The Ekklesia Project, the Church, and Immigration
Jul 18, 2011 by M. Daniel Carroll R. | 0 Comments
I am writing this as I sit on a plane heading back to Denver from Chicago. I had come up a few days ago to participate in the annual gathering of the Ekklesia Project. This is a group of people from different parts of the country, who come together to talk and pray and worship around topics that stimulate thinking about what it means to be a Christ-follower and to be the Church that claims him as its Lord. The webpage (www.ekklesiaproject.org) describes the purpose of the group as:
Seeing Christ’s Body as our “first family,” The Ekklesia Project aims to put discipleship and the Church as an alternative community of practices, worship, and integration at the center of contemporary debates on Christianity and society. We work to assist the Church as it lives its true calling as the real-world community whose primary loyalty is to God’s Kingdom that has broken into the world in Jesus’ person, priorities and practices, and that continues to do so in and through the gathered Body of Christ.
This year the topic was immigration. In addition to my presentation that covered some of the biblical material on immigration, there were two other plenaries (as well as some pertinent workshops). These plenaries were given by Craig Wong and Dr. Elizabeth Newman.
Craig is on the staff of Grace Urban Ministries (www.gum.org), a church with Chinese-American roots that has planted an intentional congregation in the Mission District of San Francisco in order to minister to the vulnerable, which includes immigrants (primarily Hispanics). His talk centered on the nature of the Lord’s Table and its impact on the immigration debate.
At the Lord’s Table, Christians embrace a different story and way of looking at people that contradict the prevailing stories of our culture, which exclude and marginalize others. There we are reminded of the cross and resurrection. There we celebrate the truth that can detoxify of the prejudice and are offered an alternative set of values. At the Table, in Jesus, strangers become friends and members of the family of God with whom we can share, as we await a future that will be very unlike the antagonisms and injustices of today.
Dr. Newman teaches theology and ethics at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia. Her focus was the theme of hospitality. In our culture we suffer from a Martha Stewart view of hospitality, one in which we showcase our homes to briefly entertain friends. Biblical hospitality means reaching out even to those who may not be our friends, and it requires much more than a charitable impulse. It involves our being vulnerable to the differences in others and to the unexpected gift that they can be for our lives. We need to listen well, open our hearts, and to “dance” with those whom God brings across our path.
The themes of the Lord’s Table and hospitality are two wonderful ways to approach immigration. The force us to continue to try to think theologically—that is, very self-consciously from our Christian faith—about how we engage immigrants. Add these two themes to your biblical toolbox to inform your mind, touch your soul, and sustain whatever efforts you might be involved in to work toward immigration reform.