Monday, July 4, 2011

Diversity in the UMC over Alabama's New Immigration Law

Faithful Christians in Alabama differ in their political opinions. One of the things I love about being Methodist is that diversity is appreciated. I encourage each congregation I serve to practice their personal faith in their political life and to take responsibility to vote, but always recognize that we will have healthy disagreements. Accepting and valuing our God-given diversity is part of the essential nature of being in Christian community.

The recent immigration law in Alabama has been controversial. Our bishop and some of our pastors heavily involved in evangelism and missionary efforts drafted an open letter. The article presenting it calls this law an embarrassment to our state that does not reflect the spirit of hospitality in our churches and calls it the meanest immigration law in the nation. An interesting online debate followed that reflects our diversity, and I encourage interested readers to check out the Open Letter with Responses.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about immigration and certainly don't claim to know all the answers. But I am definitely uneasy about aspects of the law regarding "association". My understanding is that efforts to exempt the ministries of the church were unsuccessful. If it is truly considered illegal to welcome one of God's children into my home or church or give them a ride in the car, my compelling call to serve the gospel of Christ will outweigh my respect for human law. I also fear that this may inevitably lead to racial profiling, and my compassion comes in part from awareness that my own ancestors were aliens in this foreign land, coming to seek opportunity.

I do not have a proposed solution for larger issues related to immigration, but I do hope our legislature will reconsider this law and at least refine it.