Washington, DC—Following the signing of the Reclaiming Jesus declaration, multiracial elders from across traditions—including evangelical, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and African American churches—launched the “Suffer the Little Children” statement condemning the splitting apart of families at the United States border and the abuse of Scripture to defend a morally indefensible policy. The Trump administration is abusing Scripture to justify abusing children.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking for the president, quoted the apostle Paul in Romans 13 to justify this policy of cruelty against children and families.
The elders respond, “This is yet another misuse and violation of the Word of God to defend a morally indefensible policy. This is a line of demarcation that political power must not be allowed to cross. If Jesus is Lord, we are called to love our neighbors in every circumstance, and to even love our enemies. In Matthew 22, Jesus puts loving God and loving your neighbor at the heart of everything. ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ In Matthew 25, Jesus commands us to welcome the stranger.”
The apostle Paul, in Romans 13, does not say that cruelty is a justifiable tool or role of government. Rather, Paul says the government’s role is meant to be “God’s servant for your good”; government exists to be the protector of the good and to guard people from evil. Romans 13:3 says, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” In cruel contrast, the new family-destroying policies of the administration are the reverse of the proper role of government described in Romans 13.
Separating children from their parents is not mandate of current U.S. law, but rather a deliberate policy choice this administration is making to use cruelty as a deterrent, and some administration officials have admitted it. The truth is that the administration could stop ripping families apart tomorrow, which is why elders are calling upon the President to do just that. While we still need comprehensive, compassionate, and just immigration reform, elders are calling on Congress to pass a simple legislative act that would prohibit the administration from separating families.
Specifically, the elders call on the administration to: immediately stop separating children from their parents; ensure that no children who have already been separated from their parents are lost; and to
immediately begin reuniting families torn apart by the United States government.
The elders also call on the church to teach and preach about this moral crisis, organize candlelight prayers at the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and at local Congressional offices, and prayerfully consider non-violent civil disobedience at appropriate places in the days ahead.
The elders commend this call in prayer and hope for the reclaiming of Jesus in our time.
Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Network; Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.; Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary; Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians; Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference; The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing of the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary; Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America; Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA; Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network; Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church; Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church; Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network; Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association and President Emeritus, John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation; Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Rev. Ray Rivera, President and Founder, Latino Pastoral Action Center; Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation; Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action; Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners; Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative; Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute; Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School.
The full statement is available here: ‘Suffer the Little Children’: The separation of immigrant children from their parents is not biblical.