Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I embark for General Convention in Austin, Texas, one of the things I treasure most when the whole church gathers is worshiping and working alongside people from all walks of life, women and men who reflect the great diversity of our common humanity. Truly, General Convention reminds me that The Episcopal Church is comprised of men, women and children of every ethnicity, culture, language and country from around the world. What is more, over the course of our history, while sometimes missing the mark, The Episcopal Church has faithfully worked to be a welcoming faith community to immigrants.
Over the past several weeks, as the immigration debate has grown more divisive while also becoming appallingly dire as most children separated from their parents have yet to be reunited with their families, I have thoughtfully reflected on our origins as a Church, as well as faithfully discerned Jesus' Great Commandment "to love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself" and Saint Paul's words to the Church in Rome that "love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law," (Romans 13:10). I now write you to share my thoughts and hopes as a Christian community called to "seek and serve Christ in all persons" and to "respect the dignity of every human being."
I want to be clear, that my intention is to lift up and illumine our vocation as disciples of Jesus of Nazareth who calls us to participate with God in the holy work of justice, mercy and reconciliation. Yes, often Christian discernment and conviction leads to honest deliberation and humble discourse of our collective attitudes, opinions, and laws in the hope of encouraging policies that advance the common good for all people in every community across the country. There is biblical and historical precedent for this endeavor. Our Lord, Jesus, himself challenged the religious and civic leaders of his day with the purpose of calling Israel back into right relationship with each other and with God.
I also want to be clear, that my intention is to promote the hospitality of Jesus Christ while at the same time valuing the safety and security of our national community. As a former police officer and employee of the Justice Department, I endorse border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing the entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals. I also endorse the legitimate task of reforming our policies that implement processes for immigrant workers and their families to enter and work in a safe, legal and orderly manner. Furthermore, I also advocate for the creation of a path to citizenship that supports hard-working immigrants, who are already contributing to this country, to come out of the shadows in order that their status may be regularized upon completion of reasonable criteria, and eventually allow them to pursue becoming lawful permanent residents and citizens.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel imperative of love compels us to examine our attitudes and actions toward the refugee and foreigner in our midst. As God loves each one of us, God equally loves the outcast, resident alien and stranger. There is no place in our Christian life for vitriolic language that demonizes or belittles other human beings and we must always speak out against such bigotry. As followers of Jesus, his life is our standard in all we say and do and we will be judged ultimately on how we treat others.
In light of this, I will join The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, as well as other delegates and bishops at General Convention, for a prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas on Sunday, July 8. Our hope is to lift up the inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum in our country and invite the Holy Spirit to inspire us and our government leaders to safeguard the care and dignity of all immigrants and refugees, especially children who must be immediately reunited with their families.
Finally, I invite you to join me in following Jesus by getting educated and staying informed on all aspects of this important human issue. The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations is a non-partisan group of lay and ordained leaders who, representing the priorities set by the Presiding Bishop and General Convention, diligently work to thoroughly study and advocate on this topic and a host of others. I also invite you to join me in contributing to the work of Pisgah Legal Services in their efforts to support and safeguard immigrants in their path to citizenship. I am very impressed by and fully endorse this local organization and commend them to you for your support.
Above all, I ask you all to pray. Pray for me and all of us attending General Convention. Pray for all of our elected officials to be guided by the wisdom and compassion of God for the common good. And pray for all people everywhere to be filled with the love of Christ for the sake of the whole world.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
VII Bishop of Western North Carolina