A little over a week after Easter, more than 250 pastors descended upon Washington, D.C., to worship, pray, and meet with their members of Congress. After preaching about the resurrection of Christ, these pastors asked God to resurrect immigration reform.
A theologically and ethnically diverse group of pastors spoke at a press conference and a worship service before heading to the Capitol Building to meet with their representatives. The pastors told the heartbreaking stories of families in their congregations that had been separated because of the broken immigration system, God’s command to welcome the strangers in our midst, and prayed for God to change the hearts of the legislators who are stopping immigration reform from becoming law.
The event made one message abundantly clear: if immigration reform is going to happen, God is going to be the one who is going to get it done.
Pastor Eugene Cho, founding and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, made clear why he had flown from the West Coast to advocate for immigration reform. Admitting that he didn’t like politics, he said that he came to Washington because immigration policies affect people.
“Politics inform policies, and policies impact people, and God cares for people. People matter to God,” Cho said.
Cho and the other pastors brought a breath of fresh air to what has been a stale debate in D.C. While politicians are busy blaming each other for inaction on reform, these pastors are caring for the people who are hurt by the broken immigration system.
While everyone in the room was there to talk to their members of Congress about immigration reform, pastor and civil rights leader John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, believed that this gathering was about something larger than just one political issue. He has seen a sea change in the church over his lifetime on the issue of diversity.
“This moment has been 46 years in the making,” Perkins said. “The church blinded their eyes to justice during our fight for liberation. This is the first time in my life that diversity in the church has become a value.”
Immigration reform indicates that the evangelical church is more ready than it has ever been to also be a multi-ethnic church.
Pastor Palmer Chinchen, lead pastor of the Grove Church in Chandler, Ariz., summed up the spirit of the event when he described how heaven and earth should meet in the ministry of our churches.
“If heaven is to be filled with people from every background, so should our living rooms and so should our churches,” Chinchen said.
The worship service also included stories from those with first-hand experience with the immigration system. In one of the most touching moments of the service, Dreamer Tabitha described her experience of graduating high school with a 4.6 GPA and an IB diploma, and yet not being confident that she would be able to go to college.
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t even exist because I don’t have the necessary documentation,” she said.
But that wasn’t the end of Tabitha’s story. Tabitha has found hope through her faith in Jesus Christ. She has found community and security at her church.
Tabitha received the worship service’s only standing ovation, reinforcing Eugene Cho’s comments that this issue is about people, not politics. These pastors didn’t come to Washington for political reasons; they came to Washington because God cares about people like Tabitha who are caught in the jaws of a vicious and byzantine immigration system.
After the worship service, the pastors went to Capitol Hill and met with and prayed with more than 100 members of Congress and staff. While immigration has been stalled in the House for months, these pastors reminded the offices that they worship a God who raised Jesus to life.
Immigration reform isn’t dead as long as God is still reigning.
Joey Longley is communications assistant at Sojourners. You can follow Joey on Twitter.