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CRC Leaders Release Statement On the Treatment of Refugees

March 8, 2017
Members of Loop Church welcome a refugee coming into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Members of Loop Church welcome a refugee coming into O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Office of Social Justice

President Trump this week signed an executive order on immigration and refugees that replaced his previous order struck down by U.S. federal courts.

On the basis of national security, the current order reiterates drastic changes in how the U.S. treats refugees, most notably  a 120-day “pause” on all refugee resettlement, and if/when this pause is lifted, an overall cut in the ceiling for refugee admission from 110,000 to 50,000 per year.

In response to this order, additional court actions is expected, groups are organizing protests, and many refugees in the affected countries remain uncertain as to their future. Many had already gone through a lengthy vetting process and may be forced to go through it again as a result of this order.

Christian Reformed Church leaders have released a statement, calling attention to and expressing concern for the ways in which the order and U.S. immigration policy will impact refugees.

Statement on the Treatment of Refugees

As leaders of denominational ministries and institutions of the Christian Reformed Church in the United States and Canada, we are alarmed by the recent U.S. president’s executive order drastically cutting the number of refugees who will be welcomed to the United States, and pausing all refugee resettlement for 120 days. The Old Testament repeatedly issues a call to welcome, love, defend, and not oppress the foreigner (e.g. Ex 23:9, Deut 10:19, Lev 19:34, Zech 7:10); the New Testament emphasizes the virtue of hospitality toward strangers (e.g. Matt 25:35, Heb 13:2). It is clear that our church has been called by Scripture and our own unique history to the work of welcoming refugees, and the need to welcome has never been felt more deeply than today.

The CRC has long been a church quick to welcome refugees. And in fact, many members of our churches came as refugees themselves. So many of our congregations, in both the United States and Canada, have experienced the blessing that comes with walking alongside a newly arrived family as they restart their lives in a new place. In some cases, those refugee friends have joined our churches, becoming members of the CRC family. We are better, stronger, more faithful, and nearer to the kingdom because of the way God has worked through those relationships.

Co-sponsoring refugees has become a fundamental part of who we are, and how we experience God.

With the executive order just signed by the U.S. president, the church is harmed:

  • We are gravely concerned that a 120-day pause on the resettlement process will do irreparable damage to the infrastructure that allows refugees to come to the U.S., effectively crippling the future of refugee resettlement in the U.S.
  • In the midst of the biggest refugee crisis in recorded history, the notion that the U.S. would reduce the number of refugees it welcomes by more than half is unacceptable, and it threatens to lead other countries to follow suit to grave consequences for so many who have no other option for survival.
  • We are concerned that while Canadian policies are more accommodating to refugees, public opinion about refugees seems to be turning negative. This is especially true in the wake of the influx of refugees fleeing the United States for Canada. One quarter of Canadians recently polled said that they feel Canada should adopt a policy similar to that in the U.S.
  • We are concerned about reports that refugees already in the U.S, are attempting to flee again — this time to Canada — because they feel our U.S. communities have become threatening for them.

When we are called to welcome the stranger, but then policies or attitudes prevent people from coming, we cannot be the church we are called to be.

And so we ask that:

  • All CRC churches participate in a day of prayer on Sunday, March 12, 2017, to lift up the U.S. administration, leaders in the Congress, and refugees around the world who are so gravely impacted by decisions like these. A suggested prayer can be found here.
  • We in the U.S. call on our representatives in Congress to stand against these policies which do not reflect our values. Take action here.
  • We in Canada call for continued leadership in Refugee resettlement, and for a review of the Safe Third Country Agreement due to the recent increase in refugees coming in from the US. Take action here.
  • We are in the midst of the largest global refugee crisis in memory. This is not the time to close our doors and end our welcome; This is not the time for us to be silent.


Colin Watson
Director of Ministries and Administration

Darren Roorda
Canadian Ministries Director

Mike Hogeterp
Director, Centre for Public Dialogue

Reggie Smith
Director, Offices of Race Relations and Social Justice

Mark Stephenson
Director, Disability Concerns

Moses Chung
Director, Christian Reformed Home Missions  

Gary J. Bekker
Director of Christian Reformed World Missions

Carol Bremer-Bennett
World Renew Director, United States

Joyce Borger
Director of Worship Ministries

Kurt Selles
Director, Back to God Ministries International

Bonnie Nicholas
Director, CRC Safe Church Ministry

Syd Hielema
Director of Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries