In 1987, following the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the General Synod encouraged pastors to “provide counseling and urge persons who seek to change their status under the provisions of the bill to obtain legal counseling.” (MGS 1987: 79)
One of the most powerful themes of Scripture is God’s special love for resident aliens, “strangers within the gate.” They were rescued by God, healed, and held up as examples of faith and models of profound love…Just as God reached out in Christ to draw estranged humanity into God’s family, Scripture teaches Christians to treat the strangers they encounter as neighbors and family. (MGS 1993: 86)
The scriptural mandate includes provisions for strangers in Old Testament law, along with accounts of love, faith, hospitality, courage, and repentance embodied in foreigners within the nation of Israel. Jesus’ healing ministry touched several foreigners. In fact, Scripture shows us that strangers are often central to God’s work and witness.
Remembering how we came to be adopted into God’s family, we can never turn our own backs on the strangers among us. Jesus promises that when we take in strangers, we welcome him (Matt. 25.35)…Christians should never let strangers remain “across the tracks.” They should never be away from the core of our lives, never farther than the other side of our own table…The first tables to which all strangers should be welcome are those in the homes of Christian families.
What does this mean, and how can it be done? Churches have often served as sponsors for refugee families…Some churches have provided refuge to undocumented persons. This they have done because God’s commandment to “love the stranger as yourself” is not qualified by any requirement of citizenship. In fact, it was precisely because resident aliens were not citizens of Israel, and were therefore vulnerable, that the Old Testament law made special provision for their protection and commanded that they be loved like family (Lev. 19.34).
Guided by the law of God, we should not be party to the exploitation of workers; we should be eager to speak in the defense of foreigners who are cheated, abused, or denied justice in any way. Through a multitude of channels, our efforts should aim to imitate the restorative work of God by assuring strangers a secure place, a dignified life, blessings in present crises, and hope for the future. This model suggests Christian participation in programs to provide legal assistance and emergency relief, as well as access to housing, education, and jobs for strangers.
The scriptural call is clear: we must receive strangers with open hands and hearts…The challenge for the RCA is to remember our roots as strangers in a new land, to heed Scripture’s teaching, and to energetically set out to realize God’s vision for family. We must start noticing the strangers in our midst: foreign students and their families, new, and even third-generation immigrants; migrant workers; foreign entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, and government representatives; and refugees. (MGS 1993: 88-89, 96)
In 1995, the General Synod instructed the general secretary to communicate to the President of the United States the RCA’s support of the rights of immigrants to access public services.(MGS 1995: 90)