Protestant denomination becomes first ‘sanctuary church body’

Friday, August 9, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Zachary Halaschak
August 09, 2019

In response to immigration crackdowns, the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination voted to become the nation’s first “sanctuary church body.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which represents nearly 3.5 million Christians, approved a measure Wednesday at a churchwide assembly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that pledges to provide shelter and push for the rights of undocumented migrants.

According to CNN, the measure also allows the ELCA to fight individual cases of deportation, take “prophetic action” to extend “radical hospitality” to immigrants, and respond to raids and the “criminalization” of migrants.

“The ELCA is the first North American denomination to declare itself a sanctuary church body. As a sanctuary church the ELCA is committed to serving and supporting migrant children and families in communities across the country,” a statement by the group read.

The church claimed that none of the new strictures break U.S. law. Despite the measure, officials with a warrant can arrest undocumented migrants and can still carry out arrests at religious facilities like churches. Regardless of legality, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said it tends to avoid arrests at “sensitive locations.”

Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, ECLA’s presiding bishop, joined a Wednesday march of more than 700 who marched to ICE’s Milwaukee office to hold a prayer vigil.

“It just keeps getting worse and worse in terms of unaccompanied children, separated families, detention centers that are just horrific, and so what we wanted to say as a church body, as the Lutheran church, we wanted to now act with our feet and take action,” ELCA official Evelyn Soto Straw said.

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