A Historical Commitment to Caring for the Least of These

Third Way Wider ViewNovember 26, 2014

Washington Comment

The author of Hebrews writes, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:1-3)

God calls His people to love the stranger and to show kindness to the widow and orphan. In response to the high numbers of deportations separating families, coupled with the inability of the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, churches in the United States have resurrected the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s as a way of showing God’s hospitality to the stranger.

At the height of the Sanctuary movement, more than 500 churches offered sanctuary to asylum seekers from Central America, with another 1,000 churches offering support. The current Sanctuary movement, dubbed “Sanctuary 2014,” is growing and currently involves over 90 congregations across 12 major cities. Three cases have been won, including the case of Beatriz Ramirez who had her deportation suspended earlier this month.

Germantown Mennonite Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has recently moved from being a supporting church to a full Sanctuary church, meaning that the church is available to house immigrants in danger of deportation. Pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin said that the decision was one made by the entire congregation. It was a year-long process of sharing stories and worshipping with other communities.

Germantown Mennonite Church voted on October 26 to become a full Sanctuary congregation. The process was entirely congregation led, said McGloughlin. “I wanted the congregation to take ownership.”

“Hebrew Scripture reminds us that we were aliens in the land,” McGloughlin said, referring to the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” and that “whatever you do for the least of these, you did for me.”

McGloughlin referenced her congregations’ long history, being the oldest Mennonite congregation in the U.S., and its personal immigrant history asGermantown Mennonite Church. “We desire to be in solidarity with our community,” McGloughlin said, and that includes the immigrant community of Philadelphia.

Also joining the movement from the Anabaptist tradition are First Mennonite Church of Denver and Philadelphia Praise Center.

While it is important to continue to urge Congress to pass immigration reform it is also important to address the needs of immigrants in our communities today. President Obama has taken action to allow many undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., at least temporarily, but many others who do not qualify for this program will continue to be under the threat of deportation.  As such, churches are encouraged to support the current Sanctuary movement and seek God’s justice by caring for the “least of these.”

Interested in more analysis from the MCC Washington Office? Sign up to receive our free quarterly newsletter, the Washington Memo, as well as our monthly electronic newsletter, the E-Memo.