By / Nov 23

Southern Baptists believe that all men and women are created in the image of God and should be safe from harm. God has called Christians to care for the vulnerable both at home and abroad and frequently chastises those who fail to protect the widow, orphan, immigrant, and the poor (Matthew 25:35-40; James 1:27). The ERLC is committed to advocating for human dignity and justice for all vulnerable people.

In 2018, Southern Baptists passed a resolution affirming that God commands his people to treat immigrants with the same respect and dignity as those native born (Leviticus 19:33–34; Jeremiah 7:5–7; Ezekiel 47:22; Zechariah 7:9–10). Additionally, that resolution declared that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Southern Baptists encouraged all elected officials to do everything in their power to advocate for a just and equitable immigration system.

Women and children in Central America face high levels of violence, including femicide. Northern Triangle countries have some of the highest homicide rates in the world, with many crimes against women going unreported due to government corruption and justice system failures. This lack of protection and threat of violence has led many vulnerable women and children to make the dangerous journey to the United States to seek asylum protections. Gender-based violence is one of the driving forces of migration, and many female migrants are subjected to rape or sexual abuse on their journey through Mexico.

The Central American Women and Children Protection Act would decrease violence against women and children in Central America by making homes and communities safer. Through agreements with participating governments, funding is provided to increase access to support services for survivors of violence, improve the responsiveness of the justice system to crimes against women and children, and resource local partners who can provide necessary care to vulnerable families. 

By deterring violence and increasing local protections, fewer women and children will have to make the dangerous journey to the United States. The ERLC, along with other faith groups, has urged the administration and Congress to prioritize addressing the root causes of migration. Making local communities more just and secure allows women and children to remain safe at home and avoid the additional risk of violence that they assume when they are forced to migrate. 

The ERLC urges Congress to swiftly pass the Central American Women and Children Protection Act and provide support to vulnerable populations in Central America.

By / Nov 1

Of those most tragically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1.5 million children who lost parents or grandparents worldwide may be the most heartbreaking. In the wake of such loss, international child welfare advocates have bolstered efforts to care for these newly orphaned children. 

Many of those advocates are Christian nonprofit organizations like Faith to Action Initiative (FAI) and Lifeline Children’s Services. Both groups exist to resource churches and communities with what they need to help orphans and vulnerable children in the name of Jesus. 

“COVID has had an incredibly horrific impact on families and children around the world,” Herbie Newell, president of Lifeline Children’s Services. “It’s multiplied poverty, it’s multiplied helplessness and hopelessness.” 

A collaborative movement to care for children

Thankfully, there is a collaborative movement afoot to provide the best care possible. Recently, UNICEF held an annual event in recognition of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 30 years ago, world leaders committed to an international agreement granting children the same human rights as adults. It wasn’t until 2019, however, that the group signed and adopted a resolution that committed to prioritizing family-based care over institutionalized care for children. 

At the event, FAI presented a letter urging governments to acknowledge the significant role Christian nonprofits play in caring for orphans and to include them in care reform efforts. A report from the Better Care Network found that one of the largest groups supporting orphanages abroad are evangelical, Protestant churches. 

Despite that reality, said FAI’s Executive Director Elli Oswald, at times it can feel as if UN reforms are more like mandates than collaborative solutions. “We think it’s important for Christians to share their experiences,” said Oswald. “They [can then] build their ownership over changes that need to happen.” 

In the letter, FAI proposed that countries be required to regulate the funding investment from Christian nonprofits, to ensure their contributions go exclusively toward their family-based care goals. 

A move toward family-based care

The 2019 resolution and move to recognize Christian leadership in orphan care is even more important today, as the unanticipated outcome of a worldwide pandemic left so many without nuclear families. A move toward family-based care on an international level -— through economic support, kinship care, foster care, and adoption — will help create better results for children, who fare better in such environments. 

In the United States, the orphanage is a thing of the past since the 1950s and 60s transition to almost exclusively government-funded foster care as the accepted model of care. But these institutions are still prevalent in many countries around the world. To be clear, orphanages are often the best care available — and are certainly important for children without other options — but institutional care isn’t optimal. 

FAI and other groups ultimately hope to create family-based care options everywhere. In 2019, all member states in the UN committed to moving toward this goal, but the process isn’t quick or easy. While governments have been amenable to working with faith-based organizations, FAI and its coalitions, including World Vision, Bethany Christian Services, and Catholic Relief Services, would like to see Christians get a more prominent seat at the table. In doing so, they could shift reforms to more gospel-centered priorities rooted in the family model God created from day 1. 

Part of this shift, said Oswald, would include reforms to economically and strategically equip vulnerable families before orphancare is needed. Many so-called orphaned children in third-world countries actually have at least one living parent. But because social systems don’t offer them the economic stability they need to continue parenting through struggle, kids often end up institutionalized. Part of orphancare reform would include putting money toward in-tact families who just need a little help to survive hard times. 

Centralizing Christian organizations in conversations about orphancare matters greatly. It puts the gospel front and center and amplifies the voices of those most committed to caring for children with their pocket books and their lives. The Bible calls all Christians to “look after orphans” (James 1:27) — and it’s clear from the Creation story that the family unit is God’s intent for the flourishing of all people (Genesis 1). 

“It’s vitally important that the Church work together to ensure that institutions are a last resort for vulnerable children who don’t have a family,” said Newell. “Adoption is still a great way to live out the gospel, and we’re grateful to work with so many loving Christian families to facilitate that.” 

With so many divisive issues on the line across the world, there’s one that nearly everyone can agree on: keeping children around the world safe, housed, fed, and loved. There is no perfect way to ensure this for every child, but Christian organizations like FAI, Lifeline, and others are doing all they can to make it so for as many children as possible. 

By / Oct 13

The end of the year is always busy on Capitol Hill, as Congress wraps up their remaining legislative work. There’s a handful of “must-pass” pieces of legislation that are seen as critical for  the U.S. government to continue operating. Before the end of 2021, Congress must pass a budget to fund the government, pass the ​​National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and raise the debt ceiling again. Additionally, Congressional Democrats want to use reconciliation to pass President Biden’s “Build Back Better” policy agenda.

The ERLC is actively involved in monitoring these pieces of legislation and advocating for the inclusion of pro-life policies (such as the Hyde Amendment) and the removal of harmful sexual orientation and gender identity language. We regularly work with committee and leadership offices to advocate for pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that recognize God’s gracious love for every human life and protect our freedom to live according to our deeply held religious beliefs. 

As the Legislative Branch wraps up its work for the first session of the 117th Congress, here are some of the ERLC’s top priorities for the rest of the year.

Appropriations

The FY2022 House appropriations bill is troubling because it removes several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. For the first time since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bill and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for the first time since 2005. The amendment protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

The ERLC sent congressional leadership a letter urging them to adhere to critical pro-life policy riders, including the Hyde Amendment, and we joined dozens of pro-life coalition partners in sending congressional leadership a similar letter. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the appropriations bills. As the Senate works on the bills, we strongly urge Senate leadership to ensure that important pro-life and conscience-protecting riders are included. 

Opposing the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021

In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021.” This legislation is one of the most pro-abortion bills to have ever passed the House. The bill removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the consciences of American taxpayers and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Longstanding pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment would be removed.

Despite the bill’s name, vulnerable women and families will only be put more at risk if the Women’s Health Protection Act were to ever become law. Additionally, abortion is not healthcare. If human dignity is given to each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on the image of God but also causes irreparable harm on a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

Senators Schumer, Murray, Blumenthal, and Durbin issued a joint statement, promising to bring the bill to the Senate floor “soon” for consideration. ​​

The ERLC is strongly opposed to this bill and any effort to legalize abortion. We urge the Senate not to pass this destructive piece of legislation. It would put thousands of vulnerable, preborn lives at risk and steamroll over the the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to pay for or be compelled to provide abortions.

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

The Southern Baptist Convention was the first denomination to pass a resolution specifically labeling what’s happening to the Uyghur people as a genocide. The ERLC advocated for the Trump administration to make an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” On the last day of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a genocide determination, and the U.S. became the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest. The Biden administration has maintained that the genocide against the Uyghur people is “ongoing.” 

While the genocide determination was an important step in countering the CCP the U.S. House of Representatives should swiftly pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. This bipartisan and bicameral piece of legislation prohibits goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang or by entities using Uyghur labor forcibly transferred from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. This legislation also instructs the U.S. government to impose sanctions against any foreign person who knowingly engages in the forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

For further reading:

Adoptee Citizenship Act 

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the administrative steps for an adoptive family were unnecessarily burdensome. In addition to the lengthy adoption process, families had to engage in a lengthy naturalization process for their children. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 streamlined the process, and granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the United States, who had at least one parent who was a U.S. Citizen. While the intercountry adoption process remains a lengthy one, taking anywhere from one to four years, adoptive families no longer have to worry about the lengthy naturalization process.

Unfortunately, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 did not include adoptees who were 18 and older when the law took effect. This loophole left people legally adopted as children and raised in the United States without citizenship. The exclusion resulted in numerous difficulties for impacted adoptees. Because of a lack of citizenship, everyday activities for these individuals like obtaining a driver’s license, receiving financial aid at college, applying for jobs, working for the government, or traveling abroad are restricted.

The Adoptee Citizenship Act fixes this problem by making citizenship automatic for international adoptees who were legally adopted by U.S. citizens as children, regardless of their age when the Child Citizenship Act took effect. The Adoptee Citizenship Act has large bipartisan and bicameral support. The ERLC is engaged with a broad coalition invested in child welfare to urge members of Congress to swiftly pass this bill and secure permanent citizenship for the thousands of impacted adoptees. The bill’s passage would be an important step to ensuring that adoptees are treated the same way under the law as natural born citizen

For further reading:

In addition to our Congressional advocacy, the 2021-22 term of the U.S. Supreme Court is in full swing, and the ERLC has submitted a number of amicus briefs on cases that could have major implications on both religious liberty and life issues. The ERLC will always advocate for life, religious liberty and human flourishing before Congress, the courts, and in the public square. 

By / Sep 1

Filder Hilaire was a schoolteacher before being called to something different. Born in Haiti, he has experienced much of the challenges the country offers. Filder lives as most Haitians do, without much physical provision; however not dissimilar to his fellow countrymen, he maintains a joyful spirit and a persevering work ethic which is unexplained outside of the love of Christ.

Nine years ago, Filder began work helping families adopt through Lifeline Children’s Services. Since that time, he has become an attorney and now serves our families through the legal side of their Hatian adoption journey. Over this time period, he has helped dozens of children find a family who will be theirs forever. 

Filder’s spirit of hope, rooted in the gospel, has helped many Haitian and U.S. adoptive families through unspeakable hardship. Filder is not unlike so many other Haitians — living in a land where 90% of the families are consistently vulnerable to natural disasters and 60% live in abject poverty. These realities came to bear for Haitians in southwestern Haiti after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed over 2,200 people, injured 10,000 more, and destroyed 50,000 homes earlier this month. These hardships and emotional and physical damage were immediately compounded by Tropical Storm Grace last week. 

Filder and his family were not immune to the crisis as his wife’s family lost everything they had in this latest earthquake.

While much of the world’s eyes are rightly on Afghanistan and the refugee crisis that has resulted, we must not overlook the immediate suffering in Haiti — a people with an indestructible spirit but who have experienced tragedy upon tragedy as of late and over their turbulent history.

We can’t forget the devastation in Haiti in the midst of the continued spread of COVID-19, the global supply chain crisis, the heat waves and wildfires, and the ever-growing food and housing insecurity ravaging countless poor nations. To all of these areas which Haitians face, there seems no end.

We must remember that Haiti is not beyond the notice of God. His reach is long to heal and help a people who are kind and joyful, even in the most difficult of circumstances. They are endearing and resilient even as they fight disease, unemployment, violence, lack of healthcare, and all other sorts of grave challenges; however, many Haitians lack the greater hope which Filder has because of the gospel. 

Showing generosity to the people of Haiti

Lifeline Children’s Services has facilitated more than 60 adoptions in Haiti — it is a nation that we love dearly and that we want to impact with both immediate help and the enduring hope of the gospel. International adoption is the most appropriate way to live out God’s heart for the sanctity of life and human dignity for some children, but we also must be involved with addressing the root issues that lead to family displacement. 

I want to be like my brother Filder —marked by a joyful spirit and a persevering work ethic flowing from Christ’s presence in his life. We have much to learn from him and many others in Haiti. But for now, we also must help them. 

Like the early church, we want to be people who give sacrificially of all God has given to us: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 2:32). Whether in a local context or as part of the global body of Christ, our call is bent toward generosity.

What does this look like? 

  1. Financial generosity. Thousands of people in Haiti now lack basic needs of food and home supplies. They are facing insecurities on a level not seen in years. There are wonderful Christian charities who are on the front lines of meeting financial and nutrition needs like our friends at SEND Relief, World Vision, Compassion, and Samaritan’s Purse.
  2. Emotional and spiritual generosity. Haiti may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from many of us, but we are one church body suffering under the realities of a hurting world. Spend time reading about the crisis and the people of Haiti as a way to open your heart to a people of both joy and sorrow. Spend time lamenting with our brothers and sisters, but also fervently praying for them and with them. Remember them in your prayers and ask God for his grace and mercy to be shown to those in Haiti.
  3. Relational generosity. There are Haitian immigrants all around us in America. Consider how you can develop relationships to support those who may have extended family and friends impacted by the latest crises.

At Lifeline, we have also established a fund to help those in Haiti who have lost everything. We are partnering with organizations on the ground to help those impacted by the recent disasters, providing necessary items to those in need.

Our omniscient God’s eyes are on Afghanistan and Haiti at the same time. And his eyes are on you and me to offer what he would like to give — joy-filled hope. Filder and countless others in Haiti will continue to show us what it means to work hard and work joyfully even during times of tragedy. But how much better it would be if we showed them that they weren’t alone even as other eyes are turned elsewhere?  

By / Jul 30


The ERLC has submitted an amicus brief in an important Supreme Court case that could affect the future of abortion in America. The amicus brief explains why the court should overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), twin decisions that have prevented states from prohibiting abortion.  

“For too long, the Roe and Casey decisions have allowed our nation to turn a blind eye to the plight of those who have no voice,” said Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, ERLC’s acting director of public policy. “Our brief asks the Court to overturn those two cases and set a new precedent that respects every life. With each passing day, more and more people recognize preborn lives are worthy of protection. The Dobbs case provides another chance for the Court to come to that same conclusion and affirm the fundamental right to life.”

An amicus brief is a learned treatise submitted by an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”), someone who is not a party to a case who offers information that bears on the case but that has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court. The amicus brief is a way to introduce concerns ensuring that the possibly broad legal effects of a court decision will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.

ERLC joined other religious organizations — including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — in filing the brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Supreme Court agreed this past May to revisit a previous decision “by reviewing a Mississippi law that would replace the ‘viability standard’ with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.” Viability refers to the stage of development at which an unborn child is capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. The viability standard is the primary justification for supporting federal legal precedents regarding abortion. Gerard Bradley, a law professor at Notre Dame, says, “the removal of the judicially created barrier of ‘viability’ could let loose a cascade of pre-viability prohibitions, and in due course test the hypothesis that there is no principled, coherent stopping point between removal of the ‘viability’ standard and flat-out reversal of Roe.”

The brief ERLC joined requests that the Supreme Court uphold the Mississippi ban and says the U.S. Constitution “does not create a right to an abortion of an unborn child before viability or at any other stage of pregnancy. An asserted right to abortion has no basis in constitutional text or in American history and tradition.”

The brief also points out that the state has an interest in protecting human life. 

“Government has many responsibilities. Chief among them is protecting innocent life,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC chief of staff. “How much more important is that responsibility when it comes to protecting preborn lives that cannot speak for themselves? Christians have long pleaded the case for America to recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. This case gives us another opportunity to do so. Until that happens, our nation will not be able to fully achieve that lofty goal of being a land that preserves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every individual.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case sometime between October and April, and should issue a ruling next summer.

The ERLC will always advocate for life, in the public square, before the courts, and before Congress.

By / Jul 27

The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has passed out of committee all 12 appropriations bills for FY2022. House floor consideration is expected the week of July 26 and will likely include a seven-bill minibus, with the possibility for three standalone measures.

The U.S. Senate has not considered FY2022 appropriations. 

Southern Baptists affirm the full dignity of every human being and that every life is  worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God and his knowledge of each of us even precedes the creative act of conception (Jer. 1:5; Psalm 139:13). At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for  every single human being, without any reservation.”  

The ERLC is committed to conscience protection policies because they uphold two of our most closely held convictions. First, we work to protect the consciences of our neighbors because we believe religious freedom is an inalienable human right, thankfully secured as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. Second, protecting healthcare workers from the coercive power of the profit-seeking, on-demand abortion industry is a pro-life responsibility.  

The ERLC opposes appropriation riders that deny religious freedom and conscience  protections to millions of Americans. Efforts to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back religious freedom and conscience protections. Many of the riders discussed below do the same. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

The FY2022 House appropriations bill is troubling because it removes several longstanding pro-life riders from the budget. For the first time since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has not been included in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. Just last month, at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, messengers unanimously approved a resolution condemning efforts to strip Hyde from any federal appropriations bill and called upon Congress to uphold all pro-life riders.

Additionally, the appropriations bills removed the Weldon Amendment for the first time since 2005. The amendment protects the rights of conscience for healthcare professionals and institutions by preventing HHS from denying funding to recipients that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortion. The budget would also prohibit any president from reinstituting the Mexico City Policy, reestablished and expanded by President Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy.

Earlier this year, the ERLC sent congressional leadership a letter urging them to adhere to critical pro-life policy riders, including the Hyde Amendment. In May, we joined dozens of pro-life coalition partners in sending congressional leadership a similar letter. Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included. The ERLC will continue to advocate for these pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life. 

By / Jul 13

Many people are released from prison with little more than a bus ticket and a bit of cash. Walking free can feel exhilarating — and terrifying.

“You’re used to the structured environment and people telling you when to wake up,” says Jason, a formerly incarcerated man from Detroit. “[After prison] your freedom is given to you all over again. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that moment.”

Struggles after incarceration

More than 600,000 people return home from incarceration each year. Jason’s journey out of prison, along with the reentry stories of Jeffrey (“Hajee”) in Virginia and Alona in Oklahoma, begins to unfold on screen in A New Day 1, a new documentary short film by Prison Fellowship®.

Often, people leave prison without much support or stability. Jason, Hajee, and Alona each experienced exceptional levels of support, starting with Prison Fellowship Academy®, a long-term, intensive program, and continuing postrelease with halfway houses, churches, family, and community. And each of them still experienced difficult hurdles on the path forward.

People who commit crimes should be held accountable, seek help dealing with issues underlying their behavior, and make an effort to repair the harm they have caused. Once people have paid their debt to society, they should have a fresh start. But more than 44,000 documented legal restrictions, along with widespread social stigma, can hinder people who live in the shadow of a criminal record. Immediately past the prison gates, they face limited access to education, jobs, housing, and other necessities for a full and productive life. 

Jason struggled to secure a job due to his criminal record, which would make it difficult to pay his bills. Hajee, too, faced hurdles; he found work, but when his company faced financial struggles in the pandemic, Hajee was let go. Jason and Hajee both admitted they had to be diligent to surround themselves with positive influences in their old neighborhoods. Alona took back her responsibility of being a mother and primary caregiver for her three children while trying to follow her probation requirements and rules of the transition home. And the stress took a toll on her. 

All three of them knew reentry wouldn’t be easy. But when reality hit, the challenges could seem overwhelming.

And returning citizens aren’t the only ones who suffer when their past holds them back. When people with a criminal record face reentry barriers, their children and families are impacted, too. Not to mention society at large — the U.S. loses some $78 billion a year in economic output because people with a criminal record cannot participate fully in the workforce. 

Showing the hope of the gospel 

Too often, men and women stay trapped in the cycle: crime, incarceration, reentry, repeat. Not only do communities continue to experience the brokenness of crime; everyone misses out on the hope of second chances — the realized potential of people who have paid their debt to society and desire to contribute.

Each person is made in the image of God, and no life is beyond his reach. Followers of Christ are called to share the grace and truth of the gospel with all people and to minister to those who are marginalized or oppressed. The act of serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families in the name of Jesus is not only a ministry but also a means of worship and spiritual growth. Recognizing the basic, God-given dignity of each individual, we should create a culture that celebrates formerly incarcerated people’s worth and potential, regardless of their past.

Most people behind bars will be released one day. Many of us know someone who is doing time or has been incarcerated in the past, and their criminal record haunts them after they walk free. Your church can respond by addressing the needs of returning citizens and being a place of welcome. 

But we cannot effectively love and serve returning citizens without understanding the unique issues and challenges they face — from barriers to employment, to impact on families, to mental health struggles and social reproach.

 A New Day 1 allows us to witness the journeys of people leaving prison, so we might learn, empathize, and respond to our own formerly incarcerated neighbors with the love of Christ. Prison Fellowship’s free, downloadable discussion guide for A New Day 1 will help you explore next steps for engaging further. Gather your friends, small group, or coworkers for a virtual or in-person screening of the film, and then unpack it together using the prepared questions and helpful information.

By / Jun 29

Forced displacement is a global crisis that grows every year. In the face of these conditions, sympathy toward displaced people is often overshadowed by fear and concern about security, economics, and culture. As the global refugee crisis worsens, Christians need a perspective that considers Scripture and political realities and can be applied at the local church, national, and international levels. 

In Refuge Reimagined, Mark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville present a compassionate approach to displaced people based on a biblical ethic of kinship. The authors apply the call of God’s people to compassion and kinship to the complexities of the global refugee crisis, challenging a fear-based ethic and casting a vision for a hopeful and generous way forward. Read below to discover more insights from the authors’ book about forced displacement and the church. 

What led to your interest in studying and now sharing about biblical kinship and refugees?

We have been thinking and writing about local and national issues and global justice for refugees for some years. As we discussed refugee issues together a few years ago, we noticed that, on the one hand, Mark was finding that biblical arguments for the compassionate welcome of strangers were often met with the response: but you misunderstand politics. You have not grappled with the conceptual limits and large-scale practicalities of applying this to nations. 

On the other hand, Luke found that political arguments offering for a more compassionate approach to refugees were often met with the response: but you misunderstand the Bible. The biblical call to welcome the stranger is not as straightforward as you think. 

And so we thought it could be helpful to write a book that addresses each of these responses at once, drawing on our complementary interests and expertise in biblical, missional, and political theology (Mark) and history, political theory, and international relations (Luke).

Your approach to compassion for displaced people is centered on a biblical ethic of kinship. What is a biblical ethic of kinship?

In our book, Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics, we highlight the biblical mandate for a thick form of kinship with the displaced, a kinship that embraces and enfolds vulnerable strangers into church communities and national communities, a deeply relational kinship.  

A biblical ethic of kinship is unfolded throughout the biblical story. We see it, for example, in the so-called Golden Rule, Jesus’ command: “You shall love the Lord your God . . . and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30; Matt. 22:37–39; cf. Luke 10:27). The “love” language found in the Gospels here derives from kinship language. “Love” means to enfold and protect another person as one would a family member. It means to live in solidarity with someone who needs it, as makeshift family. 

Of course, Jesus didn’t invent this command. Rather, he interprets the Old Testament law as fulfilled in his own life and ministry, as he gathered a faithful remnant, an eschatological Israel. With these words, Jesus is echoing the Pentateuch’s teaching on those to whom kinship-love is due under the covenant. Kinship-love is due to God (Deut. 6:5), to one’s neighbor (that is, one’s kinsperson; see Lev. 19:18), and also to the stranger (the outsider who is to be enfolded as kin; see Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:18). These three kinship-loves are interdependent, expressing an organic covenant life that is emphatically oriented toward others and in particular toward the weakest among us.

What are some of the global conditions that may lead to an increase in the amount of displaced people in the coming decades?

The global number of forcibly displaced people has been increasing by millions each year for many years now, to the point that presently 80 million people find themselves displaced by persecution, violence, human rights violations, and events that seriously disturb social order. Many of these problems are becoming more drawn out and intractable: civil wars are lasting longer, displacement-generating natural and human-made events are occurring more regularly. And climate change already exacerbates these problems — and will likely continue to — as it amplifies food and water insecurity and contributes to triggering or prolonging armed conflicts in various parts of the world.

The refugee crisis is intertwined with many vast and complex issues. Where is a good place for people to start becoming informed if they feel overwhelmed by the subject?

The website of UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, offers insight into the vitality and resourcefulness of people on the move. It has up-to-date information on global conflicts that cause displacement as well as creative responses. For an orientation to engaging the topic thoughtfully, take a look at the film, “Borderstory,” produced by Erin Goheen Glanville (24 minutes). 

How might you respond to those who believe that tackling the issue of refugees is too political or idealistic?

In response to the charge of being too political, we suggest that the mission of God surely includes within its scope not only the church but also the nation and indeed the world. Through Scripture, we discern God’s desire not only for Christ-followers but also for nations, and we thereby discern what the Spirit is longing to restore, and is busy restoring, in the world. Mission is the encounter with the world of a community gathered by Christ to be caught up in the Father’s reconciling purpose for all of Creation. We should strive, then, to seek to discern God’s reconciling purpose for the nation and the world concerning refugees and other displaced people. 

In response to the charge of being too idealistic and the suggestion that we should argue for more “realistic” and incremental change, we acknowledge that there can be a time and a place for seeking to nudge reluctant communities and their leaders toward more compassionate rhetoric and more generous policies toward refugees; a time and a place for pursuing marginal gains in the direction of justice. But we take as the task of our book to examine God’s vision for how communities should engage with displaced outsiders and to explore how this vision might ideally shape the actions of church, national, and global communities today. Our book is idealistic in the sense that God’s desire for human society is so much more beautiful than the present reality. Only once we comprehend the ideal can we know what we ought to strive for by the power of the Spirit.

One of your chapters is titled “Relinquishing Fear, Nurturing Compassion, Institutionalizing Love.” What are some steps we can take to foster a more loving and compassionate, less fearful approach to the refugee crisis?

A first step is to cultivate tenderness (Mark 1:40-41). Some of us live close to refugees, and some of us don’t. Yet, all of us live nearby to struggling single parents, aging seniors, people who are lonely, mentally ill, addicted, anxious, hungry, or depressed. Indeed, are we not all broken in some of these ways? 

Is Christ inviting you into a time of discernment around ways in which you might express the tenderness of Christ? For example, are you being called into your local school to assist children who need help in reading? Is your church being called to start a program to offer meaningful work for underemployed people in your neighborhood? Is Christ leading you to be a companion to lonely people in your church, lonely people like you? Are you being called to care for the creation, our common home? Our tenderness is a sign that the Spirit of Christ is moving among us (Phil 2:1).

A second step toward creative kinship is sharing life in diversity, as we explore in chapter five of our book. Both as households and as churches we need to remodel our kinship circles around the example of Christ. How can your worshiping community begin to reflect the diversity of your neighborhood? Do you need to sing in other languages? Do you need to prioritize those with little as you set your table, as Christ did? Do you need to contemplate a broader range of issues than your preaching and Bible studies tend to address? 

A third step is learning with others. Perhaps some friends would join you in a book group, for example. 

What can the church learn from our displaced brothers and sisters around the world?

Can we tell you a story from our book? Both of us are Australian, though Mark resides in Vancouver. Our book describes how people arriving by boat to seek asylum in Australia are mandatorily detained in facilities on Manus Island and Nauru. We speak about the injustice of this policy and the harm that it does to already vulnerable people.  

Our friend, Ebony Birchall, is a gifted and compassionate Christian lawyer in Sydney, Australia, who uses her professional skills in solidarity with refugees. Birchall both serves these refugees and considers working with refugees to be a gift. For example, when she expressed compassion to one Christian refugee, the man said to her: “Don’t worry. I know that the Australian Government isn’t the most powerful thing in the world. I trust in God, and I know that this will end.” 

Birchall was struck in that moment by the contrast between the many Australian Christians who support this policy and this man who is still pointing to God amidst the suffering of detention. She reflects: “There is a gift in knowing that life isn’t about buying a house and going on holidays. It is this work that gives me joy and fulfillment. This is the sort of thing that builds my character and my faith in God.” 

The truth is, there are more Christians in the global south than in Western nations. Many Christians are coming to Western nations as refugees — the gospel is coming to us! A greater spiritual passion and vitality often characterize churches birthed by refugees.

How can the church best serve displaced people in their communities?

If you have this opportunity for a relationship with newcomers, engage humbly, anticipating that you will transform and enrich each other just like two friends would. Be curious as to how ‘helper’ dynamic might be flipped. Ideally, we were both giving and receiving. This is one step on the road toward friendship, which is something that all of us need to flourish. Here are three ideas: 

1. Reach out to a refugee resettlement organization within your community, such as World Relief. The map of all resettlement orgs is found here

2. Reach out to a pastor of a church in your community that worships in a language other than English, build a relationship and look for opportunities for fellowship and mutual encouragement

3. In the current context where many children are arriving alone, there’s a significant need for families willing to become licensed foster families

Finally, we can always pray. Pray that God would draw refugees to himself through Jesus. Ask him to use you and your church to help meet their needs, both physical and spiritual. And pray that the Father would comfort, protect, and encourage refugees in the midst of circumstances that are often difficult. 

Refuge Reimagined can be purchased here.

By / Mar 17

Overview

The Equality Act would curtail religious freedom protections, violate the consciences of pro-life healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals, undermine civil rights protections for women and girls, and ultimately overrule the consciences of millions of Americans. 

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The ERLC is dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to issues in the public square to protect religious liberty and promote human flourishing. Our vision can be summed up in three words: kingdom, culture, and mission. 

The ERLC exists to help churches understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Baptists and Religious Liberty

Baptists have always defended the separation of church and state and liberty of conscience. The Equality Act threatens both of these critical American ideals. The separation of church and state means that the government is not empowered to dictate or suppress doctrine and practice. This benefits all Americans by placing clear boundaries around the state’s authority. This bill would not merely erode but dissolve those boundaries, bringing the full weight of government against religious institutions and individual Americans simply for holding fast to their fundamental beliefs about anthropology and personhood. As Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, has said, “A government in the business of running the church, or claiming the church as a mascot of the state, invariably persecutes and drives out genuine religion.” Similarly, when the government stifles the freedom to dissent, whether from religious doctrine, political ideologies, or views related to human sexuality, it abandons its constitutional duty to protect civil liberties.

John Leland, a Baptist champion of religious liberty, challenged James Madison to ensure that religion and rights of conscience would be protected under the United States Constitution. Madison subsequently introduced the Bill of Rights as amendments to the Constitution, and Baptists have been faithful and ardent supporters of these bulwarks of freedom. Pluralism is a defining feature of our nation, and Baptists have long recognized that neither ideological conformity nor religious coercion are necessary for effective government. Instead, tolerance and persuasion are the instruments of civil discourse. The freedom of expression and robust and vigorous debate are critical elements of American society. The Equality Act would not advance but eradicate these instruments and ideals.

It is difficult to describe how tragic it would be for the Senate to pass a bill that repudiates the moral center of American government. The very premise of the Bill of Rights is that human beings, simply by their nature, enjoy fundamental liberties that the government has an obligation to protect. The Equality Act does more than threaten these freedoms; if enacted, it will contradict them explicitly. No American should ever be forced to compromise his or her religion or violate conscience to avoid punishment at the hands of their government. This legislation would needlessly penalize and discriminate against millions of Americans who possess no animus toward those this bill purports to aid. As law, the Equality Act would undermine pluralism, legalize coercion, imperil religious liberty, eliminate conscience protections, and erode the very freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

Analysis of H.R. 5

1. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.

Through the Equality Act, Congress would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage. While the proposed intention of H.R. 5 is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill fails to respect people’s freedom of conscience. H.R. 5 erodes foundational constitutional freedoms in its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideas.

H.R. 5 threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. The state forced closures of such agencies is especially harmful at a time when multiple societal crises increase the need for children services.

H.R. 5 hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests. For example, doctors and nurses who object to gender reassignment surgeries for moral, religious, or scientific reasons would be forced to provide the procedure or risk losing their jobs.

2. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.

The Equality Act would force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. Central to a Christian’s understanding of government is that government exists to secure rights granted by God. One of these inalienable rights is the freedom of conscience, not to be infringed by the state. H.R. 5 would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. 

H.R. 5 would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars. Preventing taxpayer dollars from abortion protects consciences, saves lives, and respects the freedom of Americans to seek to persuade one another without state-sanctioned conscience intrusion. Every person is made in the image of God, and the United States has a responsibility to reflect that truth in its laws. 

3. H.R. 5 undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls.

The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns that women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. 

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

• • • •

In sum, H.R. 5 would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. These legislative changes represent a dramatic departure from the foundations of tolerance and civil discourse. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom. As Russell Moore often notes, “A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere.”

By / Mar 16

A growing number of children are arriving at the southern border without parents or guardians in hopes of migrating into the United States. These child migrants are legally referred to as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs). This surge in arrivals of UACs is creating a humanitarian crisis out of an already difficult situation for border towns and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as U.S. Border Patrol facilities are stretched far beyond their capacity.

How many children are arriving at the U.S. southern border?

According to a report from CBS, in the month of February 2021 alone, “nearly 9,500 unaccompanied children were taken into U.S. border custody — a 21-month high, according to government data.” As of March 2, a complex in Donna, Texas that was designed to hold 250 people was housing more than 1,800 people according to a report from the Associated Press. This crowding is made worse because of the battle against COVID-19 as it is “729% of its pandemic-era capacity.” In a story published by CNN, Leecia Welch of the National Center for Youth Law said, “Donna is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis.”

Earlier today, March 16, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement noting that the department is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

What are the conditions like for children on the border?

Many of the children in this facility describe harsh conditions and hunger. The CBS report noted that some children told their lawyers they “only showered once in seven days” and that the facility was so overcrowded “they had to take turns sleeping on the floor.” The situation’s urgency grows as the boys and girls are also reportedly being denied the ability to phone their parents or see their siblings of the opposite sex as they are held in single gender facilities. 

How is this connected to America’s larger immigration problem?

First, the challenges of this current crisis are in part the result of President Biden’s decision to end former President Trump’s practice of expelling all border aphrensions, which included sending children back into situations of potential danger. Expulsion was the policy in place for most of 2020 without much public awareness, though the ERLC and coalition partners then called the Trump Administration to take a more humane approach, specifically for vulnerable children.

While this 2021 crisis is new in its particulars, the situation does have similarities with previous UAC surges. As an example of a similar crisis, after an AP report in 2019 showed unconscionable conditions for children at a border facility near El Paso, the ERLC published an explainer to give further context to the issues which shape these problems. The piece also outlines how migrant children are treated differently by immigration law and what reforms could blunt future issues.

Today, both the strain on border facilities and the woes facing these kids are distressingly familiar to what our nation has seen too many times. This 2021 crisis is yet another result of the dysfunctional immigration system in the U.S. that Congress has refused to reform for decades. Our nation’s border problems have been exacerbated over the last decade in particular by spikes of violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras coupled with increasing resistance in American politics to foriegn aid. It’s difficult for most Americans to imagine how desperate a family’s circumstance must be to choose to send their children on a dangerous journey unaccompanied in hopes of a better life.

What is going wrong right now?

As the AP reported, “more children are waiting longer in Border Patrol custody,” with 37 days being the average length of stay. This time lapse is the key failure of this crisis — the failure to process children swiftly into the stable care required by federal law.

Unaccompanied children are to be processed by DHS and transferred within three to five days to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). We wrote about the unique legal treatment our government is supposed to honor with UACs in our 2019 explainer:

At the center of the government’s policies toward child migrants is a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores Settlement Agreement. Flores directs that children who are unaccompanied or who have been removed from their parents during the process of immigrating are to be transferred to a licensed facility within three to five days of apprehension, and a max of 20 days during times of emergency influx, according to the nonprofit Human Rights First. . . . The Flores Settlement also lays out housing condition standards, including the requirement of “safe and sanitary facilities” among many others, all while the government makes a “prompt and continuous effort toward family reunification and release” for children.

What is the U.S. government doing about the issue?

It is clear that there is not yet a sufficient federal government response to ensure the adequate care of these children. On March 13, the Biden Administration announced it was enlisting FEMA to help. The administration is also planning to shelter migrant children at a conference center in Dallas, as they await processing with HHS ORR. For more, you can read Sec. Mayorkas’ statement highlighting the department’s actions. Their plans include standing up more shelters, working with Mexico to receive expelled adult migrants, and a variety of COVID19 protocols for migrants and DHS staff. 

How has the SBC engaged the immigration reform debate?

In 2018, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for immigration reform that “maintains the priority of family unity.” This resolution prioritizes “honoring the value and dignity of those seeking a better life for themselves and their families” in light of the “warfare, violence, disease, extreme poverty … driving millions of people to leave their homelands.” The 2018 messengers also passed a resolution on human dignity in which the messengers affirmed “the full dignity of every human being of whatever political or legal status or party and denounce rhetoric that diminishes the humanity of anyone.” In 2011, SBC messengers passed a resolution denouncing the mistreatment of migrants and calling for immigration reform that would “implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status.”

The resolutions on immigration echo the language of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which affirms the sacredness and dignity of human beings made in God’s image. The BFM also affirms Christians’ responsibility to speak on behalf of the helpless and the needy and work for human institutions to reflect God’s righteousness. 

How is the ERLC advocating on this issue?

The ERLC has long advocated for immigration reform that would accord with biblical principles. In 2014, Russell Moore wrote about the growing number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border then, calling it a “humanitarian crisis” and calling Christians to “recognize both the complexity of this situation and what it means to be people of justice and mercy.” Moore’s words continue to anchor our advocacy today:

When responding to the vulnerable, our greatest obstacle isn’t the question of knowing what to do. Our greatest obstacle is fear. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Lk. 10:27-37) has every reason to be afraid on the Road to Jericho. The presence of a beaten man tells him there are robbers around, potentially hiding in the caves around him. Fear, though, is cast out by love; love is not cast out by fear. … The situation at the southern border is frightening indeed, for multiple reasons. Border security is important for the physical safety of any nation, and the care of those fleeing danger is important for the moral integrity of any people.

Central to our advocacy is our work with the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT). The EIT is a diverse group of organizations that speak up for the vulnerable and call for better policies. A few policies the EIT has called for to address these border crises involving children include supplemental funding for facilities, additional personnel trained to care for children, respect for asylum laws and family unity, and restoration of foreign aid to the countries these migrants are fleeing.

A few weeks ago on the Capitol Conversations podcast, as news began to surface of this impending crisis, Jeff Pickering and Travis Wussow welcomed Laura Collins, an immigration expert with the George W. Bush Institute, to discuss border policy solutions. You can listen to that conversation here.

What happens next?

The federal government must ensure that children currently in border patrol custody are transferred as soon as possible to HHS ORR who is better equipped to shelter as well as test and quarantine the children if needed due to the pandemic. Once with HHS ORR, the children are then connected with sponsors, who are typically family members but can also include foster families. According to Sec. Mayorkas, “in more than 80 percent of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40 percent of cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian.”

What is clear is that additional resources are needed at the border to ensure that children who arrive here are safe, fed, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as our legal system determines the best way forward for them.