Bishop Scott Jones has written a thoughtful, carefully considered article on the Syrian Refuge Crisis titled “We Must Recognize We Are Engaged in Cultural War.” I encourage you to read it all. He makes the scriptural argument for welcoming Syrian refugees, and then he says the following:
“When Western countries mistreat and reject Muslims, it becomes a recruiting tool and propaganda weapon for our enemies. I am deeply disappointed that so many governors (including those of Kansas and Nebraska where I serve) have rejected the idea of receiving refugees. They are pandering to our worst fears and failing to lead us to be our best selves as a nation. They are making a strategic mistake and giving aid to our enemies. This culture war will be won by the Christian values of love, tolerance, mutual respect and hospitality. As a nation and as states, we need to welcome the stranger among us.” — Bishop Scott Jones.
Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland are the strongest possible rebuke to ISIS propaganda. I understand the (not unreasonable) fear that many have about welcoming refugees into our communities, but to turn them away is turn our backs on the clear witness of scripture and to do exactly what ISIS would like us to do.
I read the Bishop’s article yesterday and resolved to write the above blog post linking to it today. Then I was confronted with the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was. The District Superintendent called and said they were looking for United Methodist Churches willing to support and sponsor Syrian refugees. She wondered if Abilene First might be one of those churches. After consulting with the lay leader, the chair of the church council, and both lay delegates to Annual Conference, Jenny and I have decided to call a congregational meeting after worship this coming Sunday. Recently we, as a congregation, have practiced holy conferencing around the issues of homosexuality and the separation of church and state. My hope is that we can do the same around this issue.