CRC Leaders Sign Another Refugee Resettlement Statement, Churches Continue Longtime Involvement

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Christian Reformed Church denominational leaders called on the administration of United States President Donald Trump to halt cuts to refugee resettlement and increase the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. in 2019.

The statement is one of at least seven that have been either written or signed on to by CRC leaders in the past 20 months calling for immigration reform and increases in refugee resettlement. Additionally, the CRC’s Office of Social Justice and the Centre for Public Dialogue in Canada have issued a number of “action alerts” to CRC members, asking that they contact their government representatives.

“As leaders of denominational ministries and institutions of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, we identify the proposed drastic cuts to the refugee resettlement program in the U.S. as a critical moment for the voice of the church,” the latest statement reads. “The CRC has long been a church eager to welcome refugees. And in fact, many members of our churches came as refugees themselves. Synod was particularly clear about the CRC’s commitment to refugee and immigrants in 2010.” The CRC’s statement on immigration and refugees is here.

The leaders called on CRC members to contact their congressional representatives to stand against the cuts to refugee resettlement and to pray for government leaders and refugees around the world.

Many of the CRC’s U.S. ministry leaders signed the August 31 statement, including Steven Timmermans (executive director), Colin Watson (director of ministries and administration), Reginald Smith (Office of Social Justice), Carol Bremer-Bennett (World Renew), Zachary King (Resonate Global Mission), Kurt Selles (Back to God Ministries International), as well as directors of several of the congregational ministries.

The politics and policies around immigration and refugee policies are hotly debated in the U.S., including in the Christian Reformed Church. While directors point to the statements by Synod 2010 to defend speaking to governments on behalf of the church, some church members say that isn’t the role of the institutional church. They point instead to the actions of individual churches and members as appropriate ways to address the refugee crisis.

How the church should engage on these issues featured largely at Synod 2018. Delegates to that synod asked that calls for church members to contact government officials “provide rationale that is biblical, theologically Reformed, and grounded in . . . denominational positions. . . .”

The statement released last week pointed to Synod 2010 statements as rationale and included  several Bible passages that call Christians to welcome the stranger and to come alongside the vulnerable.

The involvement of CRC members in refugee resettlement is not new to the church.

Already in the early 1960s, CRC congregations were involved in refugee issues in Cuba. Many CRCs welcomed Vietnamese and Laotian refugees in the 1970s and 1980s. Churches have sponsored refugees from El Salvador, Romania, Cambodia, Thailand, Haiti, Kosovo, Iraq, Burundi, Libya, Honduras, and other countries.

Last year, a California church hosted a “Know Your Rights” workshop for vulnerable immigrants and the churches that help them. A church in Edmonton, Alta., offers summer camp specifically for kids who are new to Canada.

A family in Wisconsin opened its own home to host a Syrian refugee family. In British Columbia, the churches hired a chaplain for refugees.

The denomination has also provided Canadian and U.S. online resources regarding refugees.

About the Author

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

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