The Episcopal Church (TEC) has a general convention every three years, and the most recent was just last month: from July 5-13 in Austin, Texas. TEC always seems to have profound issues to address and to work through, including in recent years recognition of women as Priests and Bishops and liturgies blessing same gender relationships while staying faithful to the fundamentals of a Protestant Christian religion. The convention acts through discussion, amendment, and if warranted adoption of Resolutions for the guidance of Episcopal Churches nationwide. There were two Resolutions adopted this year that addressed a topic discussed more than once in this column: our obligation regarding “Welcoming the Stranger.”
The first resolution was entitled “Respecting the Dignity of Immigrants.” In it, TEC officially advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, including continuation of “Temporary Protective Status” (TPS) of refugees who have been here for several years; recently the Trump administration began revoking TPS for Central American residents following decades of violence in their home countries. It called for keeping families together following national and international news about our government under its “Zero Tolerance Policy” taking over two thousand children from their parents just this year, while their refugee status was adjudicated. It called for support for youth as outlined in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and supported federal legislation including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults known as DREAMers. And it commended the ongoing work of Episcopal Migration Ministries in resettling refugees including many from war-torn Syria, a policy also strongly opposed by the Trump administration.
The second resolution was entitled “Becoming a Sanctuary Church.” It urges Episcopalians not just to question but to challenge any unjust law or policy that is inconsistent with the mandate in Exodus to “not wrong or oppress a resident alien.” Specifically, this resolution recommends that its congregations become “places of refuge” as well as of welcome, healing, and other forms of material and pastoral support for those targeted for deportation due to “immigration status or some perceived status of difference.” And it encourages all Episcopalians “to connect with local and national sanctuary communities and institutions” to ensure the safety, security, and due process for immigrants and to assist in such work.
It is often difficult and always controversial when an established Church encourages its members to take actions and to support specific policy decisions that are viewed as political in nature. The membership of The Episcopal Church at the general convention takes seriously its obligation to do so when such policy decisions are seen to be not only political but also fundamentally moral and ethical in nature. Not all churches – including in that term synagogues and mosques as well – will view issues the same way. But are not each of us called to that same obligation in our daily lives, when confronted with the choice between right and wrong?