This is a day that changed history for us in the US. The tragic events have changed our entire worldview since then. No longer can we comfort ourselves with the thoughts that terrorist attacks only occur in other places. This was on our homeland! We must remember all those who died that day either from the attacks themselves or as a result of the medical problems that ensued and continue to pray for the families and friends who will always grieve their losses. I heard on the news just the other day of a first responder who recently passed away from the injuries he sustained on 9/11. The sadness seems to go on and on.
Not to minimize at all the suffering and loss of those directly affected by the events of that day, I think we are all victims. The tragedy of 9/11 continues as we face travel and immigration restrictions arising from our fear of letting strangers in who might take something away from us – read that jobs, welfare benefits, health insurance, freedoms, possessions, and our own personal safety. It’s made us nervous as a people, always looking over our shoulder to see who’s around us. Maybe we can’t draw a direct line from the events of 9/11 to the repeal of DACA but, it seems to me, that our national nervousness has led groups to speak out more boldly and openly about keeping our culture safe from the influence of others, not to mention that it may have paved the way for the election of the current administration in the White House and Congress. Like many of you, all of the recent events and trends have caused me almost relentless anxiety about our future. That is until Saturday.
On Friday and Saturday, the new flock of Exploring Your Spiritual Journey (EYSJ) participants were on retreat with the Rev. Canon Ron Spann and co-facilitators Kevin McLogan and me. We certainly were not talking politics during our time together yet, as Ron Spann and I talked with a couple of participants over lunch on Saturday, I began to wonder about where we are as a nation and where we’re headed. Ron was telling us about the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) which is holding its upcoming conference in Detroit. I was intrigued by Ron’s description of this organization: “These are not your father’s Evangelicals” so today I checked their website where they describe their mission:
The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) is a network of Christians committed to seeing people and communities holistically restored. We believe that God wants to restore us not only to right relationship with Himself but also with our own true selves, our families and our communities. Not just spiritually, but emotionally, physically, economically, and socially. Not by offering mercy alone, but by undergirding mercy with justice.
To this end, we follow Jesus’s example of reconciliation. We go where the brokenness is. We live among the people in some of America’s neediest neighborhoods. We become one with our neighbors until there is no longer an “us” and “them” but only a “we.” And, in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, “we work and pray for the well-being of our city [or neighborhood],” trusting that if the entire community does well and prospers, then we will prosper also.
Wow! My 20 years in the Evangelical church did not introduce me to more than a handful of people who espouse such compassionate opinions about issues of justice and equality. As we listened to Ron and shared our experiences, I began to wonder if it’s possible that the election of this President might, indeed, be good for our country in the long run. Please, don’t get me wrong; I’m not at all confident of this new train of thought and I still feel nervous about what seems like his instability. Since the election and inauguration, we’ve all watched the many protests and rallies opposing Mr Trump’s actions and agendas. People are writing petitions, making phone calls to legislators, speaking out in public. I don’t know that I’ve seen such grassroots energy since the 60’s and the protests of the Vietnam War. And I see it in the Church, too. We’re not sitting idly in our pews expecting the government to take care of us because, quite clearly, that hasn’t worked out too well. The Church is beginning to behave like the Beloved Community. More and more I hear people ready to live out their Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being. Complacency seems to be ebbing. And, this brings me hope.
The most recent backlash against his policies happened last week when our President repealed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy which had been signed by President Obama in 2012 after failing to receive enough votes in the Senate. Some 800,000 young adults have benefitted from this program and become valuable, contributing members of our society. Sending them back to their countries of birth would be unspeakably cruel. Many left as infants, they don’t speak the language, they don’t know the culture, they have no family there – and this is their home. Since the repeal by President Trump, many, many church leaders have spoken out in support of the Dreamers, including our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings:
Today our hearts are with those known as the Dreamers—those young women and men who were brought to this country as children, who were raised here and whose primary cultural and country identity is American. We believe that these young people are children of God and deserve a chance to live full lives, free from fear of deportation to countries that they may have never known and whose languages they may not speak. As people of faith, our obligation is first to the most vulnerable, especially to children. In this moment, we are called by God to protect Dreamers from being punished for something they had no agency in doing.
Since 2012, individuals who are undocumented and who were brought to the U.S. as children have benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Through this program, those eligible have the opportunity to obtain a work permit and can secure protection from deportation. The nearly 800,000 recipients of DACA have proven that when given the opportunity, they succeed and contribute positively to our country. Without protection afforded by DACA or a legislative solution, these young people will live in fear of arrest, detention, and deportation to countries they may not remember. In six months those fears may become reality, so we must use that time wisely to advocate for their protection.
The Episcopal Church supports these undocumented youth as part of our decades-long commitment to walking with immigrants and refugees. Out of that commitment, we call on our nation to live up to its highest ideals and most deeply held values, and we call on Congress to take action to protect these young people and to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy that is moral and consistent and that allows immigrants who want to contribute to this country the chance to do so while keeping our borders secure from those whose business is in drugs, human trafficking or terror. We are committed to working actively toward both the passage of a bipartisan Dream Act by Congress and comprehensive immigration reform, and we will provide resources for Episcopalians who want to participate in this work.
For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, our Christian values are at stake. Humane and loving care for the stranger, the alien, and the foreigner is considered a sacred duty and moral value for those who would follow the way of God. In his parable of the last judgment, Jesus commended those who welcomed the stranger and condemned those who did not (Matthew 25:35 & 25:43). This teaching of Jesus was based on the law of Moses that tells the people of God: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-35).
We stand with the Dreamers and will do all that we can to support them while we also work for the kind of immigration reform that truly reflects the best of our spiritual and moral values as people of faith and as citizens of the United States.
-The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, and The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies
The Episcopal New Service (ENS) reported on the response to the President’s actions on September 5th citing that all across the country, from California to Washington DC, church activists are preparing for marches, rallies and meetings with their legislators. The Rev. Mike Kinman, rector of All Saints’ Church in Pasadena, CA, told ENS in a phone interview:
This is us. This is not some other. These are our sisters and brothers and members of our family, members of our community. These are God’s beloved and our beloved. God has joined us together, and Scripture tells us that which God has joined together, let no one put asunder.
Bishop Marianne Budde of the Diocese of Washington told the crowds demonstrating in front of the White House that she and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, and Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, had sent a letter to the White House making it clear that each of these religion’s sacred texts affirm the care of the stranger as a moral imperative. With the President’s decision, Bishop Budde says that they will now be taking their cause to Congress.
You can read the whole ENS article here.
I hope that the challenges we are facing will prove to make us stronger as a Church, a people who serves our God to bring the Kingdom of heaven to all those who are fearful and anxious. Perhaps we are here “for such a time as this.”
Let us pray –
Most Holy God, in your word we read so many stories about the ones you have protected as they left home in search of a better life. Your servant Ruth said, “Your people will be my people, your God, my God.” You loved her and found a place for her in Israel. Scripture inspires us to strive for greater hospitality to the poor, the weak and strangers.
You have blessed us with dreamers who arrived here as children and today seek a way to make their contribution to our common life. We pray for them now. We pray that they will be allowed to work, study and live in safety. We pray that those in authority may turn away from the demons of prejudice, fear and scarcity, that they will set their hearts on acts of mercy. We pray that you will give us vision and inspire our concrete actions as we seek to realize our goal of liberty and justice for all.
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council