Leadership Toolkit, December 2013 issue
Bishop Michael Rinehart, leader of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod and newly elected LIRS board member joined Houston clergy and advocates for immigration reform to speak out against the SAFE Act by holding a news conference recently.
He was quoted in the Houston Chronicle on October 23: “[The SAFE Act] allows for unlimited detention in some instances without federal oversight, it encourages more racial profiling, it denies access to justice and it criminalizes anyone offering Good Samaritan assistance to those who lack immigration status,” Rinehart said. “We can do better than this.”
Bishop Rinehart takes an active role in educating others about immigrants by encouraging openness and a welcoming heart.
“For all of time, people gave migrated to flee physical, religious or economic persecution. Even Jesus and his family fled into Egypt. Thank goodness they were not turned away at the border. An open door is a sign of hospitality.” – From Bishop Michael Rinehart’s blog, bishopmike.com
His public words against the SAFE Act, as well as his previous local action in support of immigrants, serves as an inspiration to LIRS and we join him to say our country can and must do better through compassionate immigration reform.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service was a major presence in the just concluded National Conference on Immigrant Integration, with the theme “Integration for Transformation” in Miami. The conference organized by the National Partnership for New Americans brought together some 700 immigrant and refugee activist, advocates and key decision makers for a three-day line up of activities including inspiring plenary speakers, interactive workshops, a naturalization ceremony, and intentional networking sessions. In a new twist for the annual conference, this year’s program include heavy focus on refugee resettlement and integration issues.
LIRS bought together over 40 Lutheran leaders and network partners from around the country to participate in the conference, strengthen ties with each other and migrant rights organizations present. We also organized a side convening to reflect on what they learned from the conference and the unique role of the church in welcoming immigrants and fostering refugee integration. The event was also an opportunity to connect Lutheran leaders, migrants, refugees and service provider partners to build the necessary groundwork for social engagement and network connections.
During our time together, we heard inspiring stories from participants on how they are reaching out to migrants and refuges and how churches and individuals are being transformed by their experiences. We heard about a Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, NY that is practicing “radical hospitality” with migrants, how a chance meeting between an Ethiopian asylee and a congregation family led to a special bond that brought the church together as no other issue has to reunite the asylee with his family; and how a Lutheran church in the middle of Texas has forged a special and personal bond with the Bhutanese community in their town.
This convening is the first in a series that LIRS will be organizing in the coming year to better connect churches, our network partners to the life-changing work of LIRS as we prepare to celebrate our 75th years of walking with migrants and refugees and look ahead to the next 75 years of transformative advocacy work.
LIRS, together with many partners and friends, stands on the threshold of an incredible milestone: 75 years of walking with immigrants and refugees to brighter tomorrows. Those partnerships have made it possible, over those years, to serve over half a million people. That’s 75 years of families reunited, children protected, safety regained, and lives rebuilt.
In 2014, LIRS will mark those decades of partnership with 75th anniversary celebrations aimed at preparing for a future of just and welcoming communities. This partnership’s successes unite Lutherans of richly varied denominations and churches with the leadership of refugees and migrants, businesses, the U.S. government, foundations, and social service organizations. LIRS shares this historic moment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and with more than 60 incredible service partners across America.
You are invited to join in celebrating these 75 years of commitment, compassion, and successes by coming to the Walk of Courage Award Gala on June 19th, 2014 in Baltimore, for the presentation of the Walk of Courage Award honoring the strength and resilience of migrants and refugees. Also, you can lead the way for your congregation or community group to participate in Refugee Sunday, June 22, 2014. A kit of resources will be available early 2014 for planning worship, discussion, and action. Lastly, you can sign up for insider anniversary updates today, and look for volunteer opportunities throughout the year in which your encouragement can make a life-changing difference. Please join in celebrating this 75th anniversary, as LIRS renews its commitment to walking with immigrants and refugees towards a future where newcomers thrive in communities of welcome!
On November 4 LIRS announced the election of four new board members. The elections took place in late October when board members convened at the Lutheran Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. Judith Benke, Ms. Monique Nunes, Ms. Diane Padilla and The Reverend Michael Rinehart will officially begin their three-year terms on January 1, 2014. LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke said these new board members bring “a wealth of expertise and relationships to LIRS, and we’re grateful for their commitment.” The new leadership will succeed previous board members Senator Betty Boyd, Mr. Richmond Appleton, and Bishop E. Roy Riley, for whose leadership LIRS is incredibly grateful.
Other important leadership changes that took place included the re-election of three current board members and the election of several board officers. Re-elected board members include Mr. Chris Andersen, Rev. Dr. Stephen Bouman and Ms. Christine Grumm. The list of newly elected board officers includes:
Board Chair — Mr. Mark A. Stutrud
Congratulations to all of the newly elected board members. LIRS is grateful for their continued support and guidance as we transition into 2014 and celebrate 75 years of standing for welcome. To learn more about the leadership of LIRS click here.