On a warm summer evening in Wisconsin, our predominately white middle class suburban evangelical young adult group held our weekly gathering in a public park of an urban neighborhood with a large Latino population. On that night we focused on beginning a conversation with our nation’s immigrant community. In a step toward healing the broken relationship between the white church and our immigrant brothers and sisters, we read the following apology. Consider humbling yourself, as individuals, and churches, and joining us in a confession of the wrongs that we have done to our nation’s immigrants. Then may we move forward being good neighbors and representatives of the Kingdom of God.
Dear Immigrant Community, I’m sorry. I know it’s not every day you hear those words from me. But I wanted to start there. I’m sorry. I have forgotten so much. I’ve forgotten that Scripture is full of stories of immigrants. I’ve forgotten the repeated commands to extend hospitality to the stranger, show mercy to the foreigner, and ensure justice for the alien. I’ve forgotten the central principle of actively loving my neighbor, and that neighbor means you. I have forgotten that God has created and redeemed all people, not just people who look, talk, and act like me! I’m sorry for forgetting. I’m sorry that in forgetting these realities, I’ve neglected you. I’m sorry for thinking ill of you and treating you as less than human. I am sorry that I have not shown you hospitality. My lack of action reveals the truth of my selfish state. I revel in the courageous stories of how our ancestors came here, yet I ignore your courageous stories. I surround myself with pleasures and comforts, and ignore your plight. I’m sorry for being a bad, non-loving, neighbor. I am sorry that I often think the worst of you. I make assumptions about you – why you’re here, how you got here, and what’s going to happen because you’re here. My assumptions are often dark and jaded and down-right hateful. These thoughts have little or even nothing to do with the reality of who you are. I’m sorry for the times I have made things more difficult for you. I’m sorry for the times I have joined in the slander against you. Sorry that I have allowed, and even advocated for, unreasonable obstacles to be placed in front of you. I’m sorry for having permitted, and even participated in, acts of discrimination against you. For these things I am sorry. You deserve better! Jesus’ name deserves better. Will you please forgive me? Signed – The Church
Jim Vining is an associate pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He frequently tweets and occasionally blogs. 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. If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.