Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued the following statement on the U.S. Senate introduction of comprehensive immigration reform.
We affirm that human beings are made in the image of God, created with dignity and intrinsic value. Dignified and productive work is one way in which people give expression to that divine creativity, and people often migrate in search of it. This Church seeks to uphold the rights of people to seek dignified possibility in life – what this nation calls “the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That includes the ability to seek work which will support and nurture individuals and their families, and the opportunity to contribute to building a just society – what the Church calls a reflection of the kingdom of God. Immigration reform is a proximate, this-worldly, way of moving toward that vision of a just society.
The Episcopal Church has long advocated for immigration reform, and we are encouraged by many of the changes proposed in the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. We thank Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) for their tireless work to reach consensus and compromise on this issue.
We are pleased to see a pathway to citizenship for those already living in the United States but caution against a pathway that involves unjust or overly onerous burdens. Unquantifiable expectations for border security are not likely to constitute a fair component of this process.
Family reunification long has been at the heart of our nation’s immigration system, and we are pleased to see that the Senate bill contains significant streamlining and expediting of the reunification process for citizens and green-card holders. We do not support further restrictions on the ability of residents to bring family members to join them. We are gravely disappointed, however, that even as many families will experience the joy of reunification, some families and family members have been excluded from the Senate bill. As the process moves forward, we will strongly urge the inclusion of same-sex partners and spouses in the legislation. Every family deserves to live in unity.
We are delighted at the proposals to expedite the regularizing of the status of children unknowingly brought to this country, and realizing the hopes initially raised in the DREAM Act. The bipartisan bill’s additional protections for vulnerable migrant children, asylum seekers and refugees, and – for the first time under U.S. law – the stateless, also will come as welcome news to Episcopal communities, many of whom work daily to help these populations rebuild their lives peacefully in the United States
Efforts to expand the creativity and productivity of United States society through a variety of guest worker visas that include access to a pathway to citizenship certainly accord with priorities of The Episcopal Church, particularly when they answer the hopes and dreams of those in other parts of the world seeking work. We applaud provisions within the bill to protect foreign workers brought to the U.S. through abuse and trafficking and will continue to advocate that all visas are provided in ways that are not exploitative.
As lawmakers prepare to debate this historic step toward comprehensive immigration reform, Episcopalians stand ready to advocate for policies that build a just and welcoming society for all God’s people.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
My response to the Presiding Bishop’s comments:
While I admire the sense of compassion and expressed desire for social justice expressed by the Presiding Bishop, I would beg her indulgence to consider another entirely different point of view. American is truly a land of opportunity, and since the early part of the Nineteenth Century has seen its growth spurred by successive waves of immigrants seeking economic and political justice. It is nation that has overcome many adversities, often due to the hard work and diligence of the children and grandchildren of these immigrants. Many economic and social initiatives and institutions are clearly the result of their presence here in our nation. Social and economic motility expanded exponentially as those exposed to the attainment and fulfillment of the American dream entered our industrial, commercial and educational segments, many others labored on issues of civil rights and social justice, all to our betterment as a nation.
It can honestly and undeniable be asserted that those efforts brightly illuminated human dignity and value, and that had not those generations of immigrants reached our shore, we would be poorer for the experience, and obviously less capable as a nation to act as a beacon of liberty. It was necessary that many cultures came to America in order to spread through-out the world the fruits of our unique experiment in human freedom and democratic self governance. They came from a world largely in the dark, without means of communication; a world of monarchs, despots and oligarchs, who ruled rather than governed, who suppressed rather than inspired, and who sought to limit self expression rather than prize it.
That world still exists, but it is far smaller, and even in its darkest corners, electronic media brings truth and hope to those still too weak, too frightened, and often too hungry to demand change. Those millions are found far and near, and are manifest in every nation of this western hemisphere, even, sadly, in our own nation. There is one other attribute that these millions lack, and that is leadership. I am not referring to Presidents, whether defined by limited or life terms, nor to the wealthy, many of whom inherited their advantage; nor to the academic hierarchy, progressive or regressive; nor the clerical hierarchy, protestant, papal or pagan. I am referring to that class of people that has been the very incubator of the vast majority of our national leaders, the middle class.
And therein lies the rub, at least as I see The Presiding Bishop’s and so many others’ views on immigration. I would stipulate that the very population they would “nationalize” through amnesty and the Dream Act is the very population that has demonstrated initiative, courage and stewardship in both the act of migration and the desire to attain a better life for themselves, but more importantly, for their families, their children. In my opinion, they would be a wonderful element added to our great American stew, and so your effort, as those of others, to add them to the pot is noble. But in Mexico, in Honduras, in Nicaragua, they would be the yeast!
I need not remind you of the value of yeast, or of a mustard seed. It takes such a small number of patriots to influence a nation’s course of events, as was the case in our own American Revolution. It takes a mere handful of men and women to alter the fabric of a culture, inspire heaving social changes, destroy empires, and rend temple curtains. We have in America today the leaven needed to unalterably change the patriarchal, misogynistic and oligarchic nature of Central and South American cultures.
Your support of any theory that excludes consideration of the fact that this body of Hispanic speaking immigrants has the very attributes and character traits so sorely needed in their native lands is regrettable. It is my belief that we miss an incredible opportunity to encourage and more importantly enable the repatriation of these Americans to their native lands. By offering education, job skills, and economic assistance, wages and benefits, to each repatriated immigrant, and a limited period of overseas service, perhaps along with their parents or with their extended families, to all native born children of these immigrants, we could see develop a peaceful social revolution at a far more rapid pace than our national emphasis on trade and interdependency could ever realize.
Rather than encourage and supporting a program that seeks to make these people regular American Citizens, sitting nightly on a couch, sipping beer and watching the Simpson’s, and ignoring, as most of us do, the core teachings of Christ; we could be invigorating a movement through-out the Western Hemisphere that would surely be as important and iconic as our own Civil Rights Movement.
Jesus Christ did not speak in platitudes, but in parables, as a means of teaching what we now acknowledge to be universal truths. Surely His titular heads on earth can do better than quote progressive ideals and hew to the “party” line, “they do work other Americans will not do,” or “we need them in the fields.” Please, can we not do better than just providing jobs? Wouldn’t a commitment to social justice, economic reform and human rights in these despotic, fascist states south of our border be far more meaningful?
As my Fundamentalist and Southern Baptist friends say, “What would Jesus do?” Or better said, as I say, “What would Jesus have me do?” + + +
A note for those who follow my commentary. Many of you will observe that I find the Presiding Bishop’s statement a heart-felt, compassionate and compelling statement on the Episcopal Church’s understanding of and call to action for social justice.
And, you will no doubt question my sincerity as I am well known as an opponent of Holy Orders for women, and highly critical of the Church’s disregard for the literal Laws of God as recorded by Prophets and Apostles in the Holy Bible. To put a cap on it, it can be fairly said I think the Presiding Bishop exists in a perpetual state of sin, pride and vainglory, even hubris before the Almighty. That said about her, others may say that about me, and it may be well true of me. God often chooses sinners, and aren’t we all, to do His work on Earth.
Had the Church early-on followed the teaching of Bishop James Pike, regarding loving and accepting sexually active homosexuals into our Communion, and not segregating and chastising them as being unnatural, in essence and in fact understanding them as the sinners they are, and we are, and as we rightly view adulterers and all unmarried persons who engage in sexual relations, we might well have seen the Church promulgate a very different and far more Christian orthodoxy regarding all manner of sexual sin and abuse.
To those of you who would maintain the argument that homosexual behavior is an “abomination” before God, I will not disagree; but I would emphatically assert that Bestiality and Onanism are “abominations” as well, resulting during the Age of the Old Testament in harsh punishment and eternal damnation.
The message of the New Testament is that Our Father sent his only begotten Son “Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.” If God can in this Age forgive all sins, and love all His children, offering Eternal Life to those who will but obey His Laws, or at the least, “truly repent and unfeignedly believe his Holy Gospel” then surely the Church could have accepted the notion that any sex outside of its natural purpose, procreation, is sinful, indulgent of the most base emotions, and praise God, forgivable. It would then follow both logically and spiritually, that the Church should preach the beauty of sexual intimacy in marriage between a man and a woman.
No one can doubt that we all are sinners, nor that fornication, masturbation and sodomy are among our chief earthly pleasures. There is pain in life, and the temporal, fleeting satisfaction of sexual sin can not be denied. But the teachings of the Church today are exemplary in demonstrating the result of the failure of approving carnal behavior within a moral context: there can be no moral authority when the very hierarchy of a Christian Church, through its example and magisterium, encourages promiscuity and heresy.
It is from this perspective that I can both commend the Presiding Bishop for encouraging thought and action on issues of social justice, and condemn the Presiding Bishop for promulgating moral depravity and suborning heresy.