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Synod 2010: Reaching Out to Undocumented Workers


“I have almost been moved to tears about the sensitivity that you have shown today,” said Rev. Eduardo Gonzalez, Classis Arizona. “Truly, you made me really proud to be a part of this denomination.”

Gonzalez was referring to Synod 2010’s discussion about how churches need to respond to the issues facing both undocumented workers and governments trying to protect their borders.

The discussion was the result of a report from the Committee to Study Migration of Workers. That committee was formed in 2007 after a discussion at synod about how to minister to undocumented migrant workers, including whether to invite them to the Lord’s Supper.

At that time, several Hispanic pastors and others were hurt by the way the issue was handled during Synod 2007. So Synod 2010 acknowledged the sorrow and misunderstanding caused by that process. “It was a cultural bump that should not have happened if we had been culturally alert,” said Teresa Renkema, chair of the study committee. “But our hope is that it will lead us in the direction of cultural embrace and inclusion.”

The report that came to Synod 2010 was warmly received as “pastorally sensitive, warm-hearted, and very helpful,” according to a statement adopted by synod.

Delegates from all corners of the U.S. spoke of the report’s relevance to their ministry.

Rev. Bill Renkema, Classis Zeeland, told about a Hispanic woman in an abusive relationship who became involved with his congregation. The church helped her through the legal process to become a documented immigrant, holding prayer vigils and filling the courtroom for her.

“Because of the prayers of God’s people, Maria is now a permanent resident of the United States, and we give thanks to the Lord for that,” he said.

“Many in our church are new to the Christian faith and will be looking for some guidance because this is so vexing,” said Rev. Ken Vander Horst, Classis Rocky Mountain.  “I’m not only comfortable with this [report], I am empowered by it.”

 “I hope that the churches will take this report very seriously,” said Rev. LeRoy Christoffels, Classis Minnkota. “The opportunity to reach [undocumented workers] is burgeoning.”

Synod adopted all the committee’s recommendations, including the following:

  • encouraging the Office of Race Relations to equip the church with resources to deal with crosscultural conflict;
  • encouraging local churches to educate their membership about issues facing immigrants and equip them to respond with love;
  • urging the denomination and local churches to affirm the need to reach out to immigrant people with mercy and compassion;
  • encouraging  congregations and church members to advocate for immigration reform and for a more just process for those incarcerated for their lack of status;
  • encouraging churches to be mission partners with churches that serve immigrant communities.

Synod also wants the CRC’s Office of Social Justice and the Canadian Committee for Contact with the Government to present synod with a “concrete direction” for ways to “advocate on behalf of those who are marginalized.”

“For some migrants to obey the law is very difficult because to do so means having their children separated from them,” said ethnic adviser John Gonzales.

Rev. Philip Reinders, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan, closed the discussion in prayer: “Thank you, God, for the place in Jesus that we call home. . . . We pray for the undocumented children of God. . . . We pray that they would find that sense of home quickly. Lead us to be compassionate givers of the welcome you have given to us.”

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