Several years ago, World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, started receiving calls from pastors who—in ministering to immigrants in their congregations—had suddenly come upon legal questions they could not answer. The pastors turned to us because they knew we had been serving immigrants for over thirty years. Some asked whether undocumented immigrants could serve in leadership in the church. Others asked to what extent the church could help immigrants resolve their legal status issues. These pastors’ questions reflect a question the broader evangelical community is grappling with: how do we balance compassion and mercy toward immigrants with the rule of law?
Evangelicals are committed to the authority of Scripture over all of our lives, and World Relief started addressing these questions not from an economic or political perspective, but from a distinctly biblical point of view. By grounding our response in the common values of our community, we knew we could change the hearts and minds of those in our faith community, especially since Scripture has so much to say about how to treat immigrants. We knew that while immigration is often viewed as an economic or political issue, for people of faith, immigration reform is an urgent moral crisis that has fissured the many families and communities who have lived in the shadows of the United States for years.
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