I wanted to share some of my eyewitness impressions of an important event taking place this week, the biennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
More than 1,000 Lutherans are gathered in Pittsburgh for the assembly. Those participating have a great deal to accomplish, from electing a Presiding Bishop to voting on dozens of actions carrying forward the denomination’s mission of “God’s Work. Our Hands.” in the United States and around the world.
Amid all the ecclesiastical, worship, and voting activity, 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. The ELCA has remained committed to serving migrants and refugees through LIRS, and 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.
Among items to be voted on are four “memorials” around comprehensive immigration reform. These items, which are similar to resolutions, show the ELCA’s passion for engaging in systemic change as well as direct human care. The first one to come up was passed with 95% of the vote, and we have high hopes for the others to follow during the week. A number of assembly-goers are also signing on to LIRS’s virtual petition for immigration reform via SMS text message. The petition urges Congress to take action following their August recess. LIRS was deeply honored by an additional memorial establishing June 22, 2014 as World Refugee Sunday in celebration of LIRS’s 75th anniversary.
At 7:40 this morning, a steadfast group of bishops, pastors, and other assembly-goers gathered early for a prayer vigil on immigration reform before the day’s business began. We prayed, we sang (Lutherans love to sing!), and tied purple ribbons on each other’s wrists as a reminder to keep lifting up migrants, refugees, and elected officials in prayer. I’m very grateful to local Pittsburgh pastor and longtime newcomer advocate Rev. Linda Theophilus for coordinating the vigil. Prayer is powerful and not to be undervalued as we press for fair and humane immigration reform.