I was moved and honored yesterday when the National Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) Convention unanimously passed a resolution “To Give Thanks and Praise to God for LIRS 75th Anniversary.”
I am constantly thankful for the many ways LCMS leaders and congregations stand for welcoming immigrants and refugees. This resolution is yet another reminder of how important their work is.
Here is the text of the resolution:
WHEREAS, In 1939, Lutherans in the United States, committed to the mercy work of the church, rose up to 41 help Lutheran refugees from Europe displaced by World War II; and
WHEREAS, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), in partnership with Lutheran congregations 44 across the country, has resettled over 400,000 refugees in its 75 years of ministry; and
WHEREAS, Christians are called to welcome the stranger (Deut. 10:18–19; Matt. 25:36), working to protect, 47 embrace, and empower migrants and refugees through ministries of service and justice; and
WHEREAS, LIRS in partnership with Lutheran congregations continues to serve over 10,000 refugees and 50 20,000 detained torture survivors, victims of trafficking, and unaccompanied children every year; and
WHEREAS, The ministry of LIRS is still sorely needed in today’s war-strewn, conflict-ridden world; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod declare Sunday, June 22, 2014, as Refugee Sunday in which congregations offer 1 thanks and praise to God for the 75 years of mercy work for migrants and refugees through Lutheran Immigration 2 and Refugee Service; and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod invite congregations to tell the stories of their acts of welcome to refugees and 5 migrants―signs of witness, mercy, and life together; and be it further
Resolved, That the Synod utilize its communications mechanisms to share these stories and inspire action 8 throughout the LIRS 75th anniversary year; and be it finally
Resolved, That the Synod encourage congregations and organizations to engage with and support the LIRS 11 mission of welcoming the stranger through gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
I’d also like to share part of my remarks at the convention:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, thank you for your affirmation of our shared ministry of welcome. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is your partner in ministries of mercy — and for nearly 75 years we have answered the question “who is my neighbor” with faith, hope and love as we welcome newcomers.
This work of mercy began with many of our own ancestors — Lutherans fleeing the cataclysm of war in Europe … and Lutherans in this land opening their hearts and their homes.
Today Lutherans all across America continue to stand for welcome — together this year we will receive nearly 12,000 newly arrived refugees — most from Iraq, Burma and Bhutan. They flee war and torture, religious and ethnic persecution — they long to be able to return to their homeland, but after many years waiting in refugee camps some of the 14 million refugees in the world will make the overwhelming journey to begin a new life in a new homeland in the United States. And I praise God because you are there to embrace these new neighbors in your local communities and schools, your workplaces and churches.
We are also called to lift up our voices and act for some of the most vulnerable brothers and sisters among us — as the 2010 Synod Convention recognized when you overwhelmingly adopted an overture on human trafficking.
The LCMS and LIRS have partnered to launch the End Human Trafficking Campaign and many congregations and youth groups have used the Bible study, video and prayer resources to learn and take action. Thanks to you, we have already delivered more than 1,000 petitions to the White House.
I also give thanks that the LCMS is playing a leading role in the theological reflection that undergirds ministries of mercy with aspiring Americans. We should all be grateful for the work of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) in preparing their report, “Immigrants Among Us,” which every congregation and churchworker has received.
I encourage you to join us in preparing for the 75th anniversary of our shared ministry with newcomers next year. It will be a time to celebrate, recall the stories of lives forever changed by your congregations’ hospitality, and recommit ourselves to welcoming newcomers.
Thanks be to God.
Once again, I’d like to say how grateful I am for the important work of the LCMS, and for the wonderful recognition of LIRS’s 75th anniversary expressed in the convention resolution.