You likely heard the news that last week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at their Churchwide Assembly (i.e. General Convention), adopted a resolution that, among other things declared the ELCA to be a sanctuary denomination. Many people are asking what does this mean?
The following is an excerpt from a statement released by the ELCA: "Our call to love our neighbor is central to our faith. In our baptismal covenant we promise to strive for peace and justice in all the world. One of the ways we live out this vow is through our commitment to welcoming the stranger. With this declaration, we publicly state that walking alongside refugees and immigrants is a matter of faith." Read the full article here.
You may be asking what does this have to do us at Church of the Good Shepherd? While the ELCA is the first to make this declaration for the whole denomination, there are several Episcopal Dioceses in the U.S. that have also taken similar action. The Dioceses of Washington, New Jersey and North Carolina to name three.
As such, the CGS Vestry is writing a resolution to request that the Episcopal Diocese in Massachusetts be made a safe haven. This Resolution will be submitted to the Diocese for consideration by the Resolution Committee with the goal that it will be put forward at the Diocesan Convention on Nov. 2. The Resolution must be submitted according to the format of the Diocese and by the September 5 deadline.
To be clear, this is a Resolution asking the Diocese to be a Safe Haven. This means that individual congregations within the Diocese will be free to determine what being a safe haven means for their particular community. There is no specific action being dictated to any congregation with regard to their participation.
The reason for this Resolution is to put forth a call to the Church as a whole, and the Diocese in particular, to take a moral stand. As people of God who seek to live according to the teaching of God's Son, Jesus Christ, our faith requires us to act. For in our Baptism and Confirmation, we promise to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."
Moreover, it's important to understand that this resolution is not asking congregations to hide or harbor anyone in their churches, nor is it about breaking the law. The actions that this resolution will encourage are generic to finding ways to accompany our sisters and brothers in faith to live safely. Ways that congregations can help include providing resources from purchasing school supplies for children in a congregation to providing prayers and pastoral care, to name a few.
If this resolution passes at General Convention, we will host parish-wide conversations in order to discern what shape this will take for CGS. For now, a resolution committee is being formed to get the document in the required format to submit to the Diocese. If you have questions, please contact us.