The 2014 Alabama Baptist State Convention will take place in Birmingham, AL on November 11-12. I am submitting the following resolution to the convention. It calls for holistic gospel ministry to immigrants in our state by Alabama Baptists. The resolution also encourages our elected officials to work together to agree upon equitable immigration reform. Alabama passed the nation’s strongest anti-immigration law in 2011 in the form of HB56. The law was essentially gutted and struck down by the Federal Courts last Fall. At the Alabama state convention in 2012, I submitted a similar resolution that simply called upon the church to minister to all people that come across our path, whether they are here legally or not. The resolution did not make it out of committee to be debated or voted on. I will make another attempt this year. At the time, I asked if Alabama Baptists were uniquely positioned to lead the way on immigration reform in America? Because of the attitude of our state on this issue, if we can develop a solution here, it might work everywhere. My goal is not political except in asking for a call to address the problem and develop workable solutions. My main emphasis continues to be that Baptists minister to the person in front of them despite their immigration status in both Gospel word and deed.
Much of my thinking on this issue has been motivated by the research that I did for my book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus (NewSouth Books, 2014). In researching the past errors of the church on the issue of race, I came to the conclusion that underlying all of our past divisions and problems was the desire to promote and defend our “way of life” and to use the Bible and our own position to do so. In essence, we often fail to think about the plight of our neighbor and we do not consider how we can minister to the people that God brings to us. That is hard to do when we see the challenges that we face in our nation as a series of threats instead of a plethora of opportunities to make Jesus known through proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever we go.
Here is the resolution that I, along with another pastor, Scott Slayton, are submitting. I have no idea what it will look like when it comes out of committee or even if it will come out of committee at all, but this is my intent.
RESOLUTION CALLING FOR THE AFFIRMATION OF ALABAMA BAPTIST CHURCHES TO MINISTER THE GOSPEL IN WORD AND DEED TO THE IMMIGRANTS AND ALIENS IN OUR MIDST FROM ALL RACES AND ETHNICITIES
WHEREAS, The people of God are always considered aliens and strangers in the land (1 Peter 2:11); and
WHEREAS, The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages (Revelation 7:9)
WHEREAS, God commanded the people of Israel to “not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21); and
WHEREAS, We are commanded to be hospitable “to strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2); and
WHEREAS, Scripture denounces the exploitation of workers and the mistreatment of the poor (Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 58:6-7; James 5:4); and
WHEREAS, Many of the immigrants to our state from other nations, both documented and undocumented, have many spiritual, physical, financial, and social needs; and
WHEREAS, Jesus says in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him; and
WHEREAS, every nation has the right to protect and secure its own borders; and
WHEREAS, Alabama has, in the past, enacted some of the strongest laws in the nation in response to the undocumented immigrants in our state; and
WHEREAS, We admit that the Church has no current ability to directly or immediately change immigration law or practice in the United States; and
WHEREAS, There is no current impetus to deport the up to 12 million undocumented immigrants from the United States by the Government or by society at-large; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 11-12, 2014, affirm the Biblical call for Christians to show hospitality, Christian love, and care for immigrants and aliens that are here in our presence; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage Alabama Baptists to submit to the governing authorities and live quiet, peaceful lives (1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-6); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage Alabama Baptist churches and individual Christians to demonstrate care and love for all of those in need as we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40) and as God places them in our path be they immigrants or native-born; and be if further
RESOLVED, That we seek to make disciples of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel, including the immigrants of the nations that have come to our state through various means according to Matthew 28:18-20; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage our national and state elected officials to work to agree on a comprehensive reform plan to effectively address the problems of illegal immigration, border security, and the status of those who are here currently without documentation; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we pray for and encourage our churches to demonstrate the reconciliation of the Kingdom racially and ethnically both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that we seek to be good citizens in our state and nation as we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God who represent Christ as His ambassadors.
Pastor, Gateway Baptist Church,
Pastor, Chelsea Village Baptist Church
October 21, 2014