Family Separations: A Word to the Church

By Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) |  June 20, 2018

Family Separations: A word to the Church

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:1-2, NRSV)
Dear Church,
Over the past several weeks, new policies for the implementation of immigration laws have resulted in family detention and the separation of thousands of children from their parents across the United States. We, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), have proclaimed ourselves to be a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church, which extends welcome to all people, recognizing that every person is created in the image of God. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to “love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). When we start with love, we will understand that when laws dehumanize and discriminate, we are faithful in opposing such laws, and we are faithful in using our voice and our vote to call for love.
We condemn, therefore, the policy and practice of separating children from families and criminally prosecuting all persons who enter the United States without previous authorization. We denounce actions that degrade our neighbors and treat as criminals those who seek freedom and safety.
The practice, especially as implemented by the current administration through “zero tolerance” policies, is cruel and does violence to the most vulnerable–families who have fled their homes seeking safety in an unfamiliar land, only to have their children taken away from them. This violence is unnecessarily punitive. The stated intent of using family separation as a deterrent effectively weaponizes children against their parents and causes lasting emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual harm. Jesus had strong words for those who did harm to children, whom he welcomed to himself: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, NRSV)
For decades, we have supported, through congregational and denominational action, the rights and dignity of immigrants and those seeking asylum, remembering that according to the gospel of Matthew, Jesus and his parents were forced to flee for safety, and remembering with gratitude that Egypt did not separate our savior from his parents. From our origins, Disciples have exhibited as a primary mission commitment the extension of compassion and care to orphans, children, widows and families in need. Most recently, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) convened in July, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN, affirmed Sense-of-the-Assembly resolution GA1723, which encouraged the church to “deepen its commitment to building unity and integration among all our Disciples congregations by issuing a call to congregations to become ‘immigrant welcoming congregations;’” support immigrant families “when facing and experiencing separation;” and “develop community protection and response models for families facing separation due to detention or deportation.”
In this crucial moment, we must put our faith into action, responding to the cries of our neighbors. Foremost must be advocacy to put an end to the policies that lead to family separation.  Here are some things you can do right now:
  • Learn about how current policies are affecting our immigrant neighbors, and connect with immigrant communities in your area.
  • Call and visit your elected representatives to oppose policies of family separation and support legislation that will keep families together. (Information and resources are available through Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries and Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel)
  • Add your signature to this letter (see below) to show your support. Invite members of your congregation to sign on, too.
  • Continue to pray, learn, and speak out!
  • Donate to Week of Compassion with the designation “Keep Families and Children Together.”
These children and families are deserving of human dignity and love.  Let’s stand together as followers of Christ to live out Jesus’ commandment to love.
With the love of Christ,

Rev. Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Indianapolis, IN