Concern for Refugees on Both Sides of Border

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Leaders in the Christian Reformed Church in both the United States and Canada are calling on church members to contact their elected representatives to help protect refugees and are calling congregations to prayer on March 12.

On March 6, the Trump administration in the U.S. released a rewritten executive order on refugees enacting a 90-day suspension of all visas for nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, halting refugee resettlement for 120 days, and lowering the number of refugees the U.S. admits from 110,000 to 50,000 this year, the lowest goal in U.S. history.

In response, several denominational leaders issued a statement about the new executive order, citing several Bible passages exhorting Christians to hospitality. “It is clear that our church has been called by Scripture and our own unique history to the work of welcoming refugees, and the need to welcome has never been felt more deeply than today,” the statement said. “The CRC has long been a church quick to welcome refugees. And in fact, many members of our churches came as refugees themselves.”

The leaders are concerned that a pause in the resettlement process will effectively cripple the future of refugee resettlement in the U.S. “In the midst of the biggest refugee crisis in recorded history, the notion that the U.S. would reduce the number of refugees it welcomes by more than half is unacceptable, and it threatens to lead other countries to follow suit to grave consequences for so many who have no other option for survival.”

The statement was signed by Colin Watson, director of ministries and administration; Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director; Mike Hogeterp, director, Centre for Public Dialogue; Reggie Smith, director, Offices of Race Relations and Social Justice; Mark Stephenson, director, Disability Concerns; Moses Chung, director, Christian Reformed Home Missions; Gary Bekker, director, Christian Reformed World Missions; and Carol Bremer-Bennett, director, World Renew-U.S.

A call to action on the website of the CRC’s Office of Social Justice said reducing the number of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 is a moral failure. “We cannot remain idle; in the name of Jesus, we are called to welcome the stranger as if it is Christ himself. Congress must hear loud and clear that Christians around the U.S. oppose these actions.”

In Canada, the CRC has joined other churches asking the Canadian government to review its Safe Third Country Agreement. The agreement, which has been in effect between Canada and the U.S. since 2004, states that refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they land in.

In recent months, many refugees from the U.S. have been crossing the border into Canada. According to the CRC’s Centre for Public Dialogue (CRCPD), this trend demonstrates that because of recent refugee policy developments in the U.S., including recent Executive Orders, not all refugees feel safe there.

A letter to Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship from the Canadian Council of Churches expressed concern that refugees are risking their lives in winter conditions to cross into Canada. “Due to the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, refugees are being prevented from applying for and receiving asylum in Canada,” it said. The CRC in Canada is a member of the council.

While Canada’s refugee policies have been more accommodating, a recent poll showed that Canadians are becoming more negative about the refugees entering the country.

An action alert from the CRCPD urges church members to contact their Members of Parliament asking for a review of the agreement.

Denominational leaders are calling all congregations to prayer on Sunday, March 12, 2017, to lift up government leaders and refugees around the world who are so gravely impacted by decisions like these.

“We are in the midst of the largest global refugee crisis in memory,” they said. “This is not the time to close our doors and end our welcome; this is not the time for us to be silent.”

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (1)


This is not the time for us to be silent, including about doing the wrong thing for a good reason. 

God has a heart for people, including refugees and their plight, and so should all Christians, but there are three serious issues with the CRC message ‘A Statement on the Treatment of Refugees from Christian Reformed Denominational Ministry and Education Leaders’, March 9, 2017.


1. It’s un-Biblical

It clearly demeans the actions of the POTUS and as such it does not adhere to clear biblical teaching of showing respect to rulers and authorities.  (Rom 13: 1-7, 1 Peter 2: 13-17, Col 1:15-17, Titus 3:1-3)


God’s Sovereign will is not to be questioned by Christians, and a denomination that considers itself to be Christian must be exemplary in this regard.  Any concerns that the leaders of the denomination have about an issue (refugees in this case) does not give those leaders license to flagrantly ignore and thereby deny clear biblical teaching in the manner in which they address the issue of concern, let alone in such a public manner.  Christians’ duty and privilege is to bring glory and honour to our God who is worthy.  Disobeying scripture in the manner we react to a situation does not bring honour and glory to God.  


If there is to be a public denominational statement about this issue, then let it be done properly and deliberatively, as a (doctrinal) position statement, not as something of a reactionary missive from some key leaders in the CRC.  Is this the way the CRC establishes position statements now, doctrinal or otherwise?   


2. It’s Inappropriate

The issue is the US policy on refugees, not the Canadian policy on refugees.  As we all know, the Canadian policy on refugees is very different than that of the US.  The Canadian policy is very ambitious and is lauded by many countries.  The concerns expressed in the CRC message over possible changes in attitudes in Canada is not supported by the overwhelming Canadian public response to the plight of refugees, including the most recent situations in Manitoba.  Since this CRC message is obviously about the US policy not the Canadian policy, the message clearly doesn’t apply to a Canadian congregation and the CRC (Canadian leaders of denominational ministries and institutions) should not publicly issue politically-related statements about US policy.  


Churches and denominations can lose their charitable status if they act in the political sphere and the leadership of the CRC should carefully consider all consequences from such an ill-considered public action.


3. It’s a Dangerous Sign

This message is a statement of disagreement, even seeming outrage, with a political decision.  Is there any such public statement of disagreement or outrage from CRC leaders when…

a) churches are bombed or defaced because they preach the gospel?

b) Christians are martyred (80% of people martyred for their faith in the world are Christians) and national/religious policies allow it or even promote it?

c) Christians are terrorized, abducted, brutalized, etc around the world because of their faith?

d) missionaries are abducted and held captive or murdered for their faith?

e) judges are told to resign because they have declared that they are Christian?

f) businesses owned and run by Christians are severely fined and/or put out of business because they refuse to accommodate extremist anti-christian groups in their business on account of their beliefs?

g) scientists lose their job because they reveal that they are Christians?

h) Islam is taught in public schools but no one can mention Christmas, or Easter or anything to do with Christianity for fear of being fired?

i) educational policy makers want to declare it ‘child abuse’ for Christians to teach their children God’s truths in the Bible?

j) saying you don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle because of your Biblical beliefs is labelled ‘hate speech’ and you may be threatened with being criminally charged?

k) pastors and churches are targetted by anti-christian groups and face law suits because they refuse to marry homosexual individuals because of their Biblical beliefs?


Where is the CRC’s outrage over the attacks against the gospel, God’s Holy Word and against Christians?  Why is the only statement of disagreement or outrage from the CRC about this one issue - refugees - and not the myriad of anti-christian actions we see around us?  With it’s creeping liberalism, western society is moving toward a social justice oriented kind of pseudo-spiritualism, and the great danger for many so-called ‘Christian’ churches and denominational leaders in the west is becoming conformed to the changing societal values.  This growing movement away from a true Biblical gospel, toward a social justice/social inclusion kind of ‘gospel’, despite the Romans 12 admonition, presents one of the greatest dangers to the role of the church in society in line with God’s sovereign will and plan of salvation.  The CRC message clearly reflects a sense of disagreement or outrage from the CRC leaders about the treatment of refugees in the US, but what about all other anti-christian actions that have taken place or are taking place as we speak?  Does the CRC care more about this one issue than any other anti-christian attack on God or His Word or the gospel or Christians for their faith?  It’s a slippery slope and the New Testament warns us repeatedly to stand firm in the faith, and to be on our guard.  CRC leaders would be wise to heed the clear instruction in the gospel.



Paul McDowall

March 11, 2017   

Ottawa, Ontario