By Jim Segaar
Last month we introduced a new Affirmation of Values for Seattle First Baptist Church, and asked our readers to think about the values expressed, especially how we can implement them in our daily lives. That conversation continues at this writing. We seek to do more than simply affirm our values, we seek to live them.
Our world today is in desperate need of organizations and people willing to live values such as “We will respect all religions,” “We will welcome the stranger,” and “We will protect our environment.” In the United States, we seem to be focused on insults instead of respect, fear vs. welcome, and exploitation over protection. Like the prophet Habakkuk, some cry out:
“How long, YHWH, am I to cry for help while you do not listen?
How long will I cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you do not save?
Why do you make me look upon injustice?
Why do you countenance tyranny?
Outrage and violence – this is all I see!”
Reading the prophets and the latest news, it seems that some things haven’t changed much since 605 BCE.
But like the prophets, we are called to cry out against injustice and oppression. And beyond that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to action. Oppression is ended only when we overwhelm it with acceptance. It is up to us to bring forth a world of justice, free from tyranny. Our church has a history of reaching out to those whom society vilifies, and today we have another opportunity to do just that.
With incendiary talk of walls and immigration sweeps and travel bans and “old white guys first” filling the airwaves, churches are once again becoming places of Sanctuary. This goes beyond providing a safe, quiet place for parishioners to worship, and can extend to housing and protecting those unjustly accused and in danger. Today that can mean taking in undocumented immigrants who are in danger of being separated from their families and deported, often without due process. For example, First Baptist Church of Denver recently took in a woman until she could receive a fair hearing, where she was granted more time in the U.S.
Our church needs to decide what our role should be. The Church Council of Greater Seattle has taken a leading position on Sanctuary, and Jim Singletary, president of our congregation, has started a conversation about how we will help. In a church like ours, with a history like ours, a reasonable answer seems to be “we will help in any way we can given our resources and our congregation.”
So what’s next? This is not an issue to be decided by staff, or by the Diaconate. We believe the congregation needs to weigh in on this important issue. And we need to identify people who take the lead in whatever action we, the congregation, deem appropriate. Our leadership is committed to continuing this discussion. What do you think? What should our response be? What can you personally bring to this effort?
Stay tuned for a continuing discussion.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist