At that conference, we will address things mentioned in the declaration like legitimate concerns about security issues, ways to help in the Middle East (where most are and want to stay), how to minister to refugees here, and more.
Here are some thoughts on the statement from some of the key leaders in organizing and writing it. I hope you find their passion for the refugee encouraging, as I did. The statements come from a press conference following our December meeting.
Why most of the effort needs to be to help those overseas, in the Middle East:
Kent Hill, World Vision: We’re primarily involved in helping people understand that many of the refugees are not just the ones that come to the United States or to Europe. But the ones, the overwhelming majority, who are in the Middle East. And we’ve been working in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, for a number of years helping there. And so there’s much the church can do and should do to help the Christians and others in distress in these areas.
On how churches that want to be engaged in sponsoring refugees can be:
Jenny Yang, World Relief: I would say two things that we want churches to take away from the statement. The first is we really want to create a deeper discipleship around refugees and how Jesus would actually respond to the refugees. So developing resources for pastors and church leaders to actually educate their congregations on what’s happening in the Middle East and how as a Christian they should respond.
The second thing I would say is just to build relationships. There are many refugees overseas that are being served by churches in really difficult situations, and hearing their stories as well as even building relationships with refugees that are living in their own neighborhoods here in the United States is really important to shape that discipleship. And so building relationships, I would say, is the second thing that we would like churches to do.
On the document and making plans:
Jo Anne Lyon, The Wesleyan Church: This document, I think, is well done. It has some theological depth to it and biblical base to it, and then some action plans. And so, in that way, congregations will begin to understand what is their place. Where do we go in this? And then, pathways to this so we can work with World Relief here, and we can work with overseas and work with World Vision overseas and our own people that are working overseas, to begin to build unity around this issue that we’re dealing with in our world today.
On genuine security concerns:
Frank Page, Executive Committee of the SBC: We recognize that security is a serious issue. And we know that many of our people do have fears, and we do not believe that they are acting irrationally but when they’re confronted by the true facts … they’ll realize that the refugees about whom we’re speaking are people who desperately need ministry and are not persons that we need to fear.
Jamie Aten, Humanitarian Disaster Institute: Our Institute has been doing research and hoping to equip churches to respond to refugee needs both internationally as well as in the U.S. One of the main reasons that I am supporting this statement is because I really believe in equipping and helping to mobilize the church to be able to show God’s grace in a time of great suffering for so many. Also, we helped to write a paper with World Evangelical Alliance that was submitted as a policy brief for the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit. And we were able to see firsthand from our global evangelical leaders about the important roles that the church plays in humanitarian issues overseas. And I hope that we will be able to do the same here domestically.