Statement from East Tennessee Bishop George D. Young, III: Refugees, Citizenship, and Action

February 2, 2017

[Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee] Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry said that refugee resettlement work is a ministry that the Episcopal Church and other churches and faith-based organizations cherish.

“The work of Episcopal Migration Ministries is God’s work, and we show the face of God through the care and compassion in that work,” Curry said. “I ask President Trump to continue the powerful work of our refugee resettlement program without interruption, recognizing the long wait and screening process that means refugees wait months and sometimes years to enter the country.

“We ask that we continue to accept as many refugees as we have in the past, recognizing the need is greater than ever. We ask that refugees from all countries receive consideration to come to the U.S. and not to ban those who come from countries most in need of our assistance.”

Some Christians, as well as other people of faith believe that it is beyond their role to be involved in the political process, or to even “be political.” In fact, the word and concept of “political” comes from the Latin polis, meaning “the people.” That’s us.

Jesus said, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)

It is very much our role as followers of Jesus not only to be doing these things ourselves, but to work to create a society, a system, a culture that will enable the hungry to be fed, the naked to be clothed, and the stranger to be welcomed. This is working for biblical justice, a step up from “social justice.”It is not about creating a Christian nation; that is not our role. It is doing all in our power to uphold, support, and welcome all of God’s people, especially the poor and the powerless.

It is, in fact, our responsibility as followers of Jesus to be good citizens, to be active citizens, and one of the most effective ways we can carry out that responsibility is to be in regular contact with our local, state and national representatives. Write them, call them, visit them, tell them what is important to you. They will listen.

In our Baptismal Covenant, our answer to the following questions is “We will, with God’s help”:

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

How might you and I strive for justice and peace among all people, while seeking and serving Christ in ALL people, and respecting the dignity of every human being? It is not only in all we do in our everyday, ordinary lives, but also in the ways that we live and act as citizens.

The Women’s Marches of January 21, and the various vigils and gatherings this week and coming weeks all over the country are powerful witnesses of people expressing their passionate commitments to their beliefs. That is a good thing. Let us make sure that these events are not simply assuaging our concerns and then moving on, but catalysts for more productive action.

Have you heard the saying: Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you? Now seems like a good time for that approach.

God bless you strivers, seekers, respecters, followers, citizens and strangers.

The Rt. Rev. George D. Young, III
Bishop, The Episcopal Church in East Tennessee