National Council of Churches representatives joined thousands demonstrators on the National Mall Oct. 8 calling on Congress to pass legislation that would allow 12 million undocumented residents of the U.S. to apply for citizenship.
“For us, this is a fundamental question of biblical hospitality,” said the Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA and chair-elect of the NCC.
“Throughout scripture, God calls on us to welcome strangers as neighbors,” Medley said, “and Jesus made it clear that our neighbor is anyone who crosses our path or needs our help.”
The demonstration on the Mall took place despite the government shut-down because the U.S. Constitution guarantees rights of speech and assembly, according to National Park Service officials.
The U.S. Senate has already passed a sweeping immigration bill that would revamp the legal immigration system and allow the nation's undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship within 13 years. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has not acted on the bill as a whole.
In addition to Medley, bishops and national heads of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist traditions stressed the urgency for immigration reform.
“Today even in the midst of this shutdown, we bring our call for justice to Capitol Hill because the crisis of our families, our communities and congregations continues. Immigration reform simply cannot wait. The time for solutions is now,” said the Rev. John McCullough, staff head of Church World Service.
“And when congress decides to end this shutdown our national leaders will need to prove that they can work together for the greater good of the nation and pass a just and humane immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship,” McCullough said.
“At the day of judgment will you be able to say you loved your neighbor as yourself?” said the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.
“The House of Representatives already has the necessary votes for reform. It simply needs the moral courage to bring it to a vote. We urge the leadership to act positively on immigration reform and to do it now,” Jefferts Schori said.
The National Council of Churches and Church World Service have long supported openness in the nation’s immigration policy. In 2008, the agencies enacted a joint resolution on Immigration and a Call to Action that calls on churches, the president, and Congress to support policies protecting the rights of immigrants and opening doors to citizenship.
The National Council has been speaking out on the issue for most of its 63 year history, beginning with its United States Immigration and Naturalization Policy (1952) and including statements on The Churches and Immigration (1962) and Immigration, Refugees and Migrants (1981).
The National Council of Churches and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) are sponsoring an international gathering on immigration issues Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Quito, Ecuador. Persons interested in attending Americas Ecumenical Dialogue on Faith, Economy, and Migration, may contact the Rev. José Luis Casal, vice president of the National Council of Churches, at email@example.com.
Statements and policies on immigration reform from other groups can be found at http://www.ncccusa.org/immigration/immigpolicies.html