|United Methodists commit to action on immigration|
Worshippers sing during the “Prayer, Renewal and Action on Immigration”
interfaith prayer vigil at Munger Place United Methodist Church in
UMNS photos by Gail E. Atwater.
By Denise Johnson Stovall*
Feb. 19, 2009 — DALLAS (UMNS)
United Methodists are responding with compassion to the “aliens” in
their midst with prayer vigils and letters to the president, members of
Congress, and other officials calling for immigration reform.
Many of the faith groups are using Leviticus 19:33-34 as their call
to justice: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat
him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your
native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am
the Lord your God.”
The Rev. Charles Stovall, pastor
of Munger Place, welcomes
prayer vigil participants.
The North Texas Annual (regional) Conference United Methodist Women
organized an interfaith prayer vigil Feb. 15, at Munger Place United
Methodist Church in Dallas, drawing more than 80 people from 10
countries outside of the United States.
While the election of Barack Obama as President has opened the
immigration door, “in reality, it must swing open wide,” said the Rev.
L. Charles Stovall, pastor at Munger Place. “We still need to be a
democracy that accepts all people.”
The event was part of a national effort supported by the United
Methodist Board of Church and Society in Washington and other religious
organizations to coincide with the Feb. 13-22 Congressional recess.
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, sponsors of the campaign,
reports more than 140 vigils are taking place and more events are
registering on the web site daily, according to Patricia Kupfer,
executive with America’s Voice, one of the faith-based organizations
participating in the campaign. “We are overwhelmed and inspired by the
response,” she said.
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix joined other
faith leaders and two members of Congress at a Feb. 11 press conference
in Washington to announce the launch of “Prayer, Renewal and Action on
“This movement of people of faith illustrates the importance of
immigrants and their families to faith communities and their insistence
that Congress and the [Obama] administration take leadership on passing
comprehensive immigration reform,” said Bill Mefford, executive with
the denomination’s social action agency.
Spark of compassion
Lori Stafford, an officer with the North Texas UMW, learned of the
national prayer vigil through a conference call with Mefford. “If we do
not make an immediate commitment to a compassionate and respectful
public dialogue on immigration, we risk further destruction in our
communities,” Stafford wrote in her letter to elected officials. “The
challenge is significant but with your support we are optimistic about
the future of the immigration debate in America.”
Musicians lead participants in song
during the Feb. 15 vigil.
During the close of the interfaith prayer vigil, Wendy Campbell, a
member of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, said she was honored to
meet the immigrants as people of faith.
“I want all the immigrants here to know what an inspiration they are
to me. I cannot imagine [you] leaving your home, knowing you will never
return,” she told them. “I was born in Kansas and have only moved four
times in my life…These moves were all within the United States, and I
always returned to the place that I had left.
“You must tell your stories. Your stories are key to changing the
attitudes about immigration. Tell your stories every chance you get to
everyone you meet.”
*Stovall is a free-lance writer in Dallas and a member of Munger Place United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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