The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, has issued a statement on our Christian responsibility to help refugees. Bishop Mayer speaks out in the wake of state governors saying they will not accept Syrian refugees into their states. He encourages people of faith to stay grounded in Holy Scripture and to stand with the powerless, speak for the voiceless, protect the vulnerable, feed the hungry and comfort the bereaved.
Bishop Scott Mayer’s statement
@jscottmayer of the #Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth http://episcopaldiocesefortworth.org/i-was-a-stranger-and-you-took-me-in/
In the wake of the violence in Paris this past weekend, several governors, including the governor of Texas, have stated they will not accept Syrian refugees into their states. While states do not have the authority to overrule the federal government on the admission of refugees, a principle established by more than one Supreme Court decision and by the Refugee Act of 1980, state officials may be able to make the work of refugee resettlement more difficult.
They may do this by refusing to allow state agencies to help non-profit, social service agencies and church groups who are doing the work of refugee relief and resettlement in our communities. As a result, people of faith who are working to help refugees fleeing from terrorism or in some way supporting that work may not only find their jobs made more difficult, but also find themselves alarmed or discouraged.
I write to encourage them to stay grounded in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the promise of our Lord Jesus: “I am always with you.” I write also to reassure them that their work is well grounded not only in U.S. law but also in Holy Scripture:
Matthew 25:35 I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Leviticus 19:34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citistandzen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Hebrews 13:1 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Colossians 3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Ezekiel 16:49 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
Remember that we are followers of one who was himself a refugee. As we move into the Advent Season in the midst of this backlash against refugees, the story of how the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph were forced to flee into Egypt to escape King Herod’s terrorism takes on new power and poignancy. That holy baby survived because someone helped his refugee family.
Jesus calls us to stand with the powerless, to speak for the voiceless, to protect the vulnerable, to feed the hungry, to comfort the bereaved. I call upon all Episcopalians to remember this in this season.
Those who do the work of refugee relief and resettlement are doing the work of angels. Let us support their message of “Fear not, for you are not alone.” It is a message not only for refugees – Americans need to hear it as well.
That is our work — the work of letting welcome overcome fear, love overcome hatred. And we enter into that work empowered and strengthened by the inexhaustible love of God.
I urge Episcopalians to find ways to help the refugees in your communities. Pray for them. And let your hands be the hands of Jesus. Let your smiles show the welcoming love of Jesus, your courage in the face of fear model the courage of Jesus, your quiet confidence that all will be well shine like that of Jesus.
For like Mary, like you and me, the refugees carry within themselves the image of God, a God waiting to be born again this Christmas.
Download a PDF of Bishop Mayer’s statement.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, addresses the Syrian refugee crisis: “Be not afraid!”
Often in the gospels, fear grips the people of God, and time and again, either the angels, or Our Lord himself, respond with the same words of comfort: “Be not afraid.”
In times like this fear is real. And I share that fear with you. Our instinct tells us to be afraid. The fight-or-flight mentality takes hold. At the present moment, many across our Church and our world are grasped by fear in response to the terrorist attacks that unfolded in Paris last Friday. These fears are not unfounded. We can and should support law enforcement officials who are working hard and at great risk to protect us from crime and keep us safe. And yet, especially when we feel legitimate fear, our faith reminds us “Be not afraid.” The larger truth is that our ultimate security comes from God in Christ.
In the Book of Leviticus, God says to the people of Israel that, “the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Accordingly, we welcome the stranger. We love our neighbor. The Episcopal Church has long been committed to resettling refugees in our own communities fleeing violence and persecution.
The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through its Episcopal Migration Ministries service, works with dioceses and congregations, and the United States government, to settle refugees in communities across this great country. The Episcopal Church has been engaged in this ministry for more than 75 years. We will not let the nightmare this world often is keep us from carrying out the words of Jesus who told us to be a neighbor to those in need.
Refugees from places like Syria seek to escape the precise same ideological and religious extremism that gave birth to the attacks in Paris. They seek entry into our communities because their lives are imprisoned by daily fear for their existence. Just as Jesus bids us not to be afraid, we must, in turn, pass those words of comfort to those who turn to us for help.
But Jesus calls us to go even further: not just to love our neighbors and our kin, but to love our enemies. This is particularly difficult when we are afraid. But even in the midst of our fear we stand on the solid ground of our faith and proclaim the faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead. In practical terms, this may mean finding strength in prayer, or in our neighbors, or in our churches, or in acts of solidarity with others who live in fear. This is the hope that casts out fear.
The fear is real. So we pray. We go to church. We remember who we are in Jesus. Our resurrection hope is larger than fear. Let nothing keep us from that hope, that faith, that security in Gods dream for all of humanity.
“Be not afraid!”