The Evangelical Immigration Table, a group of evangelical pastors and organizations formed to support immigration reform, has bought airtime on Christian radio stations in four key states – Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas – to encourage members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The ads began running just after Easter Sunday. They will feature the voices of pastors from the area in which the ads run.
In one example, the voice in the ad says, in part, "As Christians, we should be known by our love ... many of our neighbors come here seeking opportunity, but our dysfunctional immigration system breaks up families and causes suffering. Christ calls all of us to compassion and to justice. I invite you to join a growing movement of Christians asking our political leaders for immigration solutions rooted in biblical values that reflect each person's God-given dignity, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness for taxpayers, and establish a path toward citizenship."
The ads are timed to occur when Congress is on recess and its members will be spending time with constituents in their districts, explained Dr. Richard Land, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and executive editor for The Christian Post, on a Tuesday press call. After the recess, the members of Congress will return to Washington, D.C., and will work on immigration reform legislation in both the House and Senate.
"We aren't there to cast our support behind any one plan or one political figure, but to lift up the moral issues at stake, and they are profound," Land explained.
Also on the call were three evangelical pastors from areas of the country where the ads will run, and whose congregations have, through immigration, become more ethnically and racially diverse – Dr. David Uth, senior pastor at First Baptist Orlando, Fla., Dr. David Fleming, senior pastor at Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston, Texas, and Rev. Nick Lillo, lead pastor at WaterStone Community Church, Denver, Colo.
Uth noted that there are 32 languages represented in his 14,000 member church. Besides learning what the Bible says about immigrants, Uth noted, personal contact with immigrants has influenced how his church views the immigration issue.
"When they meet these immigrants, when they have personal encounters, all of a sudden this issue has a face, it has a story. And it is in that meeting that transformation happens and has happened here for us," Uth said.
Fleming recalled how his church used to have a Spanish service that was separate from the rest of the congregation. Six years ago, though, his church had a vision to combine the services because, "instead of an 'other' or 'them' we started to see an 'us.'" This Easter, they had 2,500 people attend their Spanish service.
"We see the immigrant as a person created in the image of God," Fleming explained. And by getting to know the immigrants in his congregation, he discovered that the "broken immigration system often causes great suffering in people's lives."