The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted Wednesday to become the nation's first "sanctuary church body," approving a measure pledging to fight the deportation and "criminalization" of illegal immigrants in the United States.
What are the details?
According to the ELCA's news release, the Churchwide Assembly made the decision after more than 700 members conducted a march and prayer vigil on the Milwaukee Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office to protest the treatment of "migrant children and families entering the U.S. along the southern border."
The director of the church's initiative on behalf of migrant minors, Mary Campbell, explained in a video, "This march was to the U.S.C.I.S. office. This whole action had to do with making a statement to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, of which Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is the chair, to say that we are displeased and appalled by the detention of children and families at our border."
ELCA AMMPARO: Here we stand. So help us God! youtu.be
CNN reported that "the march and sanctuary measure came in response to the Trump administration's immigration policies." While President Donald Trump wasn't mentioned in the church's news release or the video released by ELCA, more than one official said that immigration policies had become increasingly worse in recent years.
As part of the church's news release announcing its new initiative as a "sanctuary church body," much emphasis was placed on working toward changing the demographics of the body as a whole.
Prior to Wednesday's vote, members heard an update from ELCA secretary Rev. Chris Boerger, who argued "that the primary focus of the church should be the mission that God has given us. The constitutions and policies of the church are to serve that mission. The mission should not be hindered by the constitution or policies of the church."
Boerger went on to report that the denomination has made "little progress" in becoming more diverse, noting that at the end of 2015, the denomination was 92 percent white, and grew to 94 percent white by the end of 2018.
"Until it really is a commitment for the congregations of this church, the prospects of this change are very dim," Boerger cautioned. "As a white church we say the right words. We, the majority population of this church, need to do more than talk."