A letter from the Church of the Brethren Intercultural Ministry, signed by director Gimbiya Kettering, is part of a new effort to connect with congregations located in areas considered to be “sanctuary” jurisdictions across the country.
Opening with verses from Matthew 25: 34-35--“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in….’”--the letter invited prayerful discernment of “how we are called to witness, as members of the Church of the Brethren, how we feel called to stand with those who come to our communities seeking refuge.”
The letter invited congregations to join a denominational conversation about what it means to be a congregation in a sanctuary jurisdiction, to consider how congregations can articulate and act upon their convictions, and to share resources, stories, and experiences with one another.
“You are part of a community that has declared itself to be a sanctuary,” the letter said, in part. “While there is no official definition of a sanctuary city, town, county, or state, it is a continuation of our Judeo-Christian culture, national history, and our denominational witness in the wider world.”
The letter noted ways the Brethren have connected to the biblical vision of sanctuary and safety for those who are endangered, including the post-World War II effort to encourage each congregation to welcome and care for a refugee family, as early as the 1980s recognizing the injustice in efforts to deport and deny refugees from conflicts in Haiti and South and Central America, and more recently bringing Chibok girls from Nigeria to the US for healing and new opportunities.
“We, too, sought sanctuary when the Brethren of the 1700s fled religious persecution in Germany,” the letter noted.
Among other foundational statements, the letter referenced the Annual Conference statement of 1969, “Obedience to God and Civil Disobedience.” Kettering also urged readers, as individuals and congregations, to study and prayerfully consider the following Annual Conference resolutions and statements: “Making the Connection,” 1986; “Providing Sanctuary for Latin American and Haitian Refugees,” 1983; “Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States,” 1982; and “Action in the Refugee Crisis of Southeast Asia,” 1979. Find Annual Conference statements online at www.brethren.org/ac/statements .
To talk directly with Gimbiya Kettering in the Intercultural Ministry office of the Church of the Brethren, call 800-323-8039 ext. 387 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .