I was very glad to see the resolution on Refugee Ministry be adopted by the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting last week. Today is World Refugee Day and a report was just released that states that the world now has 65 million+ refugees – now more than in the time period after World War II. We are facing a global crisis of tens of millions of displaced people from war, violence, terrorism, persecution, genocide, and forced migration. The Southern Baptist Convention chose to make a strong statement calling upon SBC churches to respond to this global humanitarian crisis with love, care, gospel ministry, and aid to the most vulnerable people in the world. We did the right thing.
During a season of angry political rhetoric where many have wanted to shut the door to refugees, Southern Baptists made a gospel statement on the worth and value of all people – including refugees – and reminded the world that they are made in God’s image and that they are loved by God. We should love them as well. We should seek to minister and care for them. This resolution was strengthened by the Convention from the form put out by the resolutions committee with an amendment calling for us to welcome and adopt refugees into our homes and churches “as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne.” This amendment passed unanimously from the 7000+ messengers gathered in St. Louis.
The origin of this resolution came out of the collaborative work of many Christians in South Carolina who worked to oppose a harsh anti-refugee bill put forward in the South Carolina Senate that sought to potentially hold churches and faith based organizations civilly liable for the future actions of refugees that they would sponsor if those refugees committed certain crimes. This bill was sponsored by 8 senators, 6 of whom are Southern Baptists. It could have essentially shut down refugee ministry in South Carolina, at least in its current form. After months of work, including developing the support of hundreds of pastors and multiple denominations, the anti-refugee bill was killed in the South Carolina House of Representatives. After this victory, Jason Lee, the director and World Relief-Spartanburg and I (both Southern Baptists ministers) agreed that it would be great for our Convention to make a statement saying that we SHOULD minister to refugees who are brought to the United States by our government. It was from realizing how strong the anti-refugee sentiment is among some sections of our country that we came to believe that a strong Biblical statement on ministry, care, and concern was necessary. When Southern Baptists adopted this resolution last week, it sent a loud message to our churches and to the nation that we are to minister to and love the refugees who come to America and that we should also love and minister to refugees overseas.
I am glad that we adopted this resolution and I pray that Southern Baptists will heed its call to minister to, care for, and love the refugee. In a world wracked with violence and uncertainty, now is the time for the church to respond and to hold out hope and love to those driven from their homes and fleeing for their lives. The passage of this resolution at this time is just one more reason why I am proud to be a Southern Baptist. Now, I hope that we will continue to engage the least and lost in the largest refugee crisis in world history and not miss this moment.
The full text:
RESOLUTION 12: ON REFUGEE MINISTRY
WHEREAS, The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over sixty million people displaced throughout the world and considered refugees; and
WHEREAS, War, violence, genocide, religious persecution, and other forms of oppression have contributed to massive people movements across the globe, as millions flee for their lives; and
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have a long record of caring for and ministering to refugees throughout our history; and
WHEREAS, This history of refugee ministry includes the sponsoring of almost 15,000 refugees from 1975–1985, resulting in the starting of 281 ethnic churches and a 1985 resolution commemorating this decade of ministry; and
WHEREAS, There are expected to be 85,000 refugees coming into the United States in 2016 from four continents and the Caribbean; and
WHEREAS, Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner (Exodus 22:21–24; Exodus 23:9–12; Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:17–22; Deuteronomy 24:17–22; Deuteronomy 26:5–13; Psalm 146:8–9; Matthew 25:35–40); now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, June 14–15, 2016, encourage Southern Baptists to minister care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on the governing authorities to implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process, guarding against anyone intent on doing harm; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9-12; Psalm 68:5; James 1:27; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 19:33-34).