For those who are tired of the often repeated tropes about Immigrants (which can mean, variously, Illegal Aliens, Undocumented Workers, Refugee, Asylee, ad nauseum) the 2019 LCMS Convention might offer a slightly different take on the matter. Unlike some churches in the United States and Canada which largely parrot open borders ideology but rephrase it with largely "context free" verses from the Old Testament, the LCMS contains within it a genuine difference of opinion. Should the Church take a specific position on public policy which is at odds with the legimately enacted laws of their country? Or should the Church avoid taking what is effectively a public policy position, and encourage the various levels of government to enforce those valid laws, especially when segments of the state are unwilling to do so?
This blog post grows out of a meeting held on Wednesday, June 26th by the Metro Northwest Circuit of the Minnesota South District with their voting delegates to the convention. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or verbatim reflection of the discussion on June 26th, so by all means corrections, additions, and further comments are welcome. Pay attention to the Acceptable Use Policy and our regulations for comments, and let us know what you think.
First things first, let's get it out of our systems right off the bat: "THE NAZIS DID EXACTLY WHAT THE UNITED STATES IS DOING TODAY! JUST LIKE THE CHURCHES DID IN NAZI GERMANY WE MUST WELCOME ALL IMMIGRANTS HERE TO THE UNITED STATES OR THEY WILL ALL BE SENT TO CONCENTRATION CAMPS!" Scream that a few times, put that up on Twitter, Facebook (or TwitFace) in ALL CAPS (you can copy and paste above!), and then take a few deep breaths, and take a look at overtures 3-06 through 3-09 in the 2019 Convention Workbook, pages 403-406 (435-438 in the .pdf file). There now; that's better, isn't it? These four overtures offer an interesting set of disagreements and points of view normally lacking in modern ecclessiastical discussions.
My bias, of course, is evident, so I leave it up to the readers and commentators to take me to task. Yet, some difficulties are obvious with some of these overtures. Overture 3-07 encourages support of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services ("LIRS"), an organization whose ideology (both theological and political) is cited in overture 3-08 as being unacceptable. It's hard to tell whether LIRS itself is aware that its politics is dictating its theology, which would make it an organization much like the "German Christians" of 1932-45 (somehow, from the dates, I'm guessing that did not end well), but perhaps a mirror image which replaces their national socialist ideology with that of cultural Marxism, class and state socialism. Those of us who reject socialism in general (soviet, national, marxist, democratic, etc., etc.) will find overture 3-08 wonderfully freeing. Individual Christians can, indeed, advocate for all kinds of policy positions. But the Church itself should encourage those who "bear the sword" to carry out and enforce the valid and legitimate laws of their country.
The understated point made in overture 3-08 was at one time commonplace among all churches, but the modern environment has made this a rare, radical and brilliant assertion: it is the duty of the government to enforce valid law especially when large parts of the government advocate lawless evasion of the laws they are sworn to uphold. And Christians and Churches are obligated to encourage them to do their duty.
But all is not lost for those of use (like the present writer) who believe that the LCMS and its members should redouble its efforts outside of our own borders. What could be more salutary and God pleasing than to help those in distress around the world in the places where they live now, as part of our effort to bring the Gospel to all corners of the globe? The challenges in this are vast, but a dollar spent overseas has vastly greater impact, economically, than a dollar spent in this country in an effort to further erode the rule of law in the name of a political ideology masquerading as compassion. Overtures 3-06 and 3-09 have much to recommend in this regard.
So chime in if you like below.
Gordon Bynum, Chaplain, The Saint Timothy Society for Lutheran Seminary Scholarship