Denomination declares itself ‘sanctuary church body’ for illegal immigrants. What does that even mean?

Screengrab ReligiousNews.com

And we wonder why illegal immigrants swarm to America by the tens of thousands, month in and month out?

While some will argue that the Catholic Church cornered this market long ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America appears to be the first to officially declare that they will provide sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

The church approved a measure last week at a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assembly to become the nation’s first “sanctuary church body,” pledging to provide shelter to and advocate for the rights of those who defy U.S. immigration laws.

“The ELCA is the first North American denomination to declare itself a sanctuary church body. As a sanctuary church the ELCA is committed to serving and supporting migrant children and families in communities across the country,” the church said in a statement.

The measure makes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which represents nearly 3.5 million Christians, the first Protestant denomination in the U.S. to openly declare its embrace of illegal immigration.

An expansive social statement from the church states:

“Migrants, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers often suffer more when they are women, girls, or gender non-conforming people. At every point in their journey, and even when living and working in the U.S., they are especially vulnerable to degradation, rape, and other forms of violence. Their immigration status must not compromise their safety and well-being. On the contrary, their status as sojourners in this society invokes biblical injunctions for special care and concern (Leviticus 19:34).”

The “sanctuary church” declaration is a direct response President Donald Trump’s actions on illegal immigration.

“It just keeps getting worse and worse in terms of unaccompanied children, separated families, detention centers that are just horrific, and so what we wanted to say as a church body, as the Lutheran church, we wanted to now act with our feet and take action,” said Evelyn Soto Straw, a director for the ELCA’s Domestic Mission, according to Religious News.

Churches are not off limits if there’s a warrant for an illegal immigrant, although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tries to avoid arrests at “sensitive locations.”

And make no mistake, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. is very different from the overall evangelical Christian movement in America.

The social statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action” declares sexism and patriarchy sins, stating that they’re often “intertwined with white privilege.”

The church also condemned “white supremacy,” denoting rhetoric that has been used by Trump, such as the term “invasion.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also advocates for “access to equitable and affordable health care services, including reproductive health care,” which is code for abortion in many circles.

In addition to declaring themselves a safe haven for illegal immigrants, the ELCA was led by the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop, in a march on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Milwaukee.

Hundreds, including church members and others, marched in support of the human rights of migrant children and families illegally entering the U.S. along the southern border.

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Tom Tillison

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