If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve read of my concerns for refugee resettlement and advocacy for the work of Episcopal Migration Ministry (EMM). With the election of President Trump and his quick attempt to ban refugees until a more serious vetting process could be in place (the vetting process is already extensive and thorough), some of the work of EMM slowed although their passion for this mission remains high. Other resettlement organizations had to cut staff and look for new ways to support the refugees already here. We’ve watched federal judges impose bans on the President’s executive order only to have a second order proposed. This second order (EO-2) which had removed references to religion and exempted green card holders also went to the courts. Just last Thursday, May 25th, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that this travel ban should remain on hold, “maintaining a nationwide preliminary injunction that blocks key elements of the executive order from being enforced” (Camila Domonoske – NPR News). The chief judge wrote that Trump’s ban “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”
The news from the 4th Circuit Court was certainly positive but even more exciting was the local news that I heard on Michigan Radio the same afternoon. All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing announced that they will become a Sanctuary Church offering shelter to immigrants appealing deportation. The Rev. Kit Carlson reported that the Vestry voted unanimously on Tuesday evening and will be ready to open their doors to one immigrant by the end of the summer. Action of Greater Lansing and the American Civil Liberties Union will assist in screening people likely looking first for those with children in the U.S. and having no felony convictions. They hope that this will be the beginning of sanctuary support by other churches.
I bet you won’t be surprised to know that we have a resolution that speaks to the need for sanctuary churches – and it’s one of the resolutions addressed in Covenant 5’s resolution at our Diocesan Convention last year:
D057 Re-Commitment to the Spirit of Sanctuary
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 78th General Convention recommit to the spirit of the New Sanctuary Movement by supporting congregations so they can assist immigrant individuals, unaccompanied minors, families, and communities by being centers of information, services and accompaniment, and by supporting families facing separation in the absence of comprehensive, humane immigration reform.
The history of offering sanctuary goes back to the Law given to Israel (Numbers 35) when God institutes cities of refuge. The Council of Orleans in 511 CE made provision for a church, church property or the home of a bishop to serve as a place of refuge and safety. I knew a little of the history but was unaware of the New Sanctuary Movement so I went hunting on the web. First, so you don’t go down the same rabbit hole I did, I found that the website for New Sanctuary Movement was about purchasing camera equipment. After a bit of searching, I found a very helpful paper prepared by Squarespace which you can find by clicking here. And another informative reference you can find here. They also have a Facebook page (doesn’t everybody?).
Not every congregation will be able to do what All Saints is doing but all of us can offer our help to them. I have no doubt that they will face many challenges in the days ahead. Offering help to those that are seen by some as dangerous and intrusive may set up our friends at All Saints for discrimination and persecution. I’m sure they have anticipated this but it will still be tough and discouraging. We need to begin by holding them in prayer as they make final preparations to welcome guests in their space. We can also offer financial support. Contact the church office (; 517-351-7160) to find out how you can get involved. And speak with your congregation if you would like to offer sanctuary in your community. Opening our homes and our hearts to those whose life and security are at risk is one great way of demonstrating our love for all our neighbors.
Let us pray –
Blessed are You, Lord Jesus Christ.
You crossed every border between Divinity and humanity to make your home with us. Help us to welcome you in newcomers, migrants and refugees.
Blessed are You, God of all nations.
You bless our land richly with goods of creation and with people made in your image. Help us to be good stewards and peacemakers, who live as your children.
Blessed are You, Holy Spirit.
You work in the hearts of all to bring about harmony and goodwill.
Strengthen us to welcome those from other lands, cultures, religions, that we may live in human solidarity and in hope.
God of all people, grant us vision to see your presence in our midst, especially in our immigrant sisters and brothers. Give us courage to open the door to our neighbors and grace to build a society of justice. Amen. (Pax Christi)