Dear Friends of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
I commend to you the following article regarding The Episcopal Church’s response to the crisis that continues to unfold at our southern border. No matter where one may stand on the complex issues of immigration, refugees and border security, I trust you will see that we are seeking to do so in a manner that is grounded in prayer and seeks action that is rooted in the Gospel. I encourage you to engage the resources that are available and to which the article directs us.
My work with the people of El Salvador since 1996 has shown me, often with heartbreak, that many people fleeing violence and persecution identify as being a part of Christ's Body, the Church. They therefore are a part of us. What happens to one part of the Body affects us all. How we love them as our neighbor and respect their dignity as made in the image of God is an essential tenet of who we are called to be as a people of Jesus.
My hope is that you will engage conversations with one another about who we are as a country not from partisan political perspectives, but from a place of deep reflection upon the Hebrew prophetic and Gospel traditions. May you have a blessed celebration of Independence Day in the name of the One Lord who sets us all free.
Episcopal Church response to crisis on the border
July 2, 2019Author: The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs
Over the past several weeks, The Episcopal Church has responded to the reports of inhumane conditions for children and other asylum seekers in government custody in a number of ways. This response includes calls for donations and goods from Episcopal dioceses on the border, prayers for those seeking safety, efforts to engage in advocacy, and pastoral messages from bishops around the Church.
“We are children of the one God who is the Creator of us all,” said Presiding BishopMichael Curry. “It is our sisters, our brothers, our siblings who are seeking protection and asylum, fleeing violence and danger to children, searching for a better life for themselves and their children. The crisis at the border is not simply a challenge of partisan politics but a test of our personal and public morality and human decency.”
The Episcopal Church, through the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), has compiled a list of resources, bishop statements, and information in response to the ongoing humanitarian situation at the southern border.
“Reports of poor care for children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody and continued policies to limit access to asylum are extremely concerning to people of faith. We must remember these children are here because they cannot find safety anywhere else,” stated Rebecca Linder Blachly, Director of The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. “The U.S. has an established system to process asylum seekers, who are coming to the U.S. legally. The response to asylum seekers who are desperate and afraid should not be deterrence or detention. We have the capability to respond in a humane and compassionate manner, and I am grateful for everyone in The Episcopal Church who is responding to this crisis.”
The list of resources for education and support is available on the EMM website and will continue to be updated with ways to learn more and take action. The OGR and EMM webinar with Bishop Michael Hunn of the Diocese of Rio Grande will be made available on-demand through this website as well.
“The enormity of the challenge is daunting. It is easy to feel helpless to make a difference. While we cannot do everything, we can do something,” said Curry. “The links to resources of bishops and dioceses on the border, the Office of Government Relations and Episcopal Migration Ministries offer practical suggestions for how we can each and together do something.”
The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. This office aims to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All of its work is grounded in the resolutions of General Convention and Executive Council, the legislative and governing bodies of the church. Connecting Episcopalians to their faith by educating, equipping and engaging them to do the work of advocacy through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is a key aspect of this work.
Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of The Episcopal Church and is one of nine national agencies responsible for resettling refugees in the United States in partnership with the government. Episcopal Migration Ministries currently has 13 affiliate offices in 12 states. To directly support EMM and its life-changing work, visit www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/give or text ‘EMM’ to 41444 (standard messaging and data may rates apply).
The 18th Sunday After Pentecost
September 23, 2018
I have been a board member of a human rights organization called Cristosal for almost 20 years. In that time we have grown from a loosely knit yet committed volunteer organization with a scraped together $25,000 per year budget to one with a budget of $1,500,000 and now recognized as one of the top organizations in the world working in the area of human rights and displaced peoples. If you go to the webpage of Cristosal (www.cristosal.org) you will see that the very first statement that appears is this: “We believe every human being is inherently equal in rights and dignity.”
I trust you hear in that statement echoes of our baptismal covenant, when we promise to God that we will “respect the dignity of every human being.” We make this promise because we are disciples of Jesus and we believe that all people are made in the image of God. It doesn’t mean that we, or anyone, always acts out of that truth, but it does mean our discipleship as a part of the Jesus Movement points to such truths as foundational for our identity and belief system. Many scholars believe that this section in Mark is a part of an early Christian catechism that converts seeking the way of Jesus were required to memorize.
So why do I start here today? In El Salvador the Cristosal team on the ground receives up to forty referrals a week from the U.S. Embassy or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as families receive death threats, children are orphaned, and teenage girls flee gang slavery. In El Salvador alone, 5.1% of the population is currently forcibly displaced by violence and threat. We know such horrors occur in other places as well. Syria and Myanmar are notable. And what population tends to suffer the most? Children. Even up the road right now in northeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina, as a result of hurricane Florence, the ones most exposed and vulnerable are children.
When we engage Mark’s Gospel in today’s reading we find that the disciples have, once again, failed to understand what it means to be a disciple. Jesus, through the image of a child who he places before them, teaches them what discipleship with him means. You recall what I am sure for you are familiar words: “Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’”
When using this image of a child, Jesus is not here speaking of innocence or humility. Let’s disabuse ourselves of that notion right out of the gate. What he is talking about is what was true of children of his day. They had no legal status and therefore they were helpless. They were powerless and some of the most vulnerable. Now hold on to your seats here. What Jesus is saying in this Gospel is that true greatness is when we treat as first in the kingdom those who have no legal status, are powerless and helpless. It means too that when greatness consists in serving others, especially the most vulnerable, we are welcoming Christ into our midst. To receive a child is to welcome someone with no regard to how we might benefit individually or communally, and to do so for one deemed as insignificant with no hope of reward. James’ Epistle today puts it this way: “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth…the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”
Folks, this is radical behavior. It is why, at least in part, that the disciples have a hard time grasping what true discipleship is. It’s about death and resurrection. It’s about giving up privilege and the abuse of power. Sure, it’s easier to do what the disciples did and try to deflect and start arguing about other things such as who is the greatest in order to keep one’s privileged position. It’s such a human response, even understandable, yet as people of faith we know it as sin because we see it as falling short of the mark to which Jesus calls us. It all gets revealed when Jesus asks the disciples what they had been arguing about as they walked along. It is then that he takes the opportunity to teach them what kind of Messiah he was to be and what it is to be a disciple. To be truly great is to die to the greatness of the world rooted in power and privilege and first-ness, then being raised to be servants of all.
We need always to be asking ourselves, in prayer, some questions. How will we use our privilege to serve those who do not share it? What arguments are we having within ourselves, in our families, in our church, in our nation, that are far from how to be disciples, but are really about fear, privilege, and who’s number one? No easy answers there, and I don’t mean to suggest that there are. But to be faithful we must consider the questions that Jesus’ teaching raises.
We’re not in El Salvador or Syria, Myanmar or Puerto Rico, or even a bit north of us, but we must never allow the helpless or the plight of the displaced, for whatever reason, to be politicized. Not if we’re going to be disciples. The helpless, wherever we find them, are made in the image of God, just as you are. Jesus’ challenge to the disciples shows us that we must be open to new perspectives, be more committed to impartiality in our dealings, and persevere in advocating for others.
We are called by the living Christ to be servants of one another. There is a claim on our compassion and a religious duty to meet the displaced, the powerless and helpless with assistance, yes, and also to challenge and change the systems that keep people in such prisons. Compassion always finds it legs in genuine Christian communities. We can be that community, indeed are called to be that community, grounded in the kind of discipleship to which Jesus calls us.
Dear Faithful People of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
I trust you are well aware of the issues playing out regarding the separation of families on our borders. Not only does this raise significant political questions, but for us as a people of faith in the living God through Christ, it raises deeply theological ones. As followers of Jesus we must be asking how we respond to present policies that tear at the very fabric of what we hold dear in our national soul, yet even more of who we seek to be as a community who has committed to respect the dignity of every human being, and to seek justice and peace among all people. This is a time to ask, what would Jesus do?
I commend to you the materials offered here. I also hope that you are and will be having conversations in your parishes about what a compassionate, faith-filled response might look like for you personally and as a faith community. May God have mercy on us all.
Faithfully in Christ,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Please visit the links below:
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.