Synod and Immigration Reform
In 2007 the migration of workers came onto synod’s agenda by way of an overture from Classis Zeeland, which had appointed a study committee to address a pastoral concern arising from one of its congregations. The local church had engaged in ministry to migrant workers for several years, offering ESL classes, Bible studies, and other kinds of practical help to families in need, including occasional legal assistance for immigration and work status.
The congregation wanted to receive into membership some of these families who professed faith in Christ, but given the strong Reformed tradition of refusing admittance to the Lord’s table to persons known to persist in sinful behavior, they asked for advice from Classis Zeeland to determine if living without status in a country was inconsistent with the demands for life lived according to God’s will.
Unhappily, due to the presentation in the overture, the broader issue of ministering to immigrant neighbors and addressing their needs was eclipsed by a discussion that focused on church discipline. Synod 2007 did not accede to the overture, deeming it unwise to recommend the classis report “to the churches for study, discussion, and application,” and lamenting the hurt caused by the tone and narrow focus of the overture (Acts of Synod 2007, p. 595-596).
However, Synod 2007 did recognize the need to address the conditions under which undocumented migrants in both Canada and the United States live, so it formed a committee to report and recommend how the CRC might better address the needs of persons who are marginalized by their lack of legal status.
In 2010, the committee presented its report to synod on “the issue of the migration of workers as it relates to the church’s ministries of inclusion, compassion, and hospitality, and to propose ways for the church to advocate on behalf of those who are marginalized" (Acts of Synod 2007, p. 596).
In response to the 2010 synodical Report on the Migration of Workers, synod adopted thirteen recommendations on areas including education and awareness, ministry of mercy and compassion, and justice and advocacy.
Synod reaffirmed that the church treat all individuals as image bearers of God regardless of ethnicity, background, or legal status, and that God’s Word consistently directs Christians to welcome the strangers in their midst and to extend special care to the most vulnerable in society.
Synod calls CRC churches to take action in a variety of ways:
In an issue that has become politically polarized, it’s essential for Christians to engage in thoughtful study and discussion of the economic, political, social, and spiritual issues involved in the church’s ministry with immigrant people. This can include the study of the 2010 Report on the Migration of Workers.
Following our scriptural calling to welcome the stranger, we demonstrate Christ’s love to the marginalized, offering assistance for needy immigrants and for their children in terms of financial assistance, food, clothing, and shelter.
We call on our elected officials to reform immigration laws in the United States and Canada so that they may be fair, just, and equitable regarding persons without legal status.