"Increased Compassion, Not Hardened Hearts": Bishops join MA church leaders opposing refugee restriction

Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Gayle E. Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, together with Bishop Douglas J. Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, have signed a joint letter from 17 church leaders, issued today by the Massachusetts Council of Churches, opposing the White House executive action suspending refugee resettlement.

The full letter is available here.

An accompanying message from Bishop Gates to the diocesan community follows:

Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,

We are struggling mightily with the turmoil of transition.  We are a nation bitterly divided.  While some argue that necessary correctives are at play, many of us feel that we are in danger of losing our moral compass.  In either case, we have no option other than to bring the core principles of our religious tradition to bear on current decisions.  Our positions as Christians are determined not by party affiliation, nor by self-interest--neither personal self-interest nor national self-interest.  Rather, our Christian positions must be determined by the core values of our faith. 

This past Sunday we read, as assigned by our lectionary cycle, from a text which speaks directly to us as people of faith caught in political tumult and ethical debate.  When the chosen people of God expressed uncertainty as to how they were to move forward faithfully, the prophet Micah spoke to them with breathtaking clarity:  “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8]

Do justice.  Love kindness.  Walk humbly with your God.  In its stark simplicity the prophet’s mandate has given us the interpretive, moral lens through which to examine and evaluate not only our own personal decisions, but also those being made on our behalf by our national and local leaders.  In the face of any claim to rightfulness offered on behalf of a directive or policy, I find that Micah has given me the moral framework I need, asking:  Is it just?  Is it merciful?  Is it grounded in humility?

Attached you will find a statement issued jointly today by heads of a broad spectrum of Christian denominations here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The letter speaks of what we believe to be the injurious executive action restricting refugee entry and resettlement in our nation.  My own decision to sign this statement comes directly from my assessment of that executive action’s alignment with the Micah mandate, and my conclusion:  It is not just.  It is not merciful.  Humility is not here reflected.

The statement offers brief reflections on ways that we believe this policy and other similar initiatives to be inconsistent with our faith and with the ideals of this great nation.  I commend it for your prayerful consideration.



The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates