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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I Will Get Arrested on President's Day

On Monday, February 17, I will join a group of faith leaders and undocumented immigrants and together we will commit civil disobedience in front of the White House in hopes of being arrested as we protest the 2 millionth deportation which is expected to happen in just a few weeks. We are saying we do not want any more deportations - not 1 more - until genuine, solution-based immigration reform is passed.

It is my prayer that this action will bring about the end to deportations. I am also praying that this action will pierce the hearts of those in the Church who have chosen to sit idly by, to watch from a distance rather than to act. And it is my prayer that this action, more than anything else, will help bring comfort to immigrants in this country who live daily in fear of being arrested and deported, ripped away from their families and friends, from their homes and communities of faith.

This Administration has deported nearly 2 million people since 2009. Think about that. 2 million people. It boggles the imagination. 2 million fathers or mothers, sons or daughters, nieces or nephews, aunts or uncles. 2 million people have been ripped away from their families. 2 million circles of friends have been broken. There is a lot of yelling and screaming about "big government" these days, especially from the politically far right, but I have yet to hear them yell or scream or make a fuss at all over the most intrusive act I know of - the federal government breaking into homes or workplaces, grocery stores or restaurants or even places of worship and taking someone away from their lives, ripping them from their most intimate relationships and sending them back to a country that some of them have not seen in decades or do not even remember at all.

I know President Obama's get tough approach with immigration over the first five years of his administration is meant to try and prove to the Republicans that he can be trusted on border security. Guess what? It hasn't worked at all. After nearly 2 million deportations John Boehner said just last week that the President cannot be trusted to secure the border. Can he be trusted by the Republicans at 2.5 million? 3 million? The truth is that this is all just politics for Boehner and the House Republicans, as it is for most DC politicians. And now that President Obama knows he will never do enough to gain the trust of the other side of the aisle it is time - indeed, it is far past time to do what is right and to stop the machinery of deportations once and for all.

Many individuals who have been and who are still being deported are people who have lived in the United States for years, some for decades and some, practically all of their lives. They come to this country to pursue their dreams, to escape religious, economic or political oppression, or to reunite with family members. They contribute to the United States in so many ways. They are our neighbors, they are our colleagues at work, and they are members of our congregations - our brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of those who have been and who still are being deported represent absolutely no threat to you or me or anyone else. Yet the record number of deportations continues unabated. It is horrific. When you step back and look at the enormous number of deportations and the enormous number of people we have incarcerated in this country, I believe we have to name this for what it is: state-sponsored terror committed against people of color.

The other reason I am getting arrested is to spur the Church to action, not just to support legislative reform, but to speak out and move publicly against deportations. Some religious leaders are indeed speaking out. I am very proud of the over 1,300 United Methodist Bishops and clergy from 49 states who, in less than one week's time, signed a letter just a few months ago calling for "an end to all deportations until genuine, solution-based reform is passed."

I am sure other religious leaders have spoken out as well, but the time for press conferences is over. The time for redemptive action that involves personal risk is now. With the 2 millionth deportation quickly approaching, where is the outcry by all faith leaders on this issue? Why does the group being arrested on Monday, February 17 not include every supposed national faith leader who supports immigration reform?

I cannot help but wonder if the lack of outcry against the Administration concerning their over-dependence on deportation centers on the Washington DC-based advocates' obsession with access to power. The prophet Jeremiah charged many of the priests in his day of pleasing the King rather than God; of becoming palace priests. The result of their mistaken allegiance is that they cried out "peace, peace when there is no peace." (6:14) They ignored the reality of injustice those who were vulnerable faced so that those in power would not have to come face to face with the devastation they were actually causing.

I fear that far too many religious leaders today, especially those based in Washington DC, seem far more preoccupied with the politics of immigration than with defending and supporting the rights of immigrants. Access to the White House is not worth muffling our voices and refusing to speak out against the injustice this Administration continues to commit by its over-reliance on deportations.

My prayer is that the action taken on February 17 will be so transformative that it will change the many palace priests we have in Washington DC into prophets of righteousness crying out against the injustice of the deportation machinery; a machinery that has created a sense of terror in so many immigrant communities. We do not need palace priests who soothe those in positions of power, telling them that people of faith stand with them. If politicians - no matter which party they belong to - are hell-bent on ripping immigrant families apart, then we need prophets crying out for justice, crying out for the voices of those so easily ignored to be heard, crying out for the lives of those so easily crushed and disregarded to be kept safe.

While palace priests need professional talking points that will tickle the ears of those in high positions of influence, prophets need only hear the anguished stories from those whose loved ones have been whisked away in the middle of the night. And hear them we must. I am personally sick of the endless press conferences where religious leaders praise politicians for taking a step forward on immigration reform when those politicians either actively take part in pushing for more deportations or have done and said nothing to stop the deportation machinery. Everyone must be held accountable for lives destroyed and families torn apart.

The essence of the prophetic task is to tell the truth no matter who it may offend. The essence of being a palace priest is to maintain the status quo and moreover, to maintain your own position within that status quo. We need religious leaders who will tell us, the politicians, and indeed, the entire world the truth of how deportations have ruined lives, ripped apart families, and devastated congregations and communities. The prophet seeks to align the values, actions, heart and soul of society with the Kingdom of God. The prophet is solely interested in the transformation of the worldview and basic allegiances of the individual and the society as a whole.

I pray our actions on February 17 will be prophetic, but God's Spirit has a bigger say in determining that than I do. I do believe that we have heard from far too many palace priests for far too long. It is time to hear from some prophets and something tells me that they won't be invited to the next DC faith leaders press conference. They prophets will be the ones lying in front of buses refusing to allow ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) buses to take more immigrants to be deported. The prophets might even be kneeling in front of the White House on President's Day urging an end to the injustice of continued mass deportations.


The good news is that the prophetic task is not reserved for a few, but is open to all in the Church. You don't have to have a long, important title. Most prophets have no title at all. We just have to be willing to listen to our immigrant sisters and brothers, hear the devastation in the stories they tell us and be willing to risk our safety to gain safety for them. And it is time to risk. It is time to tell the truth. And it is time for deportations to end for good. 

36 comments:

  1. Thank you Bill and others for making a stand against things in our society that are harmful rather than helpful Hopefully people will realize and make laws that deal individually with human beings and with their whole person, loved ones, circumstances, instead of just making heartless laws and not considering the "human factor."

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    1. Bill,
      Our earlier amnesty programs are directly responsible for the heartache and poverty illegal immigration causes on both sides of a border.

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    2. Your picture is a shame and a sham. You should not compare your actions with those in China who did more than face being jailed. Their desires for freedom cost those who dared to stand opposed to the Communist regime their actual life. Your token act does not belong in the same league. Shame, shame, shame on you.

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  2. Hi Anonymous. I think that is very debatable. Many could and do effectively argue that the current tragedy immigrants are facing is directly related to unjust foreign and economic policies of the West. When a million Mexican farmers lose their land to giant agri-businesses from the North and they can't all find work in the urban centers of Mexico, they will naturally go to the North to find jobs and take care of their families.
    I hope you will free to share your name too - you are welcome to share here openly!

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  3. I love the Hispanic people but they should follow our laws. I go on mission trips to Mexico and I am quite certain that they would shoot me if I broke their laws. What right do they have to run over our borders. You want to talk about oppression? How about the silly socialist government of Mexico that causes all their heartache? If we want to do something as a church why don't we fight the evils of Marxism that truly make everyone poor.

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  4. The issues are immense and complex and I don't feel getting arrested really adds positively to resolution. I live in Texas and married into a family of recent immigrants. One part of the family from Lebanon and another part from Mexico. So I know first hand within my family even of issues.
    Just declaring amnesty over and over has not worked in the past and doing it again won't be the solution. I do support securing borders first for three reasons. 1) too man would be immigrants die in the desert or in the back of the trucks of the coyotes they pay to sneak them in. This senseless loss of life must end. 2) 47 slaves enter the US every day. Slavery is a big deal still in the US and the world. One of the best ways to reduce slavery is to secure borders. And 3) so we know who is here. This gives people safety because they have legal status.
    I am for a very open and I guess generous or liberal immigration program, but that is senseless until we secure borders.

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  5. Thanks Ryan for your thoughtfulness and for sharing your name! The truth is that we have been doing enforcement first for years. In 2012 we spent 18 billion on border security and that is more than all other enforcement expenditures combined! We are doing border security and doing that alone has not brought relief to immigrants. It is my contention that we need to think of immigrants when it comes to this issue and not define it through the lens of economic prosperity or border security. We have done that for far too long. And it has not worked. It is time to stop deportations, and to pass legislation which grants citizenship to undocumented immigrants and then put in a flexible process that reunites families and provides enough visas for folks to come and work. We just have not done the generous immigration program that you are in favor yet and I believe that it is time to do that now. Thanks!

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  6. Illegal Mexicans walk across the American border, push legal American citizens out of respectable jobs, pay no taxes, and laugh about it. Every illegal Mexican needs to be rounded up and deported immediately so the American economy can start to recover.

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  7. Hey guys, everyone is welcome to post their comments, but I will ask folks to have some common decency to what they post or it will be deleted. Thanks

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  8. Why can we not have respect for the law? Legal immigration is a wonderful thing for our country. Illegal activity is not. There is a moral issue when you choose lie about yourself and cheat the system. When you get caught you face the penalty. It was a risk that earlier they were willing to take. Our country is far nicer than some others in deporting people. Perhaps the church's work would be better spent on figuring out why the person left their own country and addressing those issues.

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  9. This posting will not be easily done and I will try to be careful in what and how I say it.
    An observation first of all: Do I sit idly by in my church while these injustices, in this case, deportations are going on? There is a saying that can be adapted to this kind of thinking: A perceived emergency on your part does not constitute an obligation on my part.

    Allow me a bit of digression: some 30 years ago I was in San Diego for a meeting, and during a sight-seeing tour we viewed the area near the U.S. Mexico border on the multi-lane hiway south of San Diego. There, on a large sign at the edge of the roadfway was posted this warning: watch for people running/crossing the roadway; do not stop to pick up hitch-hikers... This uncontrolled border situation has been going on for some 4 or 5 decades. It is illegal to cross into the U.S. bypassing the designated entry ports, and it is still illegal to this day. Yet we have allowed some 20 to 30 million people to do so even to this day. That is the reality of what is going on.
    We can agree or disagree with immigration laws, but that does not mean a whole lot when we do not control our border and enforce the immigration laws over this span of time. The lack of control has made a human problem that now defies solution. The blame may be laid at the feet of both political parties and the several presidents since Truman. That is the easy part; the hard part is finding "a genuine solution based reforms". Genuine and solution-based? In whose definition?
    My reading of the article tells me that while President Obama is seen as allowing the deportations it is really the Republicans and Speaker Boehner who are the real culprits who are forcing Obama into deportations. The president took an oath of office that he will defend the constitution and enforce (faithfully execute) the laws of the U.S. It is clear that this discussion is getting very close to partisan politics, so I will stop at this point.

    We are a nation of laws and God knows we have plenty of those. However, it is these laws that enable our quality of life and the pursuit of happiness. It is possible that the uncontrolled borders that allow people to enter at will may be and are the cause of grief and misery and expense to other people. There is another side to this problem.

    Christian compassion and Christian understanding: both a gift and a duty.

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  10. To Anonymous, we actually are working to end the reasons for sending countries to have people flee to to the North. Once we made trade truly fair and free, and when we can responsibly help build up local economies and have more responsible foreign and economic policies in the US, I think we will help reduce the need for people to leave. There doesn't need to be an either/or solution. We can address root causes and create a more hospitable immigration policy and that is what we are seeking to implement.

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  11. To Halatbis, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your willingness to sign your name! I would suggest that the highest respect for the law is the willingness to fight to change it which is exactly what faith groups and many immigrants-rights groups are doing. I also think it might be wise to remember that 40% of those who are undocumented are visa overstays. There are a couple hundred thousand who are Irish! So, it is not just folks coming from the South, but from all over and for all kinds of different reasons. I attend a church which is 40% Filipino and their wait times are as long as 20+ years. The problem, by and large, is not the people - not the immigrants - it is the system. The system is broken. And we are advocating for a system that respects the needs of business and industry, that respects other areas as well, but as people of faith, we are mostly advocating for people and their families: to be reunited, to have their civil and human rights upheld, etc. I am not ashamed of that at all. And as I said earlier, we have spent ungodly amounts of money securing the border: 18 billion in 2012 alone. We have been doing enforcement first. It is time to look to root causes and to address the basic human needs and grant citizenship, reunite families, and stop deportations!

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  12. Be cautious of synthetic martyrdom, which as Shaw pointed out is simply a way to achieve fame without ability. Hundreds of thousands of Asian and African and central European persons are in the US in undocumented status, but Bill talks only of Spanish-speakers. Does "all" deportations include those convicted of criminal activity? Aside from criticizing Obama for deportations while neatly shifting the real blame of to the Republican devil "who made me do it," no constructive or comprehensive solution or contribution comes from Bill's pen. As one active in a multi-lingual UM church with worshippers from 5 continents, not all of whom have their 'papers,' the question is not whether there is a problem or justice issues at play. Clear, constructive proposals from the church on solutions is what matters. Until GBCS, bishops or whoever lay such specifics on the table, announcements of impending arrest against the background of a picture of a truly courageous Chinese dissident are embarrassing.

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  13. Hi Anonymous, I actually work on issues pertaining to all immigrants. I am a member of a multicultural church and it is mostly Filipino so I know that Filipinos have the longest wait times of all groups. And we definitely work for solution-based reforms! We advocate for Congress to address root causes and for citizenship and family reunification. Of course, the subject here is the evil done through deportations so that is what I focused on. The UMC has a wonderful resolution which lists all that we advocate for. I invite you to join the thousands of United Methodists advocating for these kinds of solutions! I promise we won't embarrass you too much!!

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  15. Thanks Diane for your comment. I agree it is a complex issue. But a common misnomer is to say that amnesty didn't work. But the 1986 amnesty didn't cause higher rates of immigration. The passing of NAFTA and other trade policies did, which allowed such things as giant agri-businesses to take huge swaths of land and displace thousands of Mexican farmers are more to blame for increased migration. Not the 1986 amnesty. Thanks!

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  16. With Obama in the White House you need not fear being arrested. He agrees with you wholeheartedly. At most he would have you arrested and booked then sent home out the back door. He needs additional dependent class people to support his political agenda.

    Yes, we need immigration reform, but it cannot offer amnesty and citizenship to all the illegal aliens. It would not be fair to those around the world who are waiting patiently to come here legally. Our immigration laws are too limited and allow too few opportunities for legal visas. Lets work on immigration reform from a world view first, then deal with those here illegally after the borders are secure and we track and enforce visa overstays.

    We don't need a flood of additional illegals when our own citizens cannot find a decent job.

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  17. I will be watching the news for the protest and possible federal enforcement action.

    Yes, protesting a law that one views as onerous or arbitrary or morally wrong is one way to protest such law. Some other ways may include writing, phoning, texting, talking to, etc. your congress persons. Another way is voting for people who have the moral beliefs and integrity to legislate or administer to those moral values. The cynicism voiced in these posts is evidence enough that many of us have no faith in our politicians---hence, no faith in our political system. That is too bad. Our system of laws under the constitution and our three part government is not the problem---it appears to be the people we entrust with the power we allow them as elected representatives.
    Our churches, and our Christian faith, has failed to reach into the political system. Our influence continues to wane as the federal government with its unlimited largess continues to compromise our own beliefs and moral value system. The election of Obama in 2012 is testimony to the thoughtlessness of much of the American voter population. We can now protest individual actions of our government while it forges ahead on a broad scale of abrogating our freedoms. We are in the 11th hour and near midnight; soon our right to protest anything our government does will be met with force that will remind us all of the former East block countries: GDR, or any of the SSR's.

    As the saying goes in show business: "break a leg!"

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  18. To ngvl, I hear people say they do not trust President Obama with border security and I would agree, but for different reasons. He has deported 2 million people. Enough is enough and that is the reason for our protest. We want it to stop for the sake of the families in our communities and in our congregations.

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  19. To Halatbis, I am not sure I share your cynicism. I do believe the government has become onerous to vulnerable populations and far too dependent on monied sources of influence. Still, President Obama has heard us once and I believe he will hear us again. Thanks for your good wishes though!

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  20. So, once again you and the UMC are advocating not on behalf of genuinely needful or oppressed people, but for lawbreakers. Your advocating for the criminals who have already broken our national laws actually injures those of us who obey them, and worse, threatens to destroy the fabric of the very nation to which you appeal on the criminals' behalf. Of course, that doesn’t matter to such zealots as you, does it? The United States has laws governing immigration. Let your so-called victims obey them, like the rest of us. Immigrate legally and assimilate into this formerly great nation. But until they do, I have zero compassion for them, or for your misguided cause. I say round them up and deport them all. The close the borders to further "migration." Use the military is needful to ensure illegal immigration stops once and for all. America doesn't have unlimited resources, and those of us who did it the right way and now live here and pay our taxes are tired of the illegals who come here to take advantage of our customary generosity and give nothing back. I don't see the UMC selling its billions in real estate to fund this effort - like the Marxists you are, you demand that the government take on the burden of these people. Where do you suppose that money will come from? From higher taxes on the law-abiding and/or from even higher and unpayable national debts. Either way America and Americans lose - and criminals win. Compassion - yes. Government handouts - NO! If you and the UMC want to help these criminals - pay for it yourselves! Try obeying the law FIRST - then come see about the speck in my eye.

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  21. Hi Bill,

    I admire your willingness to stand up for what you believe in. It stands in stark contrast to perhaps millions of us in the U.S. that are more content to simply speak about various issues and comment online in echo chambers before we go about the rest of our day. I pray that should you be arrested, others around you see the presence of the Gospel in how you carry yourself.

    I found your article through the UMC website, and along with your article, several articles on the website concern me. Your article is a microcosm, and I would like to share my concerns with you and pose a question. Where is the Gospel in the midst of this? Surely immigration is a noble cause and God bless you for pursuing it, but where is the Good News? Do our immigrants--legal or illegal--know Jesus intimately as their Savior? Have they been presented this opportunity to believe on Him? I do not know myself why these men and women are being deported; perhaps for heinous crimes and perhaps not. I wonder how much their lives will be changed forever by the open protest of individuals such as yourself, vs the open profession that there is a Savior in existence to take these men and women places they never could have dreamed of? They have the opportunity to drop the economic and social burdens on their shoulders and live for Jesus. Do these protests communicate that? I am concerned that it may not. I could be wrong.

    However, this is a bigger picture problem that greatly concerns me. The UMC website is loaded with articles of hundreds of bold individuals acting on their convictions, individuals just like you, Bill! And that is great. But what scares me is that the causes will ring empty because they might be lacking the real meat--Jesus Christ. On the website, I did a search (by holding CTRL and pressing the F key) for the word "Jesus." I found one instance of the word Jesus. ONE. I had to click on several links to find the Gospel. This is gravely troubling to me. I am afraid that all of these causes we care so deeply about will run out of gas, because the Gospel is missing, and as the hymn goes, "all other ground is sinking sand."

    Warm Blessings,
    Jeremy

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  22. Hi Jeremy, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it is important to remember, but as someone who used to do street evangelism and takes the charge to save the lost very seriously, I can honestly say that verbal proclamation minus incarnational presence is worse than meaningless, it is harmful. So, these actions provide avenues to be in solidarity with folks and it is through that witness and that solidarity with the most vulnerable that real, genuine and most importantly, mutual transformation happens. I have seen more people grow in their relationship with Christ - including myself - through justice-related actions that I ever have in all the years I have done street evangelism. And it is solely because of incarnational presence, which, of course, is the essence of the gospel. I hope that helps

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  23. Bill, I read your response to Jeremy claiming that you are "growing in your relationship with Christ through your justice-related actions". I truly pray that that is the case. While you may not be aware of how you come across here on this blog and in your GBCS articles, the fact is that you come across as extremely prideful, unteachable, and, yes, uncaring to those who do not share your views. I take no delight in saying this. (Look below at your unloving characterization of the author of the "Boy Scout" letter discussed in your recent post for a great example. You assume the worst in his intentions where many would more charitably instead see a pastor forced to a painful decision based on his desire to fully follow Christ, protect his congregation, and not compromise either his beliefs or the official position of the UMC.)

    Also, perhaps I may have simply not dug deep enough, but I have never once seen any true presentation of the Gospel in any of your writings either here or on the GBCS website. Jeremy's concern is my concern: You are working hard at "saving the world" but you seem to be ignoring the true "Savior of the world".

    Neither you nor I are experts on immigration reform. Like you, I too know way too much about immigration issues, but my understanding leads me to an appreciation of the underlying complexity of the issues. Why you choose to pursue naive partisan positions, seemly with little appreciation of the social consequences of what you advocate, and choose to define your views as "justice" and others as "injustice", escapes me. This is political partisanship and has no place in our Church. This is not seeking true justice. Pride and arrogance is the opposite of what the UMC should be projecting.

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  24. Hi Paul, thanks for your comments. I know I am a little over-zealous at times and I apologize that comes across as prideful, unteachable, and uncaring. The truth is I have friends - close friends - all over the political and theological spectrum and I learn much from them. I will try harder to exhibit that, but I also hold very strongly to what I believe in and for that I do not apologize. I am not saying you have done this, but I know I have dismissed folks I have disagreements with in the past, while at the same time learning so much from some folks who I disagree with at the same time. What I am trying to say is that I am not perfect - far from it, but I am constantly curious and am truly willing to learn. Some contexts and some people - for whatever reason (and there are lots of reasons) I learn better from than others. Just like issues are complex, so are people.

    I can honestly say I did not project my interpretation of the intentions of the pastor in the boy scout piece onto him. I received his letter and his intentions were abundantly clear.

    I also can honestly say that I found your statement that I am being partisan in this debate kind of odd. Our action yesterday was focused on President Obama, who is a Democrat. I have and will continue to critique Republicans on this issue, who are even worse when it comes to this issue and protecting a very vulnerable population - people without legal status.In fact, in this piece I have the greatest concern for those faith leaders in DC who are so partisan that they have refused to stand up to President Obama because they want to protect their access to the White House. This is the essence of being non-partisan.

    Lastly, you are just frankly wrong that I call people who disagree with me "unjust." I do not throw terms around like that and I won't. People are just or unjust solely based on their (mis)treatment of those who are vulnerable and suffering. Our calling as followers of Jesus is to incarnate ourselves among the most vulnerable and then to redemptively utilize our access to resources to gain that same access to those same resources for those whose access has been restricted or denied.

    I hope that helps to clarify!

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  25. I agree that proclamation minus incarnational presence is destructive. However, what I am saying is that I do not see the proclomation. I guess it is the opposite of what you speak about, in my humble opinion: it is "incarnational presence" without proclamation. That is what I am not seeing. I am trying to put myself in the shoes of an immigrant being deported (which is impossible) and I cannot see that my eternal well-being is being made objectively better by this protest. I cannot see that our immigration policy will be made better, either, in the short term or most importantly in the long-term. In the long-term our policy is going to be, as always, a product of our societal norms--norms that are becoming increasingly relativistic in the United States. And the only way to combat this relativism and see policies that are better for society is to proclaim the Gospel. If the Gospel is not being proclaimed clearly, unmistakably, and confrontationally, then I fear we are wasting our time.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Jeremy

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  26. Hey Jeremy, if you had been with me in the jail last night you would have heard the proclamation! If you had been with the folks all across the country and beyond who care daily for the rights of immigrants you would hear proclamation! That is the essence of incarnation.

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  27. Bill, I hope you are not confirming my fear and Jeremy's fear about the true Gospel not being proclaimed.

    You state that "you would hear proclamation", "if you had been with the folks all across the coutry and beyond who care daily for the rights of immigrants". This is only true if they do this in the name of Christ as a result of their relationship with our risen Savior; if this is not the case, this is not a proclamation of the Gospel.

    Did your proclamation in jail truly include a clear presentation of our lost condition in sin for which the penalty is eternity in a literal Hell, Christ's physical death and physical resurrection to pay the penalty for our sins, and our need to repent, turn from our sins, and accept Christ's sacrifice in order to received eternal life in heaven? That is the true Gospel.

    Or was the proclamation that anyone (regardless of their relationship with the living God) standing up for the poor, oppressed, and least of these is doing the work of Christ? That is the social gospel.

    These are two very different gospels. The true Gospel is the power to change lives for eternity. The social gospel is temporary relief of human suffering. Impacting society in response to the true Gospel is pleasing to God. Impacting society apart from the true Gospel is non-Christian social work.

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  28. Hey Paul, I get the feeling I am not going to pass your test no matter what I say. I am ok with that. I have failed my share of tests in my time. I appreciate your stance, but I hope you can appreciate that I get a little antsy when given a test to earn's someone's doctrinal approval - whether liberal or conservative and yes, I have been given tests from both sides. You spelled out what you believe is the "true gospel" but you claim I am prideful? I just think we have to be careful that we know the exact nature of the entirety of the good news of God's love for us. We know only in part on this side of heaven. But to be honest with you, I hold, more or less, to basically both of your gospels. I am a believer and I try to always be ready to share how Jesus has changed my life and is calling me to be a part of his Kingdom dreams for this world. I want to invite people to join in both personal transformation through the infusion of the Holy Spirit and in the transformation of the world. I am not sure if I passed the test, but this is what I believe. Thanks for your thoughts

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  29. As far as I can determine, neither the GBCS, Bishop Carcano, Jim Winkler or Bill Mefford have never had a specific proposal to “correct” existing immigration law. The most recent proposals in the legislature were rejected because they didn’t provide everything that they wanted.


    The “All or Nothing” approach in politics is usually not a good course of action unless one believes it’s easier to ask someone to ignore existing law rather than change it.


    In this case the “someone” is the president. Those who participated might do well to reflect on what they were asking for. They were asking the president to disregard the law. While that may be fine in this case because it’s a law they don’t agree with, it would be a different matter altogether if another president were to disregard a law that they did support.


    When we look at the Book of Discipline it’s clear that this wasn’t even an act of Civil Disobedience. The BOD recognizes we are a nation of laws. The language is such that Civil Disobedience is designed to change the laws, not to encourage the president to ignore the laws. The BOD also includes the caveat that, “ we recognize the right of individuals to dissent when acting under the constraint of conscience and, after having exhausted all legal recourse, to resist or disobey laws that they deem to be unjust or that are discriminately enforced.”


    No, those who were arrested didn’t participate in an act of civil disobedience. They asked the president to participate in an act of civil disobedience and that is a frightening thing to ask for if you think about it.

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  30. Bill, I appreciate your response, though I think it will make many uneasy.

    Why I feel this is important is that many of us view the primary role of the UMC and its agencies as boldly proclaiming the Gospel in everything we do. You were adamant in your earlier statements that you were proclaiming the Gospel, but you've been dodging the direct question about what that even means. Hence, I'm asking questions and suggesting answers to attempt to clarify what you mean by your statements. If you don't agree with my definition of the Gospel, okay. But as a leader on one of our boards, "What gospel are you proclaiming?" remains a valid question. It's not a test, it's an honest question.

    At this point, it's clear though that you are uncomfortable with stating what you really mean since your responses are consistently using ambiguous terms (e.g., "incarnation") or ambiguous caveats (e.g., "more or less"). Personally, I find it strange that an outspoken leader in one of our agencies would be either unable or unwilling to present a coherent statement of the Gospel (and what it means to proclaim the Gospel) when asked directly.

    This is important since the main issue underlying almost every disagreement in the UMC is differing views over the authority of scripture and the definition of the Gospel. You and I are aware of this, but most members of the UMC do respond in initial shock when they learn (sadly, in my opionion) that many of our Bishops and leadership within our agencies disagree with the definition of the Gospel I provided. What I presented as the true Gospel is nothing more than the historic and Wesleyan understanding of the Gospel (completely consistent with UMC Articles of Religion).

    That's why the question is important. Are we truly and accurately proclaiming Christ to the world, or are we simply promoting a social agenda?

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  31. Hi Robert, thanks for your comment though I think I need to correct you on several areas. The United Methodist Church has a resolution, passed unanimously out of a legislative session at General Conference in 2008 made up of conservatives and liberals, that calls for clear solutions. Solutions I have enumerated in the responses above and in other places numerous times. Addressing root causes, citizenship, reunite families and addressing future flow reasonably are all things we have clearly laid out.

    And we (GBCS) did not reject any bill from this Congress except for the SAFE Act. In the Senate bill we supported the provisions for asylee seekers and for family reunification and in the GOP Standards we applauded the citizenship given to DREAMers. We didn't reject any of these efforts, but neither did we endorse them. We issued statements calling for the same solutions I just briefly mentioned above.

    And what we are asking the President is not breaking the law because he has already done it.

    I hope this clarifies. Thanks

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    1. Greetings Bill, The 2008 General Conference Resolution is a framework lacking in specifics. To say that you haven’t rejected proposals put forth thus far by the House and Senate is really just arguing semantics. When you say “We can’t support…” you have rejected.

      To say that you aren’t asking the president to do anything illegal because he’s already done it is a curious rebuttal. If someone breaks into your home once and gets away with it doesn’t mean the next time they do, it becomes legal.

      Let's put my warning in terms I think you will relate to: What if a protesting James Dobson had gotten himself arrested in front of the White House because he wanted George W. Bush to enact an executive order barring all abortions after 23 weeks? Even though Dobson would have been asking the President to do something beyond his authority (and therefore illegal), most people would view his actions as pursuing a higher moral good. Would you and the GBCS applaud Dobson for exercising his right of civil disobedience or would you rally against aagainst him and decry this move to give the president imperial powers?

      While what you’re wanting is honorable, the way you seek to accomplish it sets a dangerous precedent that your sons and my daughters as well as the sons and daughters of the immigrants we care about, may one day have to live with.

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  32. Hey Paul, I think it is a fair question. I don't mean to dodge it, but I can guarantee that my answer will satisfy you only partially. I can guarantee that my answers would satisfy liberals who ask me the same things only partially. I know because they have and that is how it has turned out. I just think going back and forth this way isn't really productive or worthwhile when I know ahead of time it won't satisfy you. I just won't say what you want me to say at some point. That's what I have been saying from the beginning. I'd be happy for you to email me and we can set up a time to talk by phone, or, depending on where you live, even in person (I travel a lot). I doubt you will be satisfied anymore those ways, but at least you get to be dissatisfied quicker. So let me know. Thanks!

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  33. Hi Robert, Let me reiterate that we did support certain aspects of certain bills or blueprints that have been introduced and we disagreed with certain pieces. This is neither endorsing or rejecting - it is endorsing certain principles that match what we as a Church value and rejecting certain provisions. Just because we do not endorse entirely a proposal does not mean we reject it entirely. Didn't you say we should stay away from all or nothing politics?

    And if the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals granted to a small number of DREAM Act students was illegal, I am sure Congress would have acted immediately to stop it. They haven't even tried as far as I know. He has the authority to stop deportations, especially ones that have devastated families and communities and congregations and he hasn't. We will continue to push forward until he does solely because it is the right thing to do.

    And if James Dobson wants to get arrested in front of the White House I say go for it. There are protests all the time in DC for all kinds of reasons and I do not mind at all. Ours just got some media notice.

    Thanks

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