Time for genuine immigration reform is now

November 13, 2013

Clergy can send a strong message 

By Bill Mefford - General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church

All eyes are on the U.S. House of Representatives: What will they do to bring real solutions to the U.S.'s broken immigration system? This is a perfect time for United Methodist clergy to lead us by telling members of the House the time for political paralysis is over. The time for real solutions is now!

The voices of clergy can be heard above the noise of D.C. interest groups. 

That is what makes the leadership of our clergy so unique and vital. I am not ordained. I am called to ministry, as is everyone who follows Jesus! if you are not ordained, I hope you will send this to your pastor and every other pastor you know encouraging them to sign!

Clergy are those especially called by God to lead, to offer comfort in times of distress, to articulate God's direction and vision for us. We need such clergy now more than ever. If you are clergy, we are looking to you for leadership.

So, I ask clergy to sign this letter that will be sent to the House Nov. 18. Twenty-seven United Methodist bishops have already signed the letter. Add your name today.

Recruit other United Methodist clergy to sign as well. Share it with your district clusters, with folks you went to seminary with, share it with other United Methodist networks you are part of, such as Justice for Our Neighbors, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Reconciling Ministries Network, Good News, everyone!
If you are not clergy

If you are not clergy, urge your pastor(s) to sign; urge every United Methodist pastor you know to sign as well! We need all clergy to lead on this!

For those who are clergy, you are called by God to offer comfort and support to people who are vulnerable and experiencing distress. We know that immigrant families need your comfort now because they are experiencing stress through record numbers of deportations and continued separation of their families.

For those who are clergy, you are called by God to articulate God's direction and vision for the Church, for the world, and even for our elected leaders in the House who need that articulated vision like never before. D.C. is trapped amidst political rancor. The only voices that seem to have influence are well-financed special interest lobbies seeking all kinds of odd agendas.

As a person called by God to articulate God's Kingdom dream for the world God created, you can remind the leaders of our nation that this is not just another political issue on which to score points. This is a human-rights issue: This is about families and our responsibility and privilege as a nation to welcome newly arriving people with dignity and compassion. 

Sign the letter

So, I again ask you to sign the letter.

For those who are clergy, I know many of you don't want to alienate people in your congregation who do not believe in this. You don't want to get involved in politics. But, it is too late not to get involved in politics. When God called you to lead God's people, that inherently meant that you must stand with and care for the people God has called you to lead in every facet of their lives — and every facet includes the political realm.

We cannot leave that to others just because it can be divisive at times. In fact, it is principally because the political realm can be divisive that we need you to witness to God's love and justice in the midst of it!

By not signing, by saying nothing, you are making as loud a political statement as you would be by signing. Perhaps even louder. 

Clergy must shepherd

To those in our congregations who are slow to welcome and be in relationships with newly arriving immigrants, we must continue to pray and invite them to join us. They are missing out on their own transformation. Inviting them to join us is a necessary part of their sanctification! But we can't stop speaking, we can't stop acting, we can't stop moving forward just because the naysayers are uncomfortable.

Our clergy must shepherd us in and through this kind of discomfort. Change without a feeling of discomfort is no change at all!

I ask clergy to sign the letter. Stand up, step forward, lead us.

Yeah, some folks might be upset. But if they don't get mad at this, they will be upset when their favorite coffee mug goes missing from the church kitchen. It's always something so I say make it count.

Those of us not called to ordained ministry are looking to our clergy to lead us.

Editor's note: Bill Mefford is Director of Civil & Human Rights at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.