During the 2018 Indiana Annual Conference, the voting body overwhelmingly supported a resolution titled "Welcoming the Migrant In Our Midst." As we continue to see images in our news of children being placed in detention centers separated from their families, this is an important resolution to look at again and to share within our congregations.
As the resolution states, "The United Methodist Church affirms the worth, dignity, and inherent value and rights of all persons regardless of their nationality or legal status. Yet we have neighbors, co-workers, friends who have been separated from their loved ones or are living in fear of their families being torn apart through our broken immigration system." It all begins with the Imago Dei found in every person. In Genesis, we read that we are all created in the image of God. Too often though, those who are undocumented are seen as less than the image of God. As followers of Jesus, it is imperative that we reflect on the greatest commandment to love God and love neighbor.
Unfortunately, when we see children being forcibly separated from their families, it is not loving our neighbor. This resolution asks all Indiana United Methodists to "call upon our political leaders and policymakers to assure our laws affirm the worth, dignity, inherent values and rights of immigrants and refugees." Contact Senators Donnelley and Young and your Representatives and respectfully ask them to keep families together and to support legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship. There is currently no pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who live in our nation regardless of how long they have lived, worked, and raised a family here.
There was a recent case of a woman in Indianapolis who was scheduled to be deported without her children. This woman had been brought to the United States when she was five. Her husband had already been deported and she was fearful that she would be deported while her children, who hold American citizenship, would be forced to remain in the United States. The faith community in Central Indiana gathered around this woman and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) gave her more time to prepare. It is likely that without the faith community surrounding her, she would have left without her children with no plan in place to be reunited. Situations like this are causing faith leaders from around the nation and every denomination to say enough is enough. We must keep families together.
Personally, I can't imagine having my nearly three-year-old son ripped away from me. That's why this resolution states that the "Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, as followers of Jesus, commit ourselves to work to eliminate racism and violence directed toward newly arriving migrants from all parts of the world as well as those who have lived and worked among us for some time and that we express our opposition to any policy that breaks apart families."
While I can't imagine my family being separated, I know there are families who are and who live in fear every day. In my comfort, I am still called to walk with our immigrant brothers and sisters who find themselves living in constant fear. When I pray, I continue to feel called to act. When I reflect on Scripture such as Leviticus 19 where we are commanded to love the immigrant who shall be to you as the citizen among you; or Deuteronomy 10: 19, "You are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt", or in Matthew 25 where Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me;" I am convicted to live out the Scriptural command to love God and love neighbor. This resolution is a part of this Scriptural call.
If you feel like this call on your heart, please be in touch with Rev. Tom Heaton, firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> to learn more or use the Resolution below as a resource to begin a conversation in your local church about these issues. Please at least spend some time in prayer for immigrant families and for our elected leaders.
Meridian Street United Methodist Church
5500 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46208
317.253.3237 ext. 20