On Wednesday, August 7, at the Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declared itself to be a sanctuary church. A memorial, brought from a synod assembly, to recognize the church’s, both local and national, work for caring for the immigrant was amended to have the ELCA claim the designation as being a sanctuary denomination.
Christians have offered sanctuary for two thousand years, continuing an ancient biblical practice in which cities and houses of worship provided refuge and asylum for people fleeing injustice. The spirit of the sanctuary movement has been affirmed through the ELCA Ammparo strategy by encouraging congregations to serve and support the protection of migrants in their communities. Today, sanctuary is provided by congregations in varied ways, which can include providing physical shelter, inviting and welcoming all to worship regardless of immigration status, providing services to migrants such as “Know Your Rights” presentations, and assisting all regardless of immigration status. Actively advocating for migrants and for a fair and just immigration system is also part.
The Memorial recommended no actions that break U.S. law but does recommend action that contributes to the protection of vulnerable people in our midst. The memorial does not require any church to take action. It is an encouragement to be engaged in the issues.