While Washington engages in a high-profile fight on immigration, Christian leaders in key states are quietly engaging their grass roots.
They're part of the newly formed Evangelical Immigration Table that unabashedly supports reform, and they're talking to people in the pews about what the Bible says about immigration. It's an effort that could help fuel momentum back in Washington.
Although evangelicals aren't generally known for supporting immigration reform, the EIT believes it makes sense to target this politically influential group because often they're already connected with immigrants in ministry settings.
Also, the EIT hopes an emphasis on biblical teaching will convince evangelicals that strong theological reasons exist to support immigrant care.
Engaging the Immigrant
At First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, 100 or so immigrants pour into the church each week. They're refugees, newly arrived in the United States and eager to learn English. Church members who tutor them say their stories are inspiring.
"Most of them take the bus and transfer two or three times to get to class," volunteer Nancy Gagner said. "They're just so diligent about showing up every day."
"It's just amazing to me the courage that it takes for them to come here," Shelley McBride, another volunteer tutor, said. "Often it's their best option but it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to start over."
This direct engagement with immigrants has heightened awareness of the national debate on immigration reform, Michelle Swanson, associate for Local Missions at First Presbyterian, said.
"It certainly has raised the awareness of neighbors on our doorstep from around the world," she said. "Once you have names and faces to put with it it no longer is this issue that you just read about in the newspaper."
Applying Biblical Principles
Not all churches in Colorado are so actively involved. For years, many have simply been unaware of immigrant communities right in their midst.
It's one reason why the EIT is organizing in states like Colorado, Texas, and Florida where the immigrant population has exploded.
"I think that when you don't know immigrants and you don't interact with them it's just not on your radar," Michelle Warren, who works for the EIT in Colorado, explained.
The EIT's strategy for such churches: begin to explain biblical principles for caring for immigrants.
The coalition began just last summer and already its membership includes prominent evangelical names and organizations, including Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College.
The EIT's platform calls for respecting the God-given dignity of individuals, protecting the unity of the immediate family, respecting the law, guaranteeing secure borders, ensuring fairness to taxpayers, and establishing a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish it.
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SOURCE: CBN News