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Immigration and Church—Why It Matters

Tonight, President Barack Obama is speaking in prime-time on the issue of immigration. Many think he is going to explain and enact an executive order protecting approximately five million people from being deported out of the United States.

Like many other evangelical leaders, I support immigration reform. However, probably like many, I’m very disappointed as to how this is playing out.

Regardless, I’ve written extensively on immigration in the past, specifically in light of how pastors view it and how it affects churches, particularly in the United States.

Here are just a few posts on it from the past:

4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church

The Passion of Christ and the Plight of Our Undocumented Neighbors, a Guest Post by Noel Castellanos

Immigration Reform and the Church: Are Churches Responding With Care for the Sojourner?

Immigration plays a significant role in the life of churches around the world, especially in certain parts of the United States near borders or in areas where refugees are being brought in from dangerous areas of the world. Here in Nashville, for instance, we are not near the border of Mexico or Canada, but we have a significant Kurdish refugee population because of violent conditions in the Middle East.

Just this week, LifeWay Research released some data on how Protestant pastors view the issue of immigration and the government’s involvement in reforming it. This time last year, LifeWay Research released similar data on immigration and what pastors are doing about it.

On perhaps the most controversial matter, nothing changed among Protestant pastors between 2013 and 2014. In other words, protestant pastors support the reform that includes a “path to citizenship” which is significant in the current debate.

In 2013, 58 percent of Protestant pastors agreed with the statement: “I am in favor of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally.” That number stayed exactly the same in 2014, which is pretty remarkable considering the current debate and the fact that pastors lean much more Republican than Democrat.

Here’s a bit of a breakdown of that data from Bob Smietana:

  • Nearly six in 10 Protestant senior pastors (58 percent) agree with the statement: “I am in favor of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally.” About a third (34 percent) disagree. Seven percent are not sure.
  • Most African-American pastors (80 percent) agree, as do a majority of white pastors (59 percent). Two-thirds (68 percent) of mainline pastors and more than half (54 percent) of evangelical pastors also favor a path to citizenship.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.