A Pastoral Letter Regarding Sanctuary

Beloved of Christ,

By now you may know that in Churchwide Assembly the ELCA declared itself to be a sanctuary denomination.

I am writing to you all because there is a lot of misinformation out there about what this means, particularly if you get news from Fox, who unfortunately did not portray this in any accurate way.

1. No congregation in the ELCA is being asked, expected, or required to break ANY law. Sanctuary is a call some of our congregations participate in. Most do not. There is no expectation that this will change, and your congregation will not be looked at as "bad" if you do not. I would not support any sort of movement that would obligate any congregation of our synod to break the law, and I supported the memorial to become a sanctuary denomination.

2. If you read the actual memorial itself you will see that what the ELCA committed to is to continue to support the work of Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service (LIRS); to advocate for fair treatment of migrants & refugees; and to work to close the child detention centers & end the practice of separating families from one another.

These are all things Lutherans have been doing for as long as there have been Lutherans. Many congregations have refugee resettlement experiences in their past, many congregations support the work of LIRS (they were warmly welcomed at our Synod Assembly this spring), & I think our church is acting in line with the commands of Jesus when we work to protect children.

The unfortunate piece of this is that we chose to use the word "sanctuary", which is a deeply loaded word in these troubled days. There was spirited debate about not using that designation, but that suggestion was defeated by the Churchwide voting members.

I am taking time after Assembly to be with my girls before school starts, but please feel free to reach out to me or my staff with any questions or concerns you may have. I will respond to any messages when I am back at work next week.

Our Church did good work in Milwaukee. Hard work. Uncomfortable work. Work that will leave us feeling a bit off-kilter for a little while. But Christ doesn't promise us that following him will be comfortable. He does, however, promise to be with us always.

Thanks be to God!
+Bishop Kristen Kuempel