Walter, Evangelical Leaders Sign Letter Opposing Immigration Order

Syrian refugees in Greece. Photo: United Nations

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.

 Sincerely,

Tim Breene, CEO, and Scott Arbeiter, President, and 3,146 Supporters

World Relief

 

 

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Stan Friedman

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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6 Comments

  1. As a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Lindsborg, Kansas, I am perplexed and disheartened that the president of our denomination has recently set his signature on a letter to the president of the United States regarding the refugee situation.  While I completely support our denomination’s level of compassion and care for those in need throughout the world, I struggle to see how this letter at this time does anything for the cause of Christ or for the cause of the refugee.

    From my perspective, scripture is abundantly clear in what the role of government is to be and why the Lord has put governments into place.  Can we not accomplish the Lord’s work in one place without questioning his work in another?  Where is our humility?  To what extent should we as a church seek to question the efforts of leaders installed by the Lord’s hand when there is no direct conflict with the moral law?

    For me, a hallmark of our denomination has been to humbly pursue the cause of Christ across all borders and cultures without having had to throw our hats into the political arena.  We do not need politicians or governments to further the cause of Christ; we simply need to remain faithful to Him and to the work He has entrusted to us.  By stepping into the public political battle with regard to the actions of our government, no matter how well intended, we have done nothing more than give the enemy an opportunity to misuse our words and our compassion for his own purposes. By his signature on this letter he has made us pawns in a public, political battle.

    Why at this time did we feel the need to jump onto the political bandwagon? Do we not trust that a very short moratorium in refugee travel to review the vetting process might be prudent?  How does this fly in the face of the work that we do today?  Will it stop it?  Will it keep us from having compassion for the lost?  Has it or will it undermine the work of our church? 

    I call on President Walter to remove his signature from this document or explain from scripture why it was important to sign this now. Please help me to understand because this act has shaken to the core my trust in the leadership of our denomination.

    1. I wish you luck with your request for President Walter to remove his signature as he should. In fact, it should have never been there in the first place, and I certainly don’t remember any objection when the last administration blocked 19 nations from immigrating, and in fact made the decision for this ban of seven nations. I believe this action only reveals the left-leaning agenda of the ECC, and I would expect that the gospel will continue to take a back seat to the “social agenda” of the denomination!

  2. My sincere thanks and appreciation to President Walter for his signing of the letter expressing opposition to the ban on immigration and its effect on people of all races and religious faiths. Years ago the Covenant made a commitment to becoming a multi-cultural and inclusive church, and President Walter has been instrumental in the growth of that commitment!

    1. I would expect that the commitment you speak of to be inclusive of multi-cultural means that the church is open to all those that would call upon the name of Jesus. It has been said that heaven not only has a wall but a vetting process that screens out those that are unwelcome in the kingdom. Why should it be any different that our country in light of 911 and the many terror attacks seeks to safeguard the people of America from those that seek to bring their mission of hate and death to the US?

      Even more troubling is a standard that allowed this to take place for the past three administrations but now suddenly finds fault with this administration. I think the ECC’s biased view against this president is more than obvious.

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