ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses President Trump’s Refugee Executive Order
CHICAGO (Jan. 30, 2017) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued a pastoral message addressing President Trump’s executive order to restrict entry by refugees and visitors into the United States from seven predominately Muslim countries.
January 30, 2017
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Yesterday, we heard these words in the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12, the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lays out a vision for life in God’s realm, characterized by seeing those who are often most disregarded, including the meek, the mourning and the peacemaker, as bearers of God’s blessing. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to hear this Gospel, including Jesus’ call for his disciples to be carriers of God’s light and hope and reconciliation to a world deeply in need of them.
In this spirit, earlier last week I communicated with the Trump administration asking that it not stop the U.S. refugee admissions program or stop resettlement from any country for any period of time. The Bible calls us to welcome the stranger and treat the sojourner as we would our own citizens. I agree with the importance of keeping our country secure as the administration stated in its executive order last Friday, but I am convinced that temporarily banning vulnerable refugees will not enhance our safety nor does it reflect our values as Christians. Instead, it will cause immediate harm by separating families, disrupting lives, and denying safety and hope to brothers and sisters who are already suffering.
Refugees being resettled in the United States have fled persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views and/or associations. They wait for years for the chance to go home. But sometimes, there is no home for them to go back to. We know from our partners at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) that only 1 percent of all refugees are chosen for resettlement.
People of faith helped start and still sustain the refugee resettlement program in the United States following World War II. As Lutherans, many of our ancestors faced the pain of having to flee their homes and the joy of being welcomed in new communities across the United States. As we have done throughout history, millions of Lutherans across the country honor our shared biblical values as well as the best of our nation’s traditions by offering refuge to those most in need. We are committed to continuing ministries of welcome that support and build communities around the country and stand firmly against any policies that result in scaling back the refugee resettlement program.
We must offer safety to people fleeing religious persecution regardless of their faith tradition. Christians and other religious minorities suffer persecution and rightly deserve protection, but including additional criteria based on religion could have discriminatory effects that would go against our nation’s fundamental values related to freedom of religion.
I invite ELCA congregations into learning, prayer and action on behalf of those who seek refuge on our shores. The ELCA "Social Message on Immigration," AMMPARO strategy and LIRS resources are good places to start. Those who have been part of resettling refugees or have their own immigration experience have important stories to share with their communities and testimony to make. I also encourage you to consider adding your voice by calling your members of Congress to share your support for refugees and using online advocacy opportunities through current alerts at ELCA Advocacy and LIRS.
In Matthew 25:35, Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Our Lord not only commanded us to welcome the stranger, Jesus made it clear that when we welcome the stranger into our homes and our hearts – we welcome him.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Election message from ELCA Presiding Bishop The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
CHICAGO (Nov. 11, 2016) – Addressing the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, ELCA Presiding Bishop reminds us: “No human candidate can guarantee our life or our future.”
CHICAGO (Nov. 14, 2016) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued the following statement on Standing Rock:
"When we come together for worship, we often begin with confession and forgiveness using these words: “We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Lutherans acknowledge that this is a broken world and, as part of it, even our best wisdom and efforts fall short. Very often we face issues of extraordinary complexity in which all sides make reasoned arguments for their reality. The current situation at Standing Rock in North Dakota is just such a case.
The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) runs through contested land, which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees as their homeland and sacred places, including burial grounds. Proponents of the DAPL sees it as a combination of public and private property. The pipeline will run under Lake Oahe, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. What we see is the tension between two peoples trying to share one land. We can also see the tension between our dependence on fossil fuels and the commitment this church has made to care for creation.
This past August, the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. In it we pledged “to practice accompaniment with Native peoples.” The doctrine declared that indigenous land was “unoccupied” as long as Christians were not present. Land deemed “unoccupied” was, therefore, “discovered,” as if it had been previously unknown to humankind. This doctrine was used as justification for European monarchies, and later the U.S. government, to take land from Native people. Many of us in this church who are immigrants have benefitted from the injustices done to the original inhabitants of this land where we now live and worship. Our church also includes American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have been on the receiving end of the injustices done. When we repudiated the doctrine of discovery, we Lutherans pledged to do better together in the future than we have in the past.
Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. As promised in our resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery, we will listen to tribal leaders and respect their wisdom.
We will lend our presence when invited, our advocacy when requested, the resources of our people when asked, and our prayers, friendship and repentance at all times.
Your sister in Christ,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Statement from ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton on Standing Rock
Called Forward Together in Christ
The ELCA is only 28 years old, but rooted in the Lutheran Reformation, the 500th anniversary of which will be celebrated in 2017. "Called Forward Together in Christ" seeks to create a vision for the ELCA’s future as a denomination that continues to share the Gospel of Christ and will faithfully serve God’s mission; a church we can be proud to pass on to our children. Discovering this future began with conversations in congregations. For a short video about this process, the resulting Consultation Paper, “Called Forward Together in Christ for the Sake of the World,” (available to download) and other resources, go to elca.org/future.