The Pasadena Declaration
by the FTL branch in the United States of America/Canada.
(Versión en Español/Spanish Version)
March – 2008
We participants in the “Immigration, Mission and Community” Consultation, sponsored by the Latin American Theological Fellowship (FTL) that took place in Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California) on March 27-28, 2008, would like to thank God for the privilege of having attended this conference. We have gathered together to share experiences and reflections about the work that the Lord has entrusted to us. In a spirit of fraternal love and with hope in the God of justice, we emit the following declaration as an expression of what His Spirit has shown us and of our commitment to God.
As followers of Jesus Christ, and called to be pastors, professors, theologians, and denominational leaders represented at this conference and believing that God is the sovereign Lord over history, nations and earth, we wish to respond in faith to the Biblical teaching to fulfill the mission of God. Therefore, we understand and acknowledge that as pastoral leaders and disciples of Jesus Christ, our highest calling is to love God above everything else and, as a corollary, to serve those that God has brought into our congregations.
Therefore, we recognize that our Scriptural commitment “to obey God rather than men” leads us to minister to the foreigners in our midst. The Bible exhorts us to love and not to mistreat the foreigner. The Scriptures also affirm that God defends the cause of the orphans and the widows, and that He loves the foreigner. In order to better comprehend our contemporary reality in which many undocumented immigrants live, we commit ourselves to accompany them in the diverse areas of their lives. We will look for ways to encourage the intrinsic dignity of each person, because every human being has been created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27; Exodus 22:21-22; Leviticus 24:22; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Psalm 146:9; Ruth; Esther; Mark 12:30-31; Acts 5:29; 20:28)
In the whole world there is a continuous migration movement, not only between countries but within them as well. Upon migrating from rural regions to urban centers in search of better living conditions, the immigrant frequently experiences prejudice and rejection. In a similar manner, there is a great migratory flow from our Latin American countries to the United States and this frequently generates the same negative reactions that do not permit a full integration of immigrants into the North American society.
The vision of the Kingdom of God that includes people from every nation and language motivates us to create churches and communities that value the differences in lifestyles that immigrants bring with them. While the law in the United States increasingly closes the door on immigrants, in the Global South legislation is providing increasingly greater openness for multinational corporations. Free trade agreements are negotiated that facilitate the free flow of capital, resources, products and profits. Nevertheless, the immigrant who, due to these same trade agreements, increasingly feels the pressure to migrate for economic reasons, encounters that the free flow of labor is blocked.
Far from considering the current legislation as unchangeable, and as a church that believes in the power of the Resurrected Christ who crossed the border between God and humanity, we should be the first in promoting changes in the laws and in seeking other alternatives that encourage the integration of immigrants into our society. We also recognize the need for comprehensive immigration reforms that take into consideration the issues of employment, family and safety among others. (Exodus 1:8-14, Leviticus 23:22; Esther 4:12-14; Ruth 2:1-23; Jeremiah 29:7; Luke 10-1-12; Revelation 7:9-17)
Within this context of immigration, women face special challenges. Many women remain alone in their home countries waiting for the economic help to come from their husbands, brothers or sons who have emigrated. They frequently interpret the absence of their loves ones as an emotional abandonment. They have to assume the role of both father and mother for their children. When a woman does immigrate to another country, she has to face a new environment and needs to learn the new rules of the game in order to survive and lead her family. If she is undocumented, it is very difficult that she find legal protection in case of domestic abuse or rape. Another challenge arises within the church when Christian women receive the call to public ministry. They have to face the restrictions of the patriarchal model both in the majority culture as well as in the immigrant sub-culture. These women, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, are pioneers in making a way to serve their own people with the authority of pastors and preachers. (Acts 18:26; Romans 16:1-2,7; Galatians 3:28)
Biblical and Theological Foundations
The church, which are the people of God, are a pilgrim people, both in the historical/geographical sense, as well as in the eschatological meaning, given the fact that the church’s primary identity is the Kingdom or Reign of God. Therefore, we find the the Bible the mandate to treat the immigrant or the foreigner with compassion, equality and justice in the same way we would treat the orphan or the widow. The law in the Old Testament with regard for the foreigners was the means by God revealed his heart and expressed his love and discipline. He always sought to accept and protect the foreigner and to provide means for his or her integration into the people of God. God’s people should receive foreigners into their midst—without deviating from the exclusive worship of the Lord, and the foreigner should likewise submit to the law of God.
We recognize that, throughout history, the process of immigration, whether it has been intentional or not, has been an instrument for fulfilling the mission of God. The Lord calls the immigrant to not only be the object, but rather the active protagonist (=subject?) of mission and renewal of congregations and denominations. The call of Abraham and Sarah continues to be a paradigm for our calling to be a blessing for all the nations.
The mestiza, family, transnational and apostolic nature of the Latino church enables it to become agents of mission who can adapt to changing contexts. Although the church recognizes the institutional complexity of the situation of undocumented immigrants, the church is called to receive them and protect them, even as we wait for the new heavens and the new earth where people from all languages and nations will together worship the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 22:21-22; Acts 18:2; Ephesians 2:19; Hebrews 11:8-10, 13; 1st Peter 2:13)
- We celebrate the presence of immigrant churches with their vitality and witness in the United States.
- We celebrate the effort and dialogue that many churches have achieved in giving pastoral attention and legal aid to undocumented immigrants.
- We recognize that we participate in the structural, systemic, ecclesiastical and family sins that contribute to the exploitation of immigrants.
- We accept the challenge to overcome the fear and our lack of awareness of the “other,” the person who is different from us. We commit ourselves to promote a dialogue and open communication with non-Latino churches and groups within society.
- We recognize the call and ministry of women and the need to provide them with the same opportunities of education, leadership and ministry as men, because we recognize that their calling is from the Holy Spirit.
- We declare that churches should promote a permanent educational process regarding the situation of immigrants so that we can make our communities aware of their civil rights and responsibilities.
- We recognize that current immigration laws contain abusive and unjust elements; therefore we commit ourselves to take initiatives that promote significant changes in the current legislation.
- We declare that churches should facilitate the integration of immigrants within society as well as the appreciation of their culture richness by the majority culture.
- In a spirit of humility and repentance, we dedicate ourselves anew to God the Father who loves the foreigner, the widow and the orphan, to Jesus Christ who loved us even unto death, and to the Holy Spirit who renews the church, empowering Christians to fulfill their mission for the glory of God.
-Written by the Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana: Lindy Scott, 24013 N. Westlake Drive, Nine Mile Falls, WA, 99026.