Lent: Episcopal Church Policy and Immigration

March 2, 2010

Thank you to all of you who wrote after last week's email. I have enjoyed our conversations and hope that this can continue!

As I mentioned last week, the work that we do here at the Office of Government Relations and through the Episcopal Public Policy Network is all based in General Convention and Executive Council Resolutions. What exactly does that mean? What are the church's policies? And, how do they fit in to our conversation of hospitality and things done and left undone?

Essentially, this means that those of us in the office don't throw our favorite issues or positions into the hat on Monday morning and draw out what we are going to work on for the week. We have direction from the policies passed at General Convention and Executive Council.

Our General Convention is one of the largest democratic governing bodies when it is seated. Many of the resolutions that are offered come from standing commissions who have researched, listened and prayed about the issues during a three year exploration and drafting process. At General Convention there are hearings on each of the resolutions considered before they are sent to the floor of either the House of Deputies or Bishops where even more conversation and debate can occur. All of this happens before a resolution becomes church policy. One might say that our process is an example of hospitality of ideas: it lets all sides be heard and join in the conversation before any decisions are made.

When it comes to immigration, what policies does the Episcopal Church have? The commitment of the church to immigrants and refugees is broad. For example some of these resolutions support the right of women fleeing female genital mutilation to be granted refugee status and asylum in the US (GC C017 -- 1997); affirm refugee rights of Palestinians (GC B016 -- 2000); support a generous program of refugee admissions (GC D018 -- 1997); and urge the US government to ensure that needy immigrants are not unfairly denied essential services (GC A101 -- 1994).

At the 75th General Convention in 2006, the church adopted a set of guiding principles for immigration policy through adoption of the study "The Alien Among You" (page 87 of the Blue Book). These principles include: family unity, due process protections and humane enforcement of immigration laws, and reasonable opportunities to pursue permanent residency.

These guiding principles, as well as other resolutions, seem to get to the heart of both hospitality and addressing how we interact with one another in the context of "things we have done and thing that we have left undone." They urge us as a church and a nation to treat graciously those in need among us. They call for our systems to work for family unity and humane treatment -- things which people may lack both because of things that we do or things that we do not, or delay, doing.

So this has been a long way of saying this is the framework that we use to address refugee and immigration issues. During the next three weeks we'll be looking more closely at how our church's policies as well as the concept of hospitality affect refugee and immigration issues. If you are interested in learning more about the church's policies, we have posted the links here. If you have other comments or questions, please let me know by replying to this email.

Mary Getz

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