Some months ago, I wrote an article on the need for immigration reform. It was a call to us as believers to pray for wisdom for members of Congress and to call for action on their part to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
As you well know, the President recently issued an executive order effecting nearly half of those in the country illegally. The vast majority of those affected are Hispanics from Mexico and other Central American countries.
The position of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) has been ministry based, not politically based. We have declared our desire to show compassion on everyone, whether legal or illegal. Our churches have not and do not stop people at the door and inquire as to their legal status. This is true of our Anglo and Hispanic churches alike.
We show no discrimination in our attempt to evangelize and congregationalize people, and do not ask legal status before presenting the Gospel. We invite all peoples to our churches and seek to show them the love of Christ and present the saving Truth of the Gospel. We seek to gather them into the body and teach them to walk with Jesus.
Our position is neither Democrat nor Republican. Oklahoma Baptists are members of these two parties and every other political identification. Government is inherently political, and our position has always been to inform and speak out for right and wrong on moral issues in the political arena. Our speaking to the immigration issues has its roots in moral truth, not political expediency.
With the action of the President, one cannot escape the fact that immigrants are now thrown into the midst of a swirling vortex of a political tornado. Those of us who desire to serve and reach immigrants through the love of Christ will find our efforts increasingly politicized.
What should we do? Regardless of our political position, our action is anchored in our relationship to Christ and founded on the Truth of Scripture. Our primary effort is to increase our witness and advance the Gospel. The love of Christ and the Gospel should destroy barriers, not create them. Just as the early Christians stepped across political, social, and economic barriers to share the Good News, so should we. Immigrants need the Gospel. That should be priority, and all other issues are secondary.
Our churches should assist immigrants in their quest to abide by the laws of our country. We should never consciously violate the law in regard to immigrants. But as laws change, love should compel us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ take the right steps to obtain legal status as required and permitted by the law.
Oklahoma Baptists have a large Hispanic ministry. Our Hispanic congregations are growing in number and size. I am proud of the vast majority who seek to abide by the laws of our nation. Our Hispanic congregations serve in the midst of much confusion and political ferment. While it is hard, and sometimes messy business, to understand where the government is on these issues, I applaud our Hispanic congregations’ consistent efforts to be salt and light.
Patience is difficult for most of us. It is especially hard as we try to deal with this gigantic political football that impacts so many lives. Be assured that those of us who seek to lead will move cautiously and slowly to ascertain we abide by the laws. Be just as assured that we will move with great speed to serve our Hispanic people, love them in Jesus’ name, and present the Gospel at every opportunity.