Feb. 26, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Welcomes Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Release of Report on ‘Immigrants Among Us’

Press Contact: Jon Pattee
202-591-5778, jpattee@lirs.org

WASHINGTON, DC Feb. 26, 2013 — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes the release of a ground-breaking report, Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues, by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).

Immigrants Among Us calls us to ground our thinking and our actions in understanding immigrants as our neighbors, whom God commands us to love,” said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke. “As an organization whose vocation is care for migrants and refugees, LIRS is deeply encouraged by the report’s affirmation of mercy for strangers in our midst as a Biblical imperative no matter what disagreements Christians may hold about immigration law.”

“We pray that this well-balanced framework laid out for discussing immigration will positively influence the conversation among Christians as Congress tackles immigration reform this year. We also pray that the guidelines for church workers inform important ministry decisions and strengthen the contributions of immigrants, regardless of status, in our congregations.” said Hartke.

“We are grateful to the LCMS through the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) for this invitation to Lutherans to study, pray and discern together pathways forward in the complex and challenging topic of immigration in the United States,” Hartke added.

“The great strength of Immigrants Among Us, in my view, is its theological grounding and orientation.  The report seeks to encourage and stimulate serious reflection and discussion about what it means to show Christ-like love to our immigrant neighbors, and to do so in ways that are consistent with Christ-centered theological principles rooted in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions,” said CTCR Executive Director Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer.

A resolution brought to the Synod convention in 2007 petitioned the CTCR to “provide guidance regarding immigration and ministry to immigrants.” The petition specifically asked that guidance be given on the potential difficulty of caring for undocumented people or other immigrants in ambiguous legal situations. Because time constraints prevented consideration of the resolution, the Synod president asked the CTCR to take on the assignment. The resulting report, which is available in English and Spanish, consists of a theological discussion of immigration issues as well as guidance for congregations and church workers in dealing with and ministering to “immigrants among us.”

“It was a privilege to serve as the lead drafter of Immigrants Among Us, working alongside members of the CTCR and with partners like LIRS in the process of reflecting and writing on a sensitive and timely issue affecting many neighbors, both immigrants and citizens,” said Dr. Leopoldo Sánchez, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, and Director of the Center for Hispanic Studies in The Werner R.H. and Elizabeth Ringger Krause Chair for Hispanic Ministries, at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

“As a Lutheran professor of theology and a first-generation immigrant to the United States, I was deeply aware of the need for bringing our confessional Lutheran theological heritage (i.e., Scripture alone, law and gospel, two kingdoms, etc.) to bear on the question of the role of Lutherans as both citizens and Christians in dealing with immigrant neighbors in our communities, churches, and families,” said Sánchez.

“In a less than perfect world, a Lutheran vocation-oriented, and thus neighbor-oriented approach to immigration issues, helps us assess how to best carry out our twofold responsibility of loving the sojourner and obeying the civil authorities, questions on the fairness or adequacy of current immigration laws, the degree to which positions on immigration could potentially affect the church’s unity or her mission and mercy work among immigrants, and the proper use of law and gospel in the pastoral care of immigrants,” added Sánchez. “Because immigration always has a human face, the strength of the document lies in its particular attention to the role our neighbors, and our God-given vocations through which we serve them, play in our thinking about immigration law and immigrant neighbors.”

“The CTCR is indeed to be commended for ‘taking on’ an issue the church isn’t always comfortable addressing, and then to do so, with strong Biblical and confessional directives to recognize immigrants, resident citizens or undocumented, as our neighbor whom we are called to serve with ‘ministries of mission and mercy,’ ” said Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, Director, Church And Community Engagement, LCMS Office of National Mission.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.