A Message from Bishop Hollingsworth Regarding Presidential Executive Order
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Across the country and around the world, the reaction and response to the Presidential executive order regarding immigration and travel, particularly as it affects Muslims from seven Middle East countries, have been strong. Both support of and opposition to it have been widely and clearly expressed. I am certain that in every congregation of the Diocese of Ohio there is a similarly broad range of opinion on the legal, moral, and political justification for this action. Our national security is a critically important responsibility of government, especially in this dangerously polarized world where there is, in some quarters, deep mistrust and hatred of the United States. The security and freedom of our citizens and others deserve serious and thoughtful attention and debate. That there is such passionate and diverse response to how that security and freedom are protected is unsurprising.
As Christians, we are formed and informed by the stories of our spiritual forbears, whom Holy Scripture describes alternately as oppressors and oppressed alike. Indeed, perhaps more numerous than anything else in the Bible are accounts of the challenge of living with differences and differentness, and the seeming universality in every era of immigration and the need to seek refuge. In my prayer for those immediately and most devastatingly affected by this ban, I am reminded that they are in the company of Adam and Eve who were expelled from Eden, Abraham and Sarah, Noah and his family, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Naomi and Ruth, and so on to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus who fled to Egypt. All, at one time or another, were immigrants, strangers seeking refuge.
Throughout the Levitical and Deuteronomic laws are countless injunctions about how to treat the alien, the stranger, the other. “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”[i] Moses, a migrant himself, is instructed to provide refuge to the Levites, so that in turn refuge might be provided to the children of Israel when they are aliens in the land of Canaan.[ii] Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi, and other prophets expressed God’s expectations of how the other is to be treated. “I will be swift to bear witness…against those who thrust aside the alien…, says the Lord of hosts.”[iii] And Matthew’s Gospel reports Jesus being very clear about the measure of righteousness: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”[iv]
I do not pretend to have all the answers to difficult issues like the ones we currently face. Nor, however, will I demur from expressing my conviction that this executive order is morally unjust and, while it is intended to increase national security, it puts our country and those who serve on our behalf in diplomatic and military capacities overseas at greatly increased risk. It contradicts values I hold as essential to our identity and vocation as Americans. Both literally and figuratively, the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”[v]
It is important, as we wrestle with issues of immigration and national security, that your and my voices, whatever our perspectives, are heard by one another and by our leaders, and that the seriousness of our commitment to democracy and peace is observed by the world. Our responsibility as citizens does not end at the ballot box, but continues in our ongoing engagement in civil discourse and public policy debate. And as we exercise that democratic responsibility, let us remember that as Americans, with the exception of indigenous peoples, we are all of immigrant descent, both in our familial and our spiritual heritage. More importantly, let us remember that we are Christian, not among other things but above all things. Formed by the legacy of our spiritual ancestors, we are called to grow into the full stature of the Christ whose name we bear and whose very body we are, to the end that we and all the beloved of God may be “no longer strangers and sojourners, but…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”[vi]
I encourage you to be fervent in prayer and action.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio
[ii] Numbers 35
[iii] Malachi 3:5
[iv] Matthew 25:35
[v] New Colossus, Emma Lazarus
[vi] Ephesians 2:19