From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Immigration Message Goes to Church Council

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 08 Oct 1998 17:28:19


October 8, 1998


     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) will consider a "Message on Immigration" with a
recommendation to adopt.  If adopted in November, the message will serve as
a resource for ELCA congregations to discuss attitudes regarding
immigration and will guide the church's advocacy efforts.
     The ELCA's proposed message highlights several "areas of concern
where we think our country's laws can and should be improved."  If adopted,
the church will advocate for simplified processes of attaining asylum,
legal residency and citizenship.  The message also will promote friendlier
border policies between the United States and Mexico.
     The board of the ELCA's Division for Church in Society recommended
the council adopt the message when the board met here Sept. 24-26.
     "I hear comments about too many of 'these people' coming to our
country," said board member Gloria Strickert, Waverly, Iowa.  She cited as
a helpful response a part of the message that says, "Our church also has a
history of hospitality for refugees. Following World War II, when one out
of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person,
Lutherans, with the participation of 6,000 congregations, resettled some
57,000 refugees in the United States."
     The Rev. Carol A. Jensen, Marysville, Wash., said, "The message could
have been more explicit in addressing the myths and negative attitudes
people have."
     "The document doesn't get into a debate about whether immigration is
good or bad for the country," responded the Rev. John R. Stumme, ELCA
associate director for studies.  "Studies that have been done go both ways.
But the document takes its approach on the basis of identity who we are as
a church and as a country."
     Board members discussed at length the "brain drain" from other
countries when the United States facilitates entry of people with highly
desired skills.  "It's one thing when German intellectuals immigrated for
fear of their life.  It's another when the U.S. government engages in
head-hunting, siphoning off from developing countries," said the Rev. Brian
C. King, LaCrosse, Wis.
     King's remarks were made in response to a section of the message that
cited objectives that had been important to Lutheran church bodies and
organizations for the past 40 years, one of which was "facilitating the
entry of persons possessing special skills or other capacities needed by
the American economy and culture."  Board members were concerned that those
objectives could be misinterpreted and still be seen as operative today.
     The board amended the message to add that ELCA advocacy "will also
oppose the active recruitment of workers from developing nations to our
benefit and their detriment."
     In other business the board recommended that the Church Council
approve a proposal to develop a social statement on health and health care
for consideration at the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
     The ELCA Church Council will meet Nov. 12-16 in Chicago.
[*Sonia C. Solomonson is senior editor for The Lutheran, magazine of the

For information contact:
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Director 1-773-380-2955 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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