Diocesan Convention 2018: Who is my Neighbor?

Diocesan Convention 2018: Who is my Neighbor?

Clergy at NORCOR Detention Center in Sheridan

The following is a lightly edited statement made as a point of personal privilege from the floor by Hjalmer Lofstrom of St. Michael & All Angels, Portland at the diocesan convention in November 2018.

As a community of faith, I believe that we must stand up and say no to any initiative or action that promotes racism, division and fear. This is what we say with our Baptismal Covenant when we are asked, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your Neighbor as yourself?” We respond, “I will, with God’s help.”

I would like to speak about immigration. Immigration is not just a political matter. Please let me carry that thought forward.

In the Gospel of Luke, 10:27, a lawyer asks, “Jesus, what is required to inherit eternal life?” (You all know of this encounter). Jesus replies by asking the legal expert what his own tradition requires. He replies by quoting from the Torah: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and, your neighbor as yourself.”

The lawyer then asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers this with the parable of the Good (merciful) Samaritan, who was a stranger, a foreigner profiled and walled off by political and societal prejudices. Jesus asks the lawyer which of these three men who came by does he think is a neighbor. He answers, “The merciful Samaritan.” Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.”

This was hardly a radical theology, as the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus also speaks of welcoming the stranger, saying, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien who shall be to you as the citizen among you.”

Last Saturday, October 27, at the Tree Of Life Temple in Pittsburgh, those who had gathered were reading from the Torah, chapters of Genesis which open on Judaism’s founding father and mother: Abraham and Sarah. In that story, three men show up to their tent — strangers — and the couple welcomes them: feeding them, giving them shade and washing their feet. The strangers turn out to be angels.

Words may fail us, but actions cannot.

30 Thirty Portland-area priests, ministers and rabbis appeared in court on Friday, November 2, to hear of their sentencing. They were had been arrested outside of the Portland Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail for standing up and speaking out about the injustices of our legal system towards immigrants.

Daily, for now, for over 600 days, ministers, priests and laity have been gathering outside the NORCOR jail in The Dalles, standing up and speaking out for the imprisoned immigrants.

IMIrJ (Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice) urges all people of faith to stand up and speak out, to reject hate and preserve our state free from racial profiling, as we did by voting NO on 105.

Beginning September 30 and for six days, 30 people walked and traveled from the Federal Correctional Institution, Sheridan, to NORCOR in The Dalles, calling for an end to profiling and the jailing of immigrants seeking asylum. Stopping at courthouses and churches along the way, they were joined by hundreds. What they sang was ‘put one foot in front of the other and lead with love’.

Asking “Who is my neighbor?” and “Won’t you be my neighbor?” are relevant faith-searching questions for all of us.

Jesus asked and then answered these questions, saying that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. And Mr. Rogers responded similarly, saying, “I like you just the way you are.” Every kid wanted to be Mr. Roger’s neighbor!

I have read through multiple resolutions passed by the General Episcopal Convention of The Episcopal Church. These were resolutions condemning the U.S. border policies on the treatment of women and children; calling for an end to the separation of children from their families; and encouraging local Episcopal Churches to become sanctuaries – places of welcome and refuge.

Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in an interview in The Guardian, says that moderate Christian voices are not being heard (emphasis added). This interview can be found by Googling an excerpt from an interview Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave to Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian and which included the following story:

A rabbi asked his students, “How do you know when the night has ended?” The students’ replies were, “When it’s daylight,” or “When you can no longer see stars,” or “When you can hear birds singing.” The answer, the rabbi said, was “When you could see your neighbor.”