(See also Justice)
Teaching that all people are created in the image of God, Scripture consistently directs God’s people to be welcoming toward strangers in their midst and to extend special care to those most vulnerable to social or economic conditions that threaten their ability to survive. The Christian Reformed Church in North America affirms the need to reach out in hospitality and compassion to immigrant peoples and refugees and encourages congregations to demonstrate this concern through actions including but not limited to the following:
- Prayerful study and discussion of issues related to the causes that motivate people to immigrate to other lands. These exercises can deepen our understanding of the circumstances under which many people live.
- Mindful attention to the plight of both documented and undocumented workers and people without status, reaching out in love to those who seek help for themselves and for their children in terms of financial assistance, food, clothing, and shelter.
- Study of immigration laws and practices and seeking to reform any such law and practices that appear to be unduly harsh or unjust.
- Advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform that seeks the well-being and flourishing of people without legal status and provides increased opportunities for immigrants to gain legal status.
- Advocacy for just and dignified treatment of persons arrested and incarcerated because of their lack of status, and for humane treatment of such persons facing long-term imprisonment.
The CRC’s Office of Social Justice (in the United States) and Centre for Public Dialogue (in Canada), along with Race Relations, World Renew, and other ministries, serve to help congregations remember that we are created to live in community and that throughout history God has blessed the church with opportunities to welcome strangers. These ministries also call CRC members to recognize the many challenges faced by migrants and immigrants, and to take action to make their communities and nations better places in which immigrants can live.
In 2007 synod received an overture raising questions about ministry to undocumented workers, and Synod 2007 responded by appointing a committee to study the matter, under the following mandate:
To study the issue of the migration of workers as it relates to the church’s ministries of inclusion, compassion, and hospitality, and to propose ways for the church to advocate on behalf of those who are marginalized. (Acts of Synod 2007, p. 596)
Synod 2010 received and adopted the report of the Committee to Study the Migration of Workers, highlighting the great need for mercy, compassion, advocacy, and justice in ministering to and for workers and refugees from other countries, as noted in the summary position statement above. In light of this, synod called on the Office of Race Relations, the Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action, and the Committee for Contact with the Government (Canada), to work together with denominational and non-denominational partners toward “policy development and advocacy strategies that will lead to immigration reform and the enactment of fair, just, and equitable laws regarding those without status in Canada and the United States" (Acts of Synod 2010, p. 878).
In response, the offices of Social Justice and Race Relations developed and piloted a curriculum titled Church Between Borders in 2011-2012 and took up the tasks of “(1) increasing congregations’ capacities to recognize the dynamic challenges that are faced by migrants, (2) helping congregations to remember that we are created to live in community and that throughout history God has blessed the church with opportunities to welcome strangers, and (3) challenging CRC members to personally and publicly commit to taking action to make their communities and nations better places for immigrants to live” (Agenda for Synod 2012, p. 204). Through workshops, newsletters, prayer resources, events, and opportunities to participate in legislative advocacy, these ministries empowered church members to participate in the work of immigration action. In addition, the Timothy Leadership Training Institute expanded the use of its materials “to strengthen the leadership of immigrant churches in our communities and as a tool to encourage the North American churches” to authentic witness in their own communities and beyond (Agenda 2012, p. 284). The Committee for Contact with the Government (Centre for Public Dialogue) followed through with “developing a new research and advocacy priority on refugee issues” (including migrants) based on collaboration with World Renew’s efforts in refugee resettlement in Canada and with the Office of Race Relations (Agenda 2012, p. 192). World Renew, which “has a long history of helping refugees adjust to life in North America” (since 1979), maintains an ongoing refugee resettlement ministry, being “one of about 80 organizations that have been granted a sponsorship agreement by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which allows it to work with churches to sponsor refugees” (Agenda for Synod 2014, pp. 214-15). Many Christian Reformed communities in Canada have partnered with World Renew in this process, welcoming dozens of immigrant families into Canada each year. In the United States many Christian Reformed churches partner similarly with Bethany Christian Services to help immigrant families learn English as a second language, find jobs, and navigate life in a new homeland.
In 2013 the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) partnered with the Evangelical Immigration Table on organizing and advocacy, joining the CRC’s work together with a broad coalition of evangelical partners. Synod 2014 commended the Committee for Contact with the Government for “pursuing just policies for refugees,” and it commended OSJ for empowering the people of the CRC “to become advocates for those who are poor, oppressed, powerless, and cannot speak for themselves” (Acts of Synod 2014, pp. 557, 560).
In 2016, responding to a report from its Committee to Study Religious Persecution and Liberty, synod advised that World Renew, the Center for Public Dialogue, and the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee “consider their work with interfaith and refugee groups and . . . strategize ways in which to communicate about the injustice of persecution with the rest of the denomination”; the Office of Social Justice was also tasked “to ensure the collection and distribution of up-to-date information about religious persecution and liberty to CRC congregations” in this regard (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 862-63). Synod 2017 received a comprehensive report on global humanitarian challenges and adopted a number of recommendations toward ongoing relief, development, and justice efforts, including refugee and immigrant concerns. Synod 2017 also received a report about Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 27 denominations and organizations in which the CRCNA participates along with the Reformed Church in America, and CRC participants noted formation of an ad hoc team “to identify the priorities and strategies for CRC ministries and agencies” in relation to peace-building and other justice issues, including the plight of refugees in the Middle East and causes of displacement (Acts of Synod 2017, pp. 552-55).
For updates and ongoing developments about immigration and refugees, visit crcna.org and search the keywords “immigration” and “refugees.”
References to Agendas and Acts of Synod
Agenda for Synod 2007, pp. 402-13
Acts of Synod 2007, pp. 595-96
Agenda for Synod 2010, pp.535-85
Acts of Synod 2010, pp. 875-79
Agenda for Synod 2011, pp. 321
Acts of Synod 2011, pp. 818, 820
Agenda for Synod 2012, pp. 192, 198, 204-205, 284
Acts of Synod 2012, pp. 754
Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 189, 197, 203-204
Acts of Synod 2013, p. 581
Agenda for Synod 2014, pp. 214-15, 228, 234, 239-40
Acts of Synod 2014, p. 560
Agenda for Synod 2015, pp. 217, 225-26, 228, 237-38
Acts of Synod 2015, p. 671
Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 203-204, 213-16, 228-29, 231, 471-72, 474
Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 862-63
Agenda for Synod 2017, pp. 146, 159-60, 162, 174-75, 253-54, 261-62, 268, 271-74, 276-77, 279, 285-88, 290-91
Acts of Synod 2017, pp. 470-71, 536-50, 552-55, 633-35, 696-98