person likes the Episcopal Church, but if the church is to survive as an institution we are going to have to appeal to a much broader segment of society. I think that our incessant talk about politics and culture wars and what not is hastening our demise. I don’t think the conservatives are angry because they can’t make the church in their image, they are angry because the church has been made in the image of progressives. We need to leave our images behind and focus on the Image of God. One only needs to read the coverage of the General Convention to realize that we are an angry, bitter, and divided denomination. I can’t believe that that is the Image of God, but it is the Image that we project and that is why so few want to join us.

          2. Matt Ouellette says:

            Almost all denominations are shrinking due to the fall of Christendom, so it has nothing to do with our politics. I don’t think standing up for the poor, immigrants, refugees, and the marginalized are progressive values. They are Christian values. If conservatives don’t want to stand by those groups because they perceive that doing so is progressive, that’s their problem. Most of these things shouldn’t be viewed as left vs. right, but right vs. wrong.

    2. Matt Ouellette says:

      I often hear conservatives say that “if you think having more migrants in this country is a good idea, why don’t you house them yourself?” Well, that’s exactly what the church is doing by supporting sanctuary cities. Now you’re saying it’s a bad idea because it promotes law-breaking. What, exactly, should we be doing as a church?

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        I meant to say sanctuary churches, not cities. That’s a whole different issue.

  3. cynthia seddon says:

    Well said brothers.The Episcopal church has really become a political arena, and no matter how the presiding bishop preaches his :love,love,love:,the church should not support breaking the civil laws to create sanctuary cities etc. Give the elected officials support in resolving our immigration problems,allowing genuine asylum seekers voice.USA is not the police for the world.
    As for me, the church has” strayed from its ways like lost sheep “,It has become far too political for me, and I worship elsewhere, and seek to keep the Nicene creed and the Apostles creed forefront.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      In my opinion, it is definitely in line with PB Curry’s message of love to stand up for the children who have been hurt by our country’s draconian immigration policies.

  4. Daniel Ward says:

    I note with interest that when faced with a government that uses child torture as an official policy, the commenters above are outraged by……. a church taking a stand for the children. I would challenge you to think about where exactly your faith is.

    1. Frank Harrison says:

      Please be more specific about what you mean by “child torture.” Is, for instance, the government removing a child from parents because of child abuse an instance of “child torture”? The term “child torture” is highly emotive but lacking in rational content until made more specific in definition. Thus, not knowing what you are claiming, I can neither agree nor disagree. I can only ask that you be far more specific.

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        Separating children from their parents does cause emotional and psychological damage to the children, so it could be argued that we are harming the children by doing it:
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/what-separation-from-parents-does-to-children-the-effect-is-catastrophic/2018/06/18/c00c30ec-732c-11e8-805c-4b67019fcfe4_story.html

    2. Richard Smith says:

      I would remind you that child separation is a CONSEQUENCE of CURRENT immigration law. I would further remind you that the President is oath bound to ENFORCE THE LAW. So you would condemn someone for doing what the oath says he must do?

      I will remind you that, legally, he really had no choice. Start writing you congressmen to change the law. That’s the way it works in this country.

      Do NOT be guilty of spreading half-truths or untruths if you intend to be Christian.

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        No, it is not. No previous administration felt that it was necessary to separate children from their parents at the border:
        http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2018/jun/19/matt-schlapp/no-donald-trumps-separation-immigrant-families-was/

    3. Bill Louis says:

      Any American citizen breaking the law risks having their children removed from them and placed in state or foster care. That’s the law. I don’t understand the logic that its not OK to remove children from non-citizens illeagally entering our country but its ok to apply that penalty to American citizens. We don’t even know for sure that the illegal immigrant is actually the parent of the child that is accompany them.

      1. Matt Ouellette says:

        Because illegal border crossing is not a felony, it is a misdemeanor. You really think the punishment fits the crime here? Because I think it is cruel and unjust punishment.

        1. Thomas Prater says:

          Matt Ouellette – just because you think it is cruel and unjust punishment, does not make it so. How many of the separations are of an actual family? The easiest way to keep them together is for them not to enter our country illegally!

          1. Matt Ouellette says:

            It’s cruel and unjust according to international law:
            https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/world/americas/us-un-migrant-children-families.html
            Also, the vast majority of Americans disagree with the policy:
            https://www.cbsnews.com/news/two-thirds-of-americans-say-separating-children-parents-at-border-unacceptable/
            And the vast majority of the separations are occurring to families looking for legal asylum, not illegal immigrants, so it is not as simple as saying they shouldn’t break the law.

  5. Daniel Ward says:

    I have long held that the American flag should not be in the sanctuary, as that is fairly clearly rendering unto Caesar what is God’s.

    1. Frank Harrison says:

      First, perhaps not in the sanctuary but perhaps in the choir? Second, what if the national flag is nothing more than a way of honoring our country, giving respect for those who have dies for it, and the like?

  6. cynthia seddon says:

    Is caring for children at the border torture by giving them food, clean beds etc? Mr Ward, please be more specific. I think parents who send their children to another country alone is more like torture, they expose them yo unknown suffering. The flag in church is there to honor those who gave their lives in service to this country.

    1. Matt Ouellette says:

      It is wrong to separate children from their parents at the border. That is not providing children with care; that is causing them unnecessary emotional and psychological damage.

  7. Ro Abreu says:

    I find it very interesting that the “complaints” here have to do with separation of church and state, when in fact the church has always had statements regarding civil rights and policy. It is clear that the pulpit is no place to preach politics; however, the overall church can have policies, and should, that reflect the Jesus movement and the way of Christ in treating our fellow beings and the earth itself. Otherwise, what is the point? Ignoring the world is not what we are here for, and abject denial of a problem is certainly not helpful. The cupidinous trickery of trying to deflect away from the issues at hand by making specious comparisons and straw man arguments are not helpful, either. Stick to the subject, face reality, and understand that our role in the world is to be the ambassadors of Christ, no matter how that affects us and our “reputations”. In the liturgy just last week, Jesus said if people chose not to listen, to take your peace and shake the dust off your feet. I am personally tired of arguing about the importance of love and compassion, our commission, and attempting to explain to people how to care. If you do not, that is on you. I choose to care.

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