Immigration reform: A matter of justice and Christian hospitality

March 19, 2014

A statement from Bishop Bruce R. Ough

The Minnesota and Dakotas Business and Advocacy Immigration Coalition, of which both the Minnesota Annual Conference and the Minnesota Council of Churches are members, requested and was recently granted a meeting with staff of U.S. Congressman John Kline, who serves Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District. Bishop Bruce R. Ough was one of seven people who represented the coalition at a Tuesday meeting with one of Congressman Kline's senior staff members. At that meeting, which focused on immigration reform, Bishop Ough shared the following statement: 

I want to thank Congressman Kline for his service to our country and to the citizens of Minnesota’s 2nd District. He has served with honor and distinction. His actions and leadership are informed and governed by his Christian faith and the moral imperatives of that faith. It is a personal honor to now serve as Congressman Kline’s bishop.

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church are clear on the rights of immigrants. The Social Principles state:

“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country or origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. 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.”

#162H, 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church

Compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform is a matter of justice and Christian hospitality. Our great country’s current immigration system denies justice and violates the principle of Christian hospitality. Families are being torn apart. Gifted young people and students are being denied education, and their contributions to this country’s greatness squandered or lost. Millions of people are being forced to live in the shadows. Unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of this underground work force. Billions of dollars are being directed to enforce ineffective laws and bad immigration policy. Partisan political bickering and gamesmanship are preventing this country from harnessing the energy, gifts, and economic vitality that are the hallmarks of every great wave of immigration to our country of immigrants. Justice denied to any immigrant is justice denied to every immigrant and descendants of immigrants that have come before. Christian hospitality denied to current immigrants is hospitality tarnished and diminished for all of us who were extended that hospitality in the past.

The fundamental violation of God’s beloved community and the weakening of our country’s greatness and readiness to thrive in the 21st century will continue until we enact comprehensive and compassionate immigration laws that provide a clear path to citizenship, hold employers accountable, guarantee equal educational opportunities to all persons, and protect the sanctity and dignity of families.

There are very complex legal issues to be overcome to enact a just and compassionate immigration policy. I urge Congressman Kline, and all persons of faith, to be governed by the moral law that is irrefutably reflected in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Law of Moses admonished the people to welcome the strangers, immigrants, and aliens in their midst. The spirit of this law is stated again in the New Testament book of Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). But, for me, the most compelling admonishment comes from Jesus’ teachings when he tells his followers that “whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). Jesus is commanding those of us who take his name to practice a radical form of hospitality that recognizes that welcoming a child of God is the same as welcoming him and the one who sent him to redeem the world.

I urge Congressman Kline and all members of the U.S. Congress to move with dispatch to reform our immigration system, and to do so with their standards being Jesus’ spirit of radical hospitality and our country’s love of justice for all. I hold Congressman Kline in my prayers. I pray that he will step forward and courageously lead the immigration reform effort, protect immigrant families, and ensure the future of our nation.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058