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On Becoming a Sanctuary Congregation

from Rev. Doug Donley, pastor of University Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

On the Process

In February, we held several discussions about what to do in order to protect vulnerable immigrants who might face deportation. We have found among us a renewed sense of responsibility to advocate and march alongside and on behalf of those who are increasingly targeted by the current administration.

As people of faith, we are convicted by the scriptural injunction to welcome the outcast and protect the vulnerable. Leviticus 19: 34 makes our stance abundantly clear: "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The UBC Council voted on February 19th to recommend that University Baptist Church (UBC) become a sanctuary congregation. There will be a specially called church meeting on March 12th to act on this recommendation. In the coming weeks we will continue to address lingering questions and we will try to anticipate how this might look for us as a congregation. We are consulting with ISAIAH, an ecumenical advocacy organization that would vet potential sanctuary recipients. We are also speaking with other neighborhood churches, our tenants, and legal experts so that we can address concerns and strategies.

Already, 24 congregations across the Twin Cities have declared themselves sanctuary churches. Some are willing to house people in their buildings and some will be offering material and people-power support for the churches that might house people. The Council is recommending not only that we offer support for sanctuary churches, but that we offer to house people in our building. It would require some rearranging of rooms, security protocol and some minor inconvenience on our part, but this pales in comparison to the disruption and fear experienced by our immigrant neighbors.

Regardless of the vote on the 12th of March, we are already a part of a movement that welcomes the outcast and takes seriously the Biblical directive to be our brother’s/sister’s keeper. Pray for the church as we make this decision. Also pray for the people who are negatively affected by our country’s exclusionary practices.

On the Decision

Yesterday, the UBC community overwhelmingly voted to become a Sanctuary church.  We are joining a movement that builds on our practice of welcoming and affirming all people. We see this as an extension of our long-held stance as a church that we enter into community with people who are the most vulnerable in our society.  We are establishing a team that will lead this ministry.  Let me know if you want to be a part of this team. At present, we are committed to hosting people in our building or supporting other faith communities that are hosting people. This feels like a Spirit-led Kairos moment for our church. I feel very blessed to be a part of this great congregation.

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