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PCUSA votes to become ‘sanctuary and accompaniment church’ for illegal immigrants

The Presbyterian Center
The Presbyterian Center, a building belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA) located in Louisville, Kentucky. |

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to become what it calls a “Sanctuary and Accompaniment Church,” which will involve assisting and supporting immigrants to the United States, regardless of legal status.

At the 225th PC(USA) General Assembly earlier this week, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States approved IMM-06 in a vote of 340-25.

“We do hereby declare the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be a ‘Sanctuary and Accompaniment Church’ that supports and encourages its congregations, mid councils, and members to support immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and their children, and to resist efforts by the government to separate families,” read the overture.

The measure also resolved to have the PC(USA) Office of the General Assembly help congregations and other regional church bodies discern their own involvement in the “sanctuary and accompaniment” cause. This includes informing them of “legal risks” while also equipping "them to serve as places of welcome, refuge, accompaniment, and healing for those targeted due to their immigration status or other differences while taking into consideration local contexts, capacity, and the results of congregational discernment.”

Amanda Craft, manager of advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues at PC(USA) OGA, explained that the measure was not meant to force churches to become sanctuaries for those who entered the country illegally.

“[IMM-06 is about] encouraging congregations to use this opportunity to discern” and to affirm “decades and decades of policy that the PC(USA) has valued and spoken to,” said Craft, as quoted by General Assembly News.

Commissioner Charles Weathers, a ruling elder from the South Carolina-based PC(USA) Trinity Presbytery, expressed support for the overture, saying that it was “it is time to be bold.”

“And if we're going to be called anything, I think it’s acceptable to be called a place of sanctuary and accompaniment,” stated Weathers, as quoted by GA News.

“We’re in a space now where we see daily the other-izing and the ostracizing and the demonizing of others in so many different ways, and … I highly encourage us to take this opportunity to stand with boldness and courage for our siblings in Christ across the world.”

The passage of IMM-06 came as part of the PC(USA)’s 225th General Assembly, the churchwide legislative gathering for the Louisville, Kentucky-based mainline denomination that began on June 18 and is scheduled to conclude on Saturday.

Due to pandemic concerns and declining financial support, the gathering was organized in a hybrid format, with committees meeting in person in Louisville, while plenary sessions were held online.

In 2019, at its Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to declare its denomination a “sanctuary church” for migrants, regardless of immigration status.

Critics like David Tindell of the ELCA Northwest Synod of Wisconsin argued at the time that the ELCA had better venues for advancing immigration reform that respected the “rule of law.”

“The rule of law is clear when it comes to immigration. It may not be the law that we necessarily like and it may not be enforced the way we would necessarily like, but it is still the law. We must be mindful of that,” said Tindell in 2019.

“When we want something to be changed in this country in terms of a law, we have the means to do that through our elected representatives.”

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled The Enigma of Father Vera Daniel. For more information, click here.

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