In a historic first, the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church declared its endorsement of two bills (HR 3590 and S3339) currently before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
Kyle Schaap is a policy analyst for the CRC’s Office of Social Justice.
The board, which acts on behalf of the denomination between synods, took the unprecedented step after learning of the plight of Indonesian Christians living in New Jersey, including one who has taken sanctuary in the church building of a Reformed Church in America congregation.
The Indonesians fled their country in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the face of religious persecution. Following the September 11 attacks, they registered with the U.S. government as required and have since been targeted for deportation.
The proposed legislation, titled the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, would allow their request for asylum to be heard in court if they apply within the next two years. It does not guarantee asylum or amnesty.
The board endorsed the legislation, noting that it is in direct agreement with the 2010 synod report by the Committee to Study the Migration of Workers. The board also noted that it would allow denominational staff to advocate more clearly with U.S. congressional members and to mobilize CRC members to advocate.
“Our immigration system is really broken,” said Rev. Scott Greenway, a trustee from Caledonia, Mich. “I’m in favor of this group endorsing this.”
Rev. Sheila Holmes, a trustee from New Jersey, agreed. “Every church in our area is concerned about immigration issues.”
Kyu Paek of Cypress, Calif., asked if the bills would help people from Muslim Asian countries. Kyle Schaap, a policy analyst for the CRC’s Office of Social Justice, said that the legislation is specific to those Indonesians who arrived during the years noted, but that it may spark other conversations about immigration.
While previous synods and church leaders have endorsed biblical positions and made declarations on societal issues such as war, abortion, and immigration, they have never before taken the step of supporting specific legislation.
Executive director Rev. Joel Boot noted that this situation is unique. “This is a situation of a sister church aiding people unfairly oppressed by our government. It is our responsibility to do this.”
The Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church-USA endorsed the proposed legislation earlier this year.