I’m excited that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) has released their long-awaited report, Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues.
This report by the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), which appears in both English and Spanish, calls us to ground our thinking and our actions in understanding immigrants as our neighbors, whom God commands us to love. 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.
Here is what CTCR Executive Director Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer has to say about the report:
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.
Another perspective on the new report comes from 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:
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.
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.
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. 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.
Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, Director, Church And Community Engagement, LCMS Office of National Mission, has this to say:
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.”
We are grateful to the LCMS through the Commission on Theology and Church Relations 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.