Immigration reform has become a hot topic amongst religious leaders. Not only have individual pastors come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but recently evangelicals have come together to form the Evangelical Immigration Table, which is a broad coalition effort dedicated to immigration reform.
Religious leaders and immigration reform have always been intertwined. For the dogma of Christianity is to evangelize, to reach the masses. On May 2, 2013, the Evangelical Immigration Table wrote an open letter to Congress expressing their support for the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.
In the letter, the Evangelical Immigration Table acknowledged the act was not a perfect solution, but that it "represents a good-faith, bipartisan effort that largely upholds our principles. We encourage members of both parties and in both chambers to work together over the coming months to shape meaningful legislation."
To say this coalition is stepping out and making their voices heard is an understatement. Today, evangelicals from all denominations realize the importance of reaching immigrants. They also realize that taking a stand on the issue is necessary, as their church's survival depends on it.
And while the Evangelical Immigration Table is intent on seeing comprehensive immigration legislation pass, evangelicals in general are taking notice of the importance of the issue. At the First Baptist Church of Orlando, a mega-church in Orlando, Florida, the issue hits especially close to home.
The church's pastor, Rev. David Ute, has spoken out about the issue. The main reason immigration reform is so important to his church is so many of the church's members are immigrants. First Baptist Orlando offers ministries in seven different languages. If comprehensive immigration reform is not achieved, the church's outreach program will be dramatically altered.
Rev Ute said, "The stories from out there in the pews are stories of people all over the world who have made friends and who have become close to people here. I think that's why there's movement in this church, there's momentum, there's an openness to try to do something to address their needs."
With so much at stake, evangelical pastors are truly feeling impassioned about the issue. Churches are major places of not only worship but socialization. Immigrants come to churches to connect and to be ministered to. Connections are made and deep personal bonds are formed.
But immigrants are actually ministering to church leaders, as church leaders are realizing their value as congregational members. The body of Christ is growing and it is far-reaching, extending far beyond the borders of the United States.
Evangelical support for immigration reform is a necessity. When so many church members are immigrants, the idea of losing them to deportation is unthinkable and painful. While it is sometimes dangerous for church leaders to get involved in political matters, evangelicals can be a powerful voice in supporting immigration reform.
Whether the efforts of the Evangelical Immigration Table will yield any results remains to be seen. But any effort is better than none at all.