Immigration can be an overwhelming topic. While political pundits on both sides of a policy debate tend to reduce the matter to a simple, black-and-white issue, the reality is that immigration is complex. There are economic, cultural and political ramifications to how we respond to the arrival of immigrants to our country. Christians also face theological and missiological ramifications in how to wrap our minds and our hearts around such a multifaceted reality that takes more effort than many in our society are willing to expend. Busy with plenty of other worthy causes and questions, many within our local churches prefer to leave it to others to wrestle with the challenging questions of how, as Christians, we should respond to immigration.
We do so at our own peril. Immigration is steadily changing the face of American evangelicalism. That’s an exciting development. There is enormous potential for the growth of the Church and the transformation of lives and entire communities. However, it also means churches who are not paying attention to the dynamics of immigration may one day find themselves irrelevant to the communities that surround them. By ignoring immigration, they will miss out on what missiologist and Asbury Theological Seminary president Dr. Timothy Tennent has called “the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America.”
Our challenge to Christians who feel like they don’t know where to begin thinking about immigration would be to take a simple step to learn more. One great way to do so would be to attend a conference that will include a focus on immigration from a Christian perspective. We wanted to highlight three separate conferences coming up in the next six weeks you may want to consider attending.
On February 23, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama will host the G92 South conference. Building on the momentum of the original G92 conference at Cedarville University last October, this day-long symposium takes its name from the ninety-two references to the word ger, the Hebrew word for an immigrant, in the Old Testament. This conference will seek to help form a biblical response to the immigration issue. Similar to the G92 conference in Cedarville, much of the focus will be placed on college students and the emerging generation of Christian leaders. As Alabama’s new toughest-in-the-nation state law has driven many church leaders in the state to ask some tough questions about how they should respond, the G92 South conference will also feature a track for pastors and church leaders. My colleague Jenny Yang and I will be speaking, along with Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Lisa Sharon Harper (formerly of InterVarsity and now with Sojourners), Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Osvaldo Padilla of Beeson Divinity School, Noel Castellanos of the Christian Community Development Association, and a number of local pastors. You can register for free below or online at www.g92conference.org.
A few days later, on February 24 and 25 in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of folks will gather in Portland, Oregon for the second annual Justice Conference. Immigration will be one of the many justice issues highlighted, with pre-conference sessions featuring Alexia Salvatierra, founder of FaithRooted.org, Max Finberg of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bethany Anderson of Solidarity in Southern California, and student activist Ricardo Zamudio, as well as myself and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger, Jenny Yang. Other speakers include Francis Chan, Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, Lynne Hybels, Stephan Bauman, John Perkins, Miroslav Volf, and Richard Twiss—to name just a few. There will also be artists, musicians, and scores of folks representing organizations doing justice work around the country and the world. Registration is available online at www.thejusticeconference.com.
Finally, on March 16 and 17 in West Chicago, Illinois, the annual Mission on Our Doorsteps conference will bring together a diverse group from across the country to explore how we might respond to the missional opportunity presented by immigration. Speakers include Noel Castellanos, Sam George of Parivar International, John Fuder of Moody Bible Institute, and Mark Jobe of New Life Community Church in Chicago. There will be workshops focused on immigration reform advocacy, human trafficking, and generational issues within immigrant churches, with tracks in Spanish as well as English. Registration is at www.missiononourdoorsteps.com.
We want to encourage you to make time to attend at least one of these conferences, and to think of others whom you could invite to join you. One simple way to spread the word about all three conferences within your social network is to click the “like” button at the top of this page and include a personal plug for why these issues are important to you. Sharing the videos via Facebook, Twitter, or email is another way to help spread the word. God is at work through the movement of people across borders, and investing a day or two to be informed and equipped can help you make sure that you don’t miss out on what God is doing.
Matthew Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009) and the US Church Training Specialist at World Relief. His blogs appear here on Mondays.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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