ELCA Became the Country's First "Sanctuary Church-body"...What Does this Mean?
By Bishop Paul Egensteiner, Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA
“Telling people that God loves them is good theology.
Showing people that [God] loves them is what transforms the world.”
Last week I attended my first ever Churchwide Assembly, held this year in Milwaukee. It was a first-hand experience of the Church at work.
We did a lot of work, some of it difficult, some of it a bit tedious but all of it important.
I could not be more proud of the Metro NY Synod delegation! Among the sixteen of us, there was consistent, outspoken witness for the sake of the poor, the marginalized, the hurting, and the victimized in our society and in our world. Again and again, members of our synod approached the microphone to advocate for justice, rooted in the gospel and our understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Not only did we speak of God’s love, but we sought to show it, and to encourage the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to show it, in order to transform the world.
Perhaps you have already heard that one action taken by the Churchwide Assembly was to declare the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America a "Sanctuary Church-body." For us in the Metropolitan New York Synod, this is not new. Two years ago in assembly, we declared ourselves a sanctuary synod. This was done by action of the voting members from all our congregations who were present. It was, and still is, a bold move.
This action encourages congregations and ministry sites to explore how God’s Holy Spirit is moving them to care for those in our communities who are most vulnerable and have fled situations of violence and death - refugees.
As with most ministry opportunities, this will look different in each place, based on the needs of the community and the ability and desire of the people.
This tradition of providing sanctuary is as old as Exodus. In doing the civic planning for the Holy Land, God told Moses to appoint cities of refuge where people could flee to be safe. And it is fully consistent with the biblical mandate to care for the stranger.
You can find a lot of information—and misinformation—around this declaration. I want to encourage you to be well-informed by reviewing the materials below, reach out to our Sanctuary/AMMPARO Ministry with your questions by clicking here, and continue to be open-minded and open-hearted about where the Holy Spirit is leading you and your faith community…
…for such a time as this.
+ Bishop Paul Egensteiner, Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA