June 20, 2018
I write as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri to deplore the current administration's policies and actions on the southern border of the United States. An asylum-seeker has a guaranteed right under international law to enter another country for purposes of safety and refuge. To criminalize any and every claim to this right is unjust and contravenes the long-honored body of law in place for the sake of refugees. And to turn refugees' request for asylum into a pretext for the separation of parents from their children boggles the mind and horrifies the spirit and soul. I am horrified.
The scriptural tradition insures a place for the most vulnerable among the people, the widowed and orphaned, the alien and stranger. Jesus himself sought out those with no place whatsoever—people treated as untouchable, the tax collectors who were agents of a foreign empire, foreigners, and women—to give them a place at the center, closest to him. Matthew tells that the tyranny of Herod forced Mary and Joseph to take the child Jesus to seek refuge in an unlikely place, the land of Egypt. We serve a Savior who once sought asylum.
As it happens, today is World Refugee Day, and as I write these words, the President has committed to temper the government's response to persons asking for asylum, although the details of his commitment are not yet public. These circumstances give rise to some hope, but they still require our vigilance.
Now, however, is a time for people of faith to contact the White House, our members of Congress, and the Governor's office (under whose mandate Missouri National Guard troops have been deployed on the southern border). Now is a time to pray and to search our own consciences. Now is a time to act, for the sake of the least of these brothers and sisters, children of God.
The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith
10th Bishop of Missouri