On February 17, 2014, I joined other people of faith and kneeled in front of The White House to pray. This planned gathering in Washington, DC was to bring attention to the nearly two million persons deported as a result of what many of us believe to be an absence of fair immigration policy that allows millions to emerge from the shadows of society with opportunity for citizenship.
I, along with other United Methodist leaders, have met with White House staff and members of the Senate and House of Representatives on reducing deportation and keeping families together. In the face of this moral crisis that is not solely a Hispanic Latino issue, we believe Christian hospitality and fairness has been sacrificed on the altar of “mass incarcerations” under the current administration of President Obama.
I carefully have examined scripture and our United Methodist Book of Discipline and believe it was appropriate and life-giving to be arrested. Non-violent civil disobedience with immigrants, some who were undocumented, was part of our efforts to bring greater public awareness to a broken immigration system deporting over a 1,000 people per day. I am praying that President Obama will expand the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to include all undocumented people.
“When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them…, but treat them as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33-34
“We recognize, embrace and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God…We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.” (Social Principles, 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline, ¶162H)
It Starts with Prayer
I often encourage Christians to PUSH, Pray Until Something Happens. Prayer involves caring about relationships and sharing with a generous God a desire for good for the most vulnerable in our communities.
· I pray for our elected leaders.
· I pray for our churches to be places of welcome and hospitality.
· I pray for more bridges and fewer walls and that God’s will and God’s reign will make all things new.
The Prayer Vigil was not a prelude to being arrested, but for me a primary purpose for a Bishop to witness. Covenant community, based on love of God and humanity, is rooted in my adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition before an Almighty God. Jehovah, Shalom, our God of Peace may all your children be blessed.
Love in the End
My wife helps me remember, as we pray and converse about the church and the world, that “it’s not just about us! It’s not about you, too!” Phil Maynard does an excellent job in his book, Shift, Helping Congregations Back in the Game of Effective Ministry, of expressing the great needs and power of hospitality.
While hospitality in our contemporary culture has taken the form of fellowship where we welcome friends to our table, in the biblical tradition, hospitality was focused on welcoming the stranger. This includes those with the physical needs of shelter and nourishment, but also those who know the pain of exclusion. I believe the Bible and my heart sing together.
“Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13
Getting arrested was not our end goal. At least it was not my primary intention. Expressing hospitality to my unnamed neighbor, my faithful jailer (just doing their jobs), my President and my Church. Getting arrested was for me an act of love. I do not fully understand why we cannot find a more excellent way.
“Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way I have been completely known. Now faith, hope and love remain – these three things – and the greatest of these is love.”
I Corinthians 13:12-13
Bishop Julius C. Trimble