The ELCA Votes to be the First Sanctuary Denomination

August 19, 2019


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declares itself a sanctuary church body; and to request the ELCA Church Council, in consultation with the appropriate churchwide units and offices, provide guidance for the three expressions of this church about what it means to be a sanctuary church body and provide a report to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.


During the churchwide assembly, the 700 delegates approved the above motion, making the ELCA a sanctuary denomination for immigrants who need our help.  As people of faith, we have never refused to help those in need.  Scripture reminds us to help the widow, the orphan and travelers because we were once strangers in a foreign land.  Indeed, as Lutherans, we are a denomination mostly made up of immigrants.


However, when speaking specifically what that means to help the immigrant, we differ widely.  Some may feel strongly about the immigration issue and therefore advocate to change existing laws or even organize protests.  Others will work more locally to offer ESL classes, job opportunities, set up school/housing options or provide legal help towards citizenship.  As we move forward with this resolution, it is important to be clear about what this means and does not mean:

  • The ELCA is not mandating (and cannot mandate) that its congregations engage in any practice, related to sanctuary or otherwise.  Each congregation has complete autonomy to decide on its own how this resolution is lived out.

  • The ELCA is not condoning or advocating illegal conduct on the part of its congregations or members.  As citizens of the Church, we are also citizens of the State.

  • The ELCA is renewing its public commitment to take concrete action to fulfill scripture’s mandate to welcome strangers—including immigrants and refugees—and provide for their needs however appropriate in one’s context.

  • The ELCA is renewing its commitment to advocating for reform in our nation’s broken immigration system and for humane treatment of immigrants and refugees.

At Christ Lutheran, we are already a sanctuary congregation—not in the sense of harboring illegal immigrants and defying local law enforcement officials—but in the sense of helping those in need.  We support Crisis Assistance Ministry, Loaves and Fishes and Urban Ministries which all provide help to everyone in need, including the immigrant.  We partner with McClintock Middle School where we assist in educational opportunities, meals, ESL classes and housing for all people, including the immigrant.  This is what the ELCA is affirming—to be that source of hope and help to the stranger in need, regardless of their citizenship.  This is not a motion to endorse a particular political candidate, break the law or prescribe a specific course of action.  This is meant to affirm and encourage the Church to be the Church.  That is, we are called to be a sanctuary of healing, of hope and of help to our brothers and sisters in Christ, within the constraints of the law, simply because they also are made in the image of this beautiful God whom we serve.


Being the Church,

Pastor Scott

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