June 18, 2018
By Jeff Huett
DECATUR, Ga. — Continuing advocacy for immigrants and refugees informed by our Global Missions work in the context of global migration, today the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship spoke with deep convictions on the unjust separation of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and the misappropriation of the Gospel to support it.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s policy, invoking Romans 13, which he interpreted to mean that all should “obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter disagreed.
“The policy of ripping children from the arms of parents is outrageous, and quoting Scripture in its defense is heinous,” Paynter said. “While it is necessary to control the flow of immigrants and refugees into the country, the use of tactics meant to traumatize and inflict irreparable harm to children and their parents is un-American and certainly do not appear anywhere in the Bible I read.”
Alan Sherouse, pastor of First Baptist Church, Greensboro, N.C., and a member of the CBF Governing Board, said in his sermon Sunday that it is faithful for Christians “to use all peaceable means we know to call for a government to reflect the compassion and benevolence reflected in the promises of God.
“We must measure our leaders, our systems, ourselves, against what we know of the promises of God,” Sherouse said. “We are obligated, then, to consider whether what we consider legal is what God would consider just. We are called to advocate, and work, and strive for a world that remembers the promises of God before the anxieties at work in humanity since the Garden. It is in fact the height of faithfulness to question our leaders – whatever their office, whatever their party — based on our ultimate allegiance to God.”
“Unquestioned obedience is owed to God alone,” he said.
Advocacy Action Team
In April 2017, CBF Advocacy established its first Advocacy Action Team to educate, encourage and equip effective advocacy with immigrant and refugee communities. The group is led by Stephen Reeves, CBF Associate Coordinator for Partnerships and Advocacy.
Reeves said CBF’s advocacy alongside and on behalf of immigrants and refugees rises out of CBF’s Global Missions work in the context of global migration to give hope and hospitality to those who are driven by circumstance away from their homes.
“For more than a year, our team has been telling the stories of immigrants and refugees in our midst and calling on churches and individuals to plead with lawmakers to find a just solution to our broken immigration system,” Reeves said. “This new tactic of tearing apart immigrant families — which has been undertaken, in part, to gain an advantage in policy negotiations — requires all people of faith to raise their voices and be heard.”
Other members of the team, including CBF field personnel working with immigrant and refugee communities, expressed outrage about the policy and spoke of the urgent need for churches to speak out.
Greg and Sue Smith, CBF field personnel, serving the first-generation Latino immigrant community in Fredericksburg, Va., said the policy is “both cruel and unjust, if not inhumane.”
“The government is using the policy to prosecute even those seeking protections because of dangerous and untenable conditions back home,” Greg Smith said.
Sue Smith continued, “God doesn’t expect us to blindly obey laws that are unjust, that violate our Christian values or what we believe is morally right. To apply Romans 13 to the separation of minor children from parents, to criminalize persons seeking refuge in our country, implies that this is in accord with God’s purposes. Nothing can be further from the truth,” she said.
“Throughout the Scriptures, we’re reminded to care for the sojourner among us, the stranger, the immigrant. We’re given examples from biblical stories of refugees and immigrants. Perhaps one of the most pertinent in this situation is when Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt to escape the almost certain death of their son.”
Anyra Cano, a Youth Minister at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo, in Fort Worth, Texas, who also serves as a CBF Advocacy Outreach Specialist said that while the Church can argue about this policy, including about the meaning of Romans 13, it’s how churches care for the most vulnerable that we see the true fruit of the Holy Spirit demonstrated.
“In the Old Testament we are charged numerous times to care for the immigrant,” Cano said. “In New Testament, the mark of a true disciple of Christ was not how they followed the law, but how they demonstrated God’s love to their neighbors.”
She urged Cooperative Baptists to contact their members of congress, partner with organizations who serve immigrants, and to advocate and demonstrate compassion in their communities, where “immigrant families live in fear every day and are waiting on the Church to be the disciples Christ has called them to be.”
CBF’s Latino Field Coordinator Ruben Ortiz said the use of the sacred Scriptures for political ends “demonstrates a poor exegesis typical of a corrupted and adulterated Gospel.”
“We know that those who mask a perverse decision as a pious one seek the Bible as justification,” Ortiz said. “To say Roman 13 justifies the entrapment of children in cages and the separation from their parents goes against every principle of the Gospel of Jesus whom himself said, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:13-15).”
He called for the horrific practice of forced separation to end now.
“Before continuing to invest in practices of repression, our efforts should be refocused on being better neighbors to countries in our proximity so that they may improve their own social systems and develop their economies and standards of living,” he said. “At the moment, we have children and families knocking on our doors, and it is disgraceful that we become kidnappers of children to advance politic al agendas. Using children for these purposes is reprehensible, inhumane and unChristian.”
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.