In the “good news, bad news” department, Mariner’s Church in Irvine is prominently featured in a page one story in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (and the story is behind a paywall–get used to it), and the story is about how Evangelical Christian churches are trying to lead the way in the debate over immigration reform. And that’s the good news.
The bad news is the members of Mariner’s Church, which numbers about 14,000 people who are mostly conservative, are not responding to the message and sermons on the plight of undocumented immigrants.
Quoting the story, Mariner’s pastor Kenton Beshore told the Journal: “We took a hit on it (immigration). We had people who walked out and whose giving went away.” Beshore told the Journal the campaign on immigration reform was part of the reason why the Church had a half-million dollar deficit for 2012.
The story is about how Evangelical Christian churches and their leaders are now starting to urge Republican legislators to support a path to citizenship based “on their readings of Bible teachings.” A Wall Street Journal poll of Christians of all faiths shows that 62 percent of white evangelicals believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US legally compared with 35 percent who believe these immigrants should be forced to leave. And while that’s striking, it’s also the lowest with Protestants weighing in with 69 percent in favor to Catholics at 73 percent to Black Protestants at 84 percent.
Rev. Beshore is one of 300 Evangelical church leaders who will descend upon Washington next week to lobby Congress, specifically Republicans, on pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Good luck with that.
More tidbits from the story:
“Mr. Beshore said some members (of Mariners) accused the church of taking a political position that flouted U.S. law after preaching about immigration in the fall.
“I tell my people they need the poor far more than the poor need them. That’s what a follower of Christ should do,” said Beshore.
When the pastor announced a “conversation on immigration at a Sunday service in March 2012, the church campus erupted in chatter, recalled Fred Gladney, an associate elder: “People were asking each other, ‘Why are we doing this? Why do we need this? Is there a position the church is doing to drive?'”
The story cites a book by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, called “Welcoming the Stranger” which offers a Christian argument for changes to immigration law. Soerens told the Journal, “If immigrants are our neighbors, then we are called bibically to love them in interpersonal interaction and the public policy side we support.”
Rev. Beshore told the Journal in emails from members said the discussion in March was one-sided and anti-patriotic.
So while it appears Evangelical church leaders see a need to reform our nation’s immigration laws, it doesn’t sit well with those who fill the seats for services and place contributions in the basket. Color my cynical, but with Ralph Reed aiding the effort of evagelical Christians on immigration reform, it’s not about helping undocumented immigrants but about providing a means of political cover for conservative candidates for the next election cycle.