WASHINGTON, DC (February 9, 2017) – ECC President Gary Walter was among more than 500 evangelical pastors and ministry leaders who signed a letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that expressed concern about the recent moratorium on refugee resettlement.
World Relief published the letter with 100 signatures, including signatories from every state, as a full-page advertisement in Wednesday’s edition of The Washington Post.
On Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s order to stay implementation of the executive order Trump signed on January 27. The order temporarily restricts travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program for four months, indefinitely bars Syrian refugees, and reduces the number of refugees the United States will accept from 110,000 to 50,000.
In a television interview, Trump said persecuted Christians from the named countries would be given priority for resettlement.
Walter has previously stated his opposition to the ban. In a recent Covenant Companion story online, Walter said, “Now more than ever, we reaffirm our commitment to serve the refugee families and individuals who have been forced into often horrific situations.” At the Midwinter Conference last week, Walter told Covenant ministers that “We are resolute in our commitment to refugee resettlement.” The statement drew a sustained standing ovation.
Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church, an ECC congregation, also was a signatory to the letter. Other prominent evangelicals who signed the document included Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, preacher and author Max Lucado, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The letter and an opportunity for people to add their names can be found online.
The full text of the letter:
Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,
As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement. Our care for the oppressed and suffering is rooted in the call of Jesus to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus makes it clear that our “neighbor” includes the stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith or country.
As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now. We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades. For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.
Since the inception of the refugee resettlement program, thousands of local churches throughout the country have played a role in welcoming refugees of all religious backgrounds. Ministries to newly arrived refugees are ready, and desire to receive many thousands more people than would be allowed under the new executive order.
As leaders, we welcome the concern expressed for religious minorities, including persecuted Christians. Followers of Christ face horrific persecution and even genocide in certain parts of the world. While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all. This executive order dramatically reduces the overall number of refugees allowed this year, robbing families of hope and a future. And it could well cost them their lives.
As Christians, we are committed to praying for our elected officials. Our prayer is that God would grant President Trump and all our leaders divine wisdom as they direct the course of our nation. We also pray for the vulnerable individuals whom their decisions directly impact.
Tim Breene, CEO, and Scott Arbeiter, President, and 3,146 Supporters