Dear Alpine Family
The recent action of our Churchwide Assembly declaring the ELCA to be a “sanctuary church body” has generated lots of headlines, reactions, rumors, and misconceptions. It is my heartfelt desire that we all be well informed and have healthy discussions about what this means and how it will affect our ministry.
Our synod has provided some explanations and information for us:
- You may read the assembly’s action in the 2019 Churchwide Assembly Legislative Update for Wednesday, August 7 at https://is.gd/legupwed. You can find video recordings of all sessions at www.elca.org/cwa. Hearing the discussion that led to the decision may be of some help.
- The ELCA press release stated, “As a sanctuary church, the ELCA is committed to serving and supporting migrant children and families in communities across the country.” We have already been involved in this accompaniment through the ELCA’s strategy called AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities).
- The ELCA has publicly declared that walking alongside immigrants and refugees is a matter of faith. What that looks like will differ from synod to synod and congregation to congregation because all ministry is contextual.
Let us be clear:
- In our interdependent polity, nothing in the Churchwide Assembly action binds a congregation, synod, agency or institution. It only binds the Churchwide expression of the church.
- The Churchwide Assembly action does not call for civil disobedience or any illegal actions. Any congregation that engages in illegal activity must be ready to accept the legal consequences. Congregations are urged to seek legal counsel regarding these issues.
- The question of what it means to be a sanctuary church body will now have to be studied by the ELCA’s Church Council. We do not currently have a clear or commonly accepted definition. A report will come to the next Churchwide Assembly in 2022.
- The Question of what this means for the ministry of Alpine Lutheran Church is open for discussion. We are being called to pray and seek guidance from God on how the shape and form of our mission might respond to the needs of the world around us.
This can be seen as an invitation for us to join together to pray and to discuss. We are, as always, guided by scripture and the undeniable value that God has a heart for those who are forgotten, victimized, impoverished, or abandoned by this world. We are reminded that Jesus came into this world and lived his early childhood years as in illegal refugee, having fled his home country because of violence and murder. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus shares the parable of the sheep and the goats. He concludes with this truth. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (vs. 40).”