Resolution 3: Becoming a Sanctuary Diocese

Resolved, That the 168th Convention of the Diocese of California declares the Diocese of California to be a Sanctuary Diocese;

Resolved, That the Diocese of California, including its congregations and institutions, supports Episcopal Church initiatives, and connect with other local and national sanctuary communities and institutions, immigrant rights groups and coalitions, and public officials to engage in educating, organizing, advocacy, legal direct action, and other methods as deemed appropriate in each context, to ensure the safety and security of the unauthorized immigrants and refugees;

Resolved, That the Diocese of California pledges to support and to encourage congregations and their members to continue the work begun with previous General Convention and Diocesan resolutions seeking meaningful reform of U.S. immigration laws and policy; and

Resolved, That the Diocese of California commits to direct resources toward equipping congregations to engage in such work appropriate to local contexts, capacity, and discernment.


Explanation:  For many years, immigrant families have suffered on the margins of our society. They have been scapegoated during difficult economic times and victimized by harsh anti-immigrant ordinances passed by some states and localities.

Because of policies being instituted by the current administration, migrants and immigrants in this country fear more than ever the break-up of their families, the loss of homes and business, and the destruction of the lives they have built in this country, often over decades.

This resolution puts our faith into action by standing with the growing number of communities of faith, cities, colleges and organizations declaring themselves places of welcome, refuge, and healing for those targeted by hate due to immigration status or some perceived status of difference as we work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure respect for the dignity and human rights of all people (e.g., BCP p. 305). We acknowledge that Holy Scripture calls us to welcome the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:34, Matthew 25:35), and therefore as a people of faith we commit to challenging oppressive systems and building structures and communities that reflect God’s compassion and justice, we must do nothing less than make straight a highway in the desert for our sisters and brothers.

Of particular concern are the current administration’s efforts to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, including veterans who have served honorably in the US Military, utilizing “Expedited Deportation” without Due Process for individuals NOT convicted of a felony or violent crime,  and threatening to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has granted temporary relief for thousands of young people in our communities and families with US Citizen children.

What does it mean to be a Sanctuary Congregation? Involvement of sanctuary faith communities across the United States ranges from:

  • Education & Advocacy including signing petitions, attending hearings on relevant legislation, and/or participation in civic demonstrations (this could involve planned civil disobedience but such action would be an individual decision);
  • Accompaniment of Immigration Families or Youth. This usually involves members of the congregation, supported by the prayers of the congregation, accompanying families to hearings and providing emotional support;
  • Networks of Protection & Rapid Response, which involves being present at ICE raids to ensure compliance with law and accountability;
  • Physical Sanctuary for persons facing deportation and support of individuals and families seeking refuge.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a due process clause, and as far back as 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all persons in the United States of America have constitutional rights to due process which safeguards against the arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law.  So, undocumented immigrants do have legal rights to due process under the U.S. Constitution and federal statute. Thus we hope that all congregations will find a form of being a Sanctuary Congregation that is appropriate to the local context, and that members of the Diocese can agree to support at least the first three types of Sanctuary above. 

Speaking of engaging with controversial issues, Bishop Marc has quoted Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold saying,  "To open the door of one's heart is to relinquish certitude in favor of living the questions and to see Christ in all who knock 'on the right or the left…It means to embrace and take into the inner chamber of one's own being seemingly irreconcilable and passionately held points of view, submitting them to the truth who is Christ and then remaining steadfast, even in the very midst of hell, without despair."

Submitted by:  The Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite,; Ms. Sarah Lawton,; The Rev. Anna Lange-Soto,

Endorsed by:  Diocese of California Sanctuary Task Force.


Forgive me if I am splitting hairs, but Frank Griswold is a former Presiding Bishop. (last paragraph of resolution)

I was at St Timothy's Danville sanctuary discussion on aug 31. The presenter mentioned a desire for this resolution to grow outside the bounds of the diocese of California. He hoped that it would expand to all of California dioceses then to the National church. My sense of this discussion, was that the people around me supported the first three components of the resolution - advocacy, accompaniment, and protection. People, myself included, seemed less enthusiastic about physical sanctuary. If the goal is national adoption, which I think is great, I wonder if it would have more effectiveness without the physical sanctuary component? Deleting the fourth, would not prohibit congregations and individuals from following the call of conscious.

Add new comment