ELCA Bishops in Iowa express the faith community’s call to provide care for the unaccompanied children from Central America

IOWA CITY, IA – Scripture repeatedly, and unapologetically, calls for God’s people to welcome the stranger, the alien, the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner. This is why the refugee crisis that continues to unfold on the southern border of the United States is of particular concern to Christians.

Reports from leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) who have visited the border have helped many of us who watch from afar to understand some of the dynamics that are lost in media reporting, especially when couched in the context of current political tensions and debate.

The recent surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is caused by the escalation of violence and poverty in Central America. The “Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act” of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush, requires that children who are seeking asylum be protected and given due process and sanctuary. But current circumstances have overtaxed transitional facilities, creating overflows, delays and the establishment of new shelters with conditions that undermine the progress that has been made in serving children in recent years.

While the most immediate pressures are felt in the border states, Iowans have a long and treasured history of opening our hearts and our doors to people who are in need, especially children. Even while holding divergent views on how best to shape and implement just and comprehensive immigration policy, people of goodwill can provide needed support, and when possible, a welcome place for these unaccompanied minors. For Christians, active hospitality in situations like this is a matter of faith, which is why so many believers here in Iowa, including members of the ELCA, are ready and willing to help.


Bishop Michael L. Burk
Southeastern Iowa Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Steven L. Ullestad
Northeastern Iowa Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Rodger Prois
Western Iowa Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

  1. July 22, 2014

    Thanks you for your joint statement. It should now be augmented with action including contacting our elected officials in Congress, the governor of Iowa and President Obama to halt deportation of these children, work to provide safe haven rather than detention for them, and to oppose annulment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which Congress is now preparing to do. Write letters of thans and support to Senator Tom Harkin for his refugee children’s advocacy and to Mayors Bill Gluba of Davenport and Frank Cownie of Des MJoines for working with faith-based groups and civic organizations to make their cities caring communities for these children. Finally, the Lutheran bishops should issue statements to the media as have bishops of other church denominations.

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