The world is currently experiencing its largest refugee crisis since the second world war with more than 65 million people displaced by war. The majority of these refugees come from the Middle East and Africa and are Muslim. It’s an issue that’s fraught with controversy
Last September, President Barack Obama pledged to bring 85,000 refugees to the United States with 10,000 coming from Syria. Southern Baptists took a stand on the issue, which has become a political hot potato in the race for U.S. president, at their annual meeting held this year in St. Louis June 14-15.
Resolution 12: On Refugee Ministry acknowledged the suffering refugees endure and Baptist’s historical role in refugee care, calling upon them to “minister care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States.”
The resolution also called on the government to “implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process.”
Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale, came to the convention as a messenger, bringing with him three young men from his church, Dalton Sharrow, Sean Morecraft, and Brandon McNeely. Resolution 12 (scroll down to read the full text of the resolution) in particular, caught their attention, said Nelson. “We saw the resolutions and we saw what’s going on with the Confederate flag and some others, and we thought that’s awesome the walls have come down, but we need to communicate to the world outside the ports of America that when our government and society is saying, ‘No, don’t come,’ we represent a different Kingdom.”
Together, the four wrote and proposed an amendment to further strengthen the resolution. Their amendment encouraged, “Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne…”
The resolution received immediate support from the leaders of evangelical refugee relief organizations.
“I applaud the Southern Baptist leaders who have urged their churches and members to demonstrate Christ’s love to refugees, perhaps the most unwanted, unwelcome and unloved people in our world,” said Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision U.S.
Stephan Bauman, President of World Relief, expressed his gratefulness and said, “We believe that the biblical mandate for welcoming those fleeing persecution is clear. We see the arrival of refugees as a remarkable opportunity for the Church to live out our faith.”
Speaking with the Illinois Baptist shortly after the amendment was approved, Nelson explained, “Our citizenship is in a different place. We want to communicate clearly we belong to a different Kingdom. It’s not an American Kingdom, it’s the Kingdom of God. We want to tell all those who are orphans and refugees you’re welcome here. I don’t care what religion, what background, you’re welcome because we believe the gospel can rescue and save everyone.”
“When we first heard David Platt give his story about the refugee issues in Somalia and Syria and other places, I couldn’t stop weeping,” Nelson said, his voice breaking. “I started seeing the kids that had no place to go. All of a sudden I thought, we have 46,000 Southern Baptist churches, what would happen if each one of those churches said we’ll take a refugee. We’ll take a family.”
Nelson shared how another Southern Baptist pastor was part of their inspiration. As they were writing it, a friend of Nelson’s who is originally from India stopped to say hello. The friend, now a pastor in South Carolina, “came over here in 1990 as a Hindu, had his gods in a suitcase,” described Nelson.
That friend was a refugee when he came to the United States and learned about Christ. “It was a Baptist family that adopted him, let him come and live with them, where he saw the gospel lived out, and as a result gave up his Hindu background, gave up his Hindu gods,” Nelson told the Illinois Baptist. “Now he’s going back to India every year planting churches. I thought if we’re going to reach the nations, and we’re going to convince the world that the gospel is for everybody, we’ve got to set the standard and say, ya’ll come.”
Nelson encourages Christians to reach out to refugees settling into their communities. “We’ve got homes, we’ve got hearts, we don’t do bombs and bullets we do hearts and homes,” he said.
– Lisa Misner Sergent
RESOLUTION 12: ON REFUGEE MINISTRY
WHEREAS, The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over sixty million people displaced throughout the world and considered refugees; and
WHEREAS, War, violence, genocide, religious persecution, and other forms of oppression have contributed to massive people movements across the globe, as millions flee for their lives; and
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have a long record of caring for and ministering to refugees throughout our history; and
WHEREAS, This history of refugee ministry includes the sponsoring of almost 15,000 refugees from 1975–1985, resulting in the starting of 281 ethnic churches and a 1985 resolution commemorating this decade of ministry; and
WHEREAS, There are expected to be 85,000 refugees coming into the United States in 2016 from four continents and the Caribbean; and
WHEREAS, Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner (Exodus 22:21–24; Exodus 23:9–12; Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:17–22; Deuteronomy 24:17–22; Deuteronomy 26:5–13; Psalm 146:8–9; Matthew 25:35–40); now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, June 14–15, 2016, encourage Southern Baptists to minister care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9-12; Psalm 68:5; James 1:27; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 19:33-34); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on the governing authorities to implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process, guarding against anyone intent on doing harm; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands.