Aug. 21, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Welcomes Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly Resolutions, Actions for Immigration Reform | LIRS
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Aug. 21, 2013 NEWS RELEASE — LIRS Welcomes Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly Resolutions, Actions for Immigration Reform

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Delegates Establish June 22, 2014 as Refugee Sunday in Celebration of LIRS’s 75th Anniversary

Press Contact: Jon Pattee
(202) 591-5778,

WASHINGTON, D.C. Aug. 21, 2013 Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)  welcomes the many actions and statements made in support of comprehensive immigration reform at the biennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

“I am especially thankful to Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson for his forceful declaration that ‘Now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform,”’ said LIRS President and CEO Linda Hartke, who was among the more than 1,000 people taking part in the Aug. 12-17 event in Pittsburgh.

“Amid all the ecclesiastical, worship, and voting activity at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the passion for following God’s work of caring for the sojourner in our midst, work Lutherans first organized to do in 1939,  still shines clear and true,” said Hartke. “The ELCA has remained committed to serving migrants and refugees with and through LIRS.  Many of the denomination’s 4 million members, including fast-growing numbers of immigrant members, are deeply committed to newcomer ministries and justice through their congregations.”

Delegates elected a new Presiding Bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, and voted on many actions to advance the denomination’s mission of “God’s Work. Our Hands.” in the United States and around the world.

“We congratulate Presiding Bishop Eaton and look forward to working with her as we stand with immigrants and refugees,” said Hartke. “We’re also very grateful to outgoing Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson for his courageous leadership and commitment to protecting ‘the stranger among us,’ including new Americans and vulnerable migrants.”

Five strong “memorials” (ELCA resolutions), each directly related to the work of LIRS, were approved overwhelmingly by the delegates. These included votes of support for an action related to immigration detention, and action recommitting the church to pressing for comprehensive immigration reform. Delegates also gave nearly unanimous support to memorials calling on the ELCA to celebrate LIRS’s 75th anniversary and Refugee Sunday; and for a new social statement, The Church and Criminal Justice:  Hearing the Cries, which  includes a section on immigration detention that LIRS helped to shape.

“LIRS is deeply honored and thankful that ELCA delegates offered overwhelming support for LIRS and comprehensive immigration reform, especially through the memorial establishing June 22, 2014 as Refugee Sunday in celebration of LIRS’s 75th anniversary,” said Hartke.

Delegates put their words into action with a text message campaign organized by LIRS. They signed a virtual petition supporting immigration reform that will be delivered to Members of Congress that reads:

“We, the undersigned clergy and laypeople gathered at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 2013 Churchwide Assembly, urge the U.S. Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that establishes a fair and humane immigration system consistent with our faith values including family unity, justice, and compassion for the sojourner in our midst.”

In another action, an immigration reform prayer vigil gathered nearly 40 bishops, pastors, and other assembly-goers. The vigil was hosted by LIRS and the Bishops’ Immigration Ready Bench.

“I’m very grateful to local Pittsburgh pastor and long-time newcomer advocate Rev. Linda Theophilus for coordinating the vigil,” said Hartke. “Prayer is powerful and not to be undervalued as we press for fair and humane immigration reform.”

LIRS and Lutheran World Relief (LWR) hosted a joint reception Wednesday evening, and on Thursday evening, ELCA churchwide departments hosted a reception highlighting the work of LIRS, LWR, and Lutheran Services in America (LSA).

For a closer look at aspects of immigration reform legislation dealing with the roadmap to citizenship, humane enforcement of immigration laws, preservation of family unity, protection of vulnerable migrants, and provisions for workers, see LIRS’s in-depth analyses. For the latest on the legislative process on Capitol Hill, see the LIRS blog series “Immigration Reform 2013: The Update.”

LIRS, working in partnership with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, is inviting congregations across the nation to sign up and participate in an interfaith “40 Days of Fasting, Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform.” The campaign runs Sept. 8-Oct. 18. Information can be found at the “40 Days Fast Action for Immigration Reform” website.

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

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