WASHINGTON – An Evangelical Immigration Table leader responded Wednesday to Eric Metaxas' criticism of the group. Metaxas withdrew his support from the group for their perceived endorsement of the Senate immigration reform bill. The EIT has not and will not endorse any particular piece of legislation, the Rev. Gabriel Salguero told The Christian Post at a press conference.
Salguero began his remarks by noting how much he respects Metaxas, a popular evangelical author and speaker.
Rather than endorsing particular legislation, Salguero explained, the EIT is arguing for reform based upon a set of principles.
"I think the reality is that we don't endorse any particular legislation," he said. "What we're saying here, what we've said before, what we stand behind is we endorse these principles and we want real bipartisan solutions that speak to the ... moral crisis we have."
The press conference, held on the West Lawn of the Capitol, was part of the "Evangelical Immigration Table Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform." It was followed by a worship service at Church of the Reformation. After worship, EIT members and supporters visited with members of Congress to discuss immigration reform based upon the principles outlined by the EIT.
In a July 11 interview, Metaxas told The Christian Post that he withdrew support from the EIT because he felt manipulated into supporting the "Gang of Eight" bill, an early version of the legislation eventually passed by the Senate.
"When you sign on to something that says we agree with these values as Christians," he said, but then "translate that into specific policy, like this Gang of Eight immigration bill – which I think is bad policy – then you really need to make that clear."
Metaxas has joined another group, Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, in signing a letter opposing the current immigration reform legislation.
Salguero believes that there may have been some confusion about the work of the EIT because individual members of the EIT have endorsed legislation. When those members endorse legislation, they are speaking for themselves, not on behalf of the EIT, he explained.
Metaxas "raises a good question," Salguero added, "which is 'what is the Table saying?' The Table is saying, here are our principles, here is what the Bible tells us, here we are as the broadest coalition of evangelical leaders and people in the pews."
Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief, added that EIT also does not endorse any particular political process. Some Democratic senators, for instance, have argued that the House should simply vote on passage of the bill passed by the Senate. House leaders, though, have said they will work on their own legislation. One alternative process sometimes used by Congress is to reconcile two versions of similar bills in a conference committee. The conference bill would then go back to each body for an up or down vote.
The press conference also included Dr. Carlos Campo, president of Regent University, Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.
Several speakers made note of the broad support that has formed on the need for immigration reform.
"What's remarkable to me is the great deal of consensus that we have in the country right now on this issue," Moore said, "not only among people who agree with us on immigration reform. Most of us agree the system is broken. Most of us agree we need some way of addressing the 11 or so million in invisibility right now. There is a great deal of consensus that probably would not have existed at previous times when this issue came forward."