Resolution 2: Becoming a Sanctuary Church

Resolved, That the 168th Convention of the Diocese of California submits the following resolution to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:

Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church declare itself to be a Sanctuary Church, as defined by the following actions and commitments; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church encourage and support congregations and institutions of the church, both within and outside the United States, to consider becoming Sanctuary Congregations and Institutions, serving as places of welcome, refuge, healing, and other forms of material and pastoral support for migrants and refugees and for all those targeted by hate due to immigration status or some perceived status of difference such as religion or nationality; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church encourage and support congregations and institutions across the church to work alongside our friends, families, and neighbors to ensure the dignity and human rights of all people, and specifically to connect with local and national sanctuary communities and institutions, faith-based coalitions, and immigrant rights groups engage in educating, organizing, advocacy, legal direct action, and other methods as deemed appropriate in each context, to ensure the safety, security, and due process for immigrants and refugees, with a focus on keeping families together; and be it further

Resolved, That The Episcopal Church affirm our church’s support for U.S. executive policies that deemphasize immigrant enforcement action against those who have not committed felony crimes, and reaffirm our church’s support for congressional action for comprehensive and just reform of the broken U.S. immigration system as called for in General Convention resolution 2009-B006: “to allow undocumented immigrants who have established roots in the United States and are often parents and spouses of U.S. Citizens to have a pathway to legalization and to full social and economic integration in to the United States.”
 

Explanation:  For many years, migrant families in the United States and in many other countries 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 countries, states, and localities. In the aftermath of the recent U.S. presidential election there is heightened concern that the campaign rhetoric villainizing immigrants has become policy targeting them because of their immigration status or religious beliefs.

As a people of faith committed to dismantling 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. This resolution puts our faith into action by standing with the growing number of cities, colleges and communities of faith 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 the dignity and human rights of all people. We acknowledge that Holy Scripture calls us to welcome the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:34, Matthew 25:35), and therefore to resist the stated policy proposals of the newly elected Trump administration to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, including veterans who have honorably service in the US Military, and 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. We acknowledge that this call extends to supporting the rights of migrants and refugees throughout the Americas and the world who are fleeing violence (both state and non-state violence) and catastrophic events such as those brought on by climate change.

In reference to speaking up for justice on controversial issues, we remember the words of our former 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:  Ms. Sarah Lawton, sarahelawton@gmail.com; The Rev. Davidson Bidwell-Waite, davidsonbidwell@comcast.net; The Rev. Anna Lange-Soto, ABLange@aol.com.

Endorsed by:  Diocese of California Sanctuary Task Force

Comments

Thank you for proposing this resolution. We need to reach our hands out to people who are otherwise powerless in the face of repressive enforcement of immigration laws. These suggested practices are doable and will help us to shine the light of Christ on a dark and inhuman policy.

Hi all,

Thank you for your hard work on this resolution. I appreciate the spirit behind it very much. I am concerned, however, about the language it uses and the response it may invoke among some members of our diocese. This is exemplified in the reaction of my own congregation, Grace Church Martinez. As directed at my Deanery meeting, I held a general meeting at my congregation to solicit feedback about the resolution. I followed the guidelines provided by the leadership at Deanery. The meeting was heated and hostile, which is an unusual circumstance at Grace. I have a large component of politically conservative people at my congregation who became incredibly angry as a result of their perception that this resolution would somehow "force" them to "break the law." Although I repeatedly explained that the resolution does not require any congregation to take any of the actions suggested in the resolution literature (and that only one of these possible actions rises to the level of "illegal" regardless), they seemed unable to hear it. Quite simply, they could not hear anything beyond the word "sanctuary." Several people threatened to leave the church as a result of these mistaken impressions. Frankly, I am concerned that passing this resolution will have a similar effect on other congregations in more "conservative" areas of the diocese that are generally not as active and thus not as heard as other congregations as are our core congregations in the city. In our case, my congregation has been inactive in the diocese for a number of years and is, through my efforts, just learning that the larger church may not be as they thought. This resolution is, for them, incredibly divisive, as it may well be for other congregations. Once again, I personally believe that care for immigrants is part of our ministry as Christians. However, I am not convinced that it requires a specific resolution, much less one that is divisive.
I do not think that passage of this resolution as it is written will change the behavior of Episcopalians in the diocese (i.e., - the congregations engaging in this good work will continue to do so while the congregations which are not comfortable with it will not). This resolution, as it is written, is largely symbolic and presents representatives with a choice between making a “statement” or attending to a very concrete concern about alienating people who are, with help, being encouraged through the church to re-examine their attitudes toward the social gospel (a good thing).
Given these significant issues, I would recommend that the resolution be rewritten, particularly in regard to use of the language of "Sanctuary," which has political overtones and is, for my people at least, it is a negative trigger word. I would recommend instead language such as,

"Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, that the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church declare itself to be in full support of our immigrant brothers and sisters, in the following ways.

Resolved, …That the Episcopal Church encourage and support congregations and institutions of the church, both within and outside the United States,… to serve as places of welcome, refuge, healing, and other forms of material and pastoral support for migrants and refugees and for all those targeted by hate due to immigration status or some perceived status of difference such as religion or nationality.
The third “resolve” statement would remain the same.
The fourth would be amended to, "That The Episcopal Church affirm our church’s support for comprehensive and just reform of…the broken U.S. immigration system as called for in General Convention resolution 2009-B006: “to allow undocumented immigrants who have established roots in the United States and are often parents and spouses of U.S. Citizens to have a pathway to legalization and to full social and economic integration in to the United States.”
I believe that these changes would accomplish the goal of the resolution without alienating some members of the diocese who will react extremely negatively to the resolution as it is written.

Respectfully,
Deb White

Thank you, Deb White, for taking the time to write this comment about your context. As I wrote to you offline, we have been using the word "sanctuary" deliberately in order to deepen the conversation - because it is a theological word, and because naming ourselves that way makes people sit up and notice more than passing another resolution (we have passed more than a few of them over the years). So in a sense the purpose of these two resolutions is two-fold - one, to call us into deeper conversation about the particular calling of the church in response to the crisis; the other, to call us to the do the work. I understand that you are saying the word is divisive, in your context in any case. I do hear that, and I also believe that deepening the conversation may mean hard conversations - just as our marriage equality conversations - marriage being another provocative religious word - sparked difficult conversations over the last 20-30 years, yet we had to have them to move forward.

As I been attending deanery meetings and talking with people, I have been distilling the idea of sanctuary to this. That we as the church recognize the inherent and God-given dignity of every person. We know the immigration system is broken, and within it, and within our country, people are not afforded the respect and also due process that should be given to them by virtue of their humanity - and also the constitution. So naming ourselves a sanctuary church means committing to safeguard the dignity and due process of our immigrant neighbors, wherever they are in the legal process. That can mean advocating for better laws and enforcement policies; it can mean witnessing immigration raids; it can mean accompanying people to court - we were recently able to get a woman, who has serious medical challenges and several children who are US citizens, released from custody pending her legal process. That doesn't mean she may not ultimately be deported, but the large presence of people of faith in the courtroom persuaded the judge to release her for the time being, and this will give her time with her children while her process plays out - and that was a relatively humane outcome. Sanctuary can also mean simply praying in an intentional way for immigrants and refugees, because in prayer we recognize the humanity of our immigrant neighbors and our inherent connectedness to them.

I've heard many questions about "physical sanctuary" which is mentioned in the explanation in the current draft. Obviously we have sparked conversation! The current draft of the resolution itself commits us to "legal" action as a diocese (leaving civil disobedience at this time to individual conscience). Physical sanctuary can be done within legal means, however; for example, by providing housing to a high school student from Central America who is making an asylum claim, and therefore has legal status as a claimant - St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco, a "sanctuary congregation," is doing that now with a high school senior. Another example would be to take on guardianship for older teens who have some kind of status like DACA or citizenship, but whose parents are deported. Obviously, we don't expect every congregation to do this. We are asking for a range of actions, minimally including prayer. The question of providing physical sanctuary for someone with final deportation orders, as a civil disobedience challenge, is one that we have left off the table for now. We are asking all of us to start by focusing on due process and respect. There are many opportunities to help.

As we've discussed offline elsewhere, the task force/proponents and resolutions committee are waiting for the full deanery process to conclude before looking at changes. One way to change this would be to back away from the word, as you suggest. Another would be to try to elaborate and deepen the wording about what we are trying to do. That's what I would like to see us do, because I think we've passed many resolutions already about "educate, advocate, accompany" etc., but this is moment to go deeper. I say that as myself, one person. I say that knowing that not everyone wants to have or hear that conversation. Always a hard question for us Christians - how do we navigate between greatest inclusion and taking on the hard parts where gospel rubs up against a broken world. I look forward to continuing the conversation when the deanery process is completed - we will surely include you in the conversation going forward.

Your sister in Christ,
Sarah Lawton

I was going to comment against the two Sanctuary resolutions then decided to make a more general comment.

For the record, I am a registered Republican who did not vote for the current President. I have also represented my parish for the past six years at Convention (but will not do so this year).

I am tired. I am tired of my Church presenting resolutions indistinguishable from positions taken by the far left wing of the Democratic Party, from sanctuary cities/states/churches to supporting Palestine over Israel, from transgender advocacy to Medicaid expansion, from District of Columbia congressional representation to halting pipelines, from more gun control (be honest—the real goal is gun confiscation) to carbon taxes. The list goes on, if I cared to do a detailed list, but as I was saying, I’m tired.

Quick---name one Convention resolution over the past ten years that conservatives supported that liberals did not. Crickets, right? We are a diverse church, but not in politics.

How about ministering to the needs of the flock? How about helping those in need—yes, including the undocumented---but not banging a drum about it? How about sanctuary from politics? That’s something I could get behind.

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