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Evangelicals Mobilize to Capitol Hill on Immigration Reform for the First Time; Respond to Senate Immigration Proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 17, 2013 — Today, on the same day that the Senate introduced immigration reform legislation, hundreds of megachurch pastors, denominational leaders, heads of evangelical organizations and other leaders descended upon Washington, D.C. for the first-ever national “Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform.”

The Day of Action kicked off with a press conference on Capitol Hill and will continue with a morning worship service of hundreds of evangelical leaders from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Since its inception in June 2012, the Evangelical Immigration Table has released immigration ad campaigns in Christian radio in key states, led letter-writing campaigns, and launched national prayer challenges like the “I Was a Stranger Challenge” and the G92 Conferences at universities all over the U.S. The “I Was a Stranger Challenge” called on elected leadersto join over 10,000 Christians in reading a verse a day for 40 days and learn about God’s heart on immigration. The G92 Conferences have energized young evangelicals like never before. In this school year, 7 universities have hosted these conferences to discuss and plan for immigration reform.

Throughout the day, delegations of evangelical leaders are scheduled to meet with 80 Congressional representatives and their staff to discuss the evangelical support for fair and practical reform that includes an earned path to citizenship.

The following quotes can be attributed to evangelical speakers at today’s Capitol Hill press conference:

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, Pastor, The Lamb’s Church and President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC):

“The time for immigration reform is now. NaLEC remains hopeful that we will cross this rubicon with strong bi-partisan support. Now is the time for courageous leadership. The 7.8 million Hispanic evangelicals are looking to see real leadership not partisanship on immigration reform.”

Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief:

“We are encouraged that after months of careful negotiation and deliberation, a group of bipartisan Senators will soon introduce an immigration bill that reflects many of the principles World Relief has been advocating for. While the introduction of the bill is just one step forward in a long process, we applaud the actions taken by the Senate and believe such leadership from Members of Congress and the President will continue to be critical in the months ahead.”

Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention:

“The contentious issue of immigration reform is rending the social fabric of the nation in ways that are far easier to rend than they are to mend. It is well past time for our elected representatives to quit behaving like politicians who are focused on the next election, and start focusing on the next generation as statesmen and deal with this issue in a fair and responsible way. Comprehensive immigration reform must secure the border, secure the workplace, recognize the dignity of each and every undocumented worker, and find a pathway to earned legal status and or citizenship for those who desire it. There should be no room for second class citizens in our democracy. Those who desire citizenship should be able to earn it.”

Timothy Goeglein, Vice President of External Relations, Focus on the Family:

“If our immigration challenges are to be effectively addressed, then we need a balance of compassion, respect for the rule of law, and common sense.  We can find that balance, rooted in what is best for families, marriages, and kids.  We at Focus on the Family are dedicated to keeping families together as they comply with entrance requirements.”

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, Illinois):

“Immigration is an urgent issue that directly affects many individuals within Willow Creek Community Church and thousands of other local churches around the country. I’m encouraged that our elected officials are now coming together to address this topic. I join many within our local church family in praying that they find consensus.”

Kenton Beshore, Senior Pastor, Mariners Church (Irvine, California):

“The biblical mandate is clear that we are to love and care for the poor, orphaned, widowed and strangers; namely immigrants. For over twenty-five years, our church has cared for those on the margins of our society. It was through our work in one of the most impacted cities, west of the Mississippi, that we came face to face with the effects of our broken immigration system.”

Dr. David Uth, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Orlando:

“I’ve met so many families whose lives are broken by the system. I want to find a way to help them, influence the debate on immigrants and immigration, not to write it, but to bring it to a discussion. No matter their immigration status, if they are part of our community we will minister to them. We, as evangelical Christians, travel halfway around the world to bring hope to people. Why should we not reach out in our own neighborhoods?”

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair. National African America, Clergy Network:

“The Black evangelical community stands in solidarity with our Latino brothers and sisters for comprehensive immigration reform that respects the dignity and right of every person to a better life.”

Dr. Carlos Moran, Board Member, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference:

“As Evangelicals, as born again believers, as the spiritual heirs to the mantles of Billy Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we affirm our conviction that it is the time to reconcile border security with security of our values; values that include faith, hope and charity. Values that prompt us to worship our Lord and welcome the stranger.For at the end of the day, passing immigration reform is not, as Rev. Samuel Rodriguez reminds us, about advancing the agenda of the donkey or the elephant. Immigration reform is about living out the agenda of the lamb.”

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ICYMI: Evangelicals’ Resounding Call for Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 10, 2013 — With Congress back in town and immigration-reform legislation expected soon, a front-page article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal covers the increasing support among evangelical Christians for bipartisan immigration reform that includes steps toward earned citizenship — a “dramatic shift” from previous debates, when evangelicals stayed on the sidelines.

In addition, the new cover story in TIME magazine (April 15 edition) focuses on just one reason evangelicals have reconsidered their immigrant neighbors: For evangelicals, “they” are increasingly “us.” Latino churches make up a key and growing component of evangelical churches in the U.S. In a post about the article, writer Elizabeth Dias cites the New Life Covenant Church in Chicago. In 2000, all of the church’s 100 attendees were Spanish speakers; now its 17,000 members can choose from 11 services, nine of which are in English.

The increased importance of Latino evangelicals to American churches and the increasingly outspoken support among white evangelicals, both in the pulpit and in the pews, for immigration reform comes as evangelical leaders prepare to share their support in person with congressional leaders in Washington. On April 17, the Evangelical Immigration Table expects hundreds of participants for its Day of Prayer and Action, which will send a clear message to Congress: Support for commonsense reform is strong within the evangelical community, and it is time to move forward.

The Evangelical Immigration Table also has run a radio ad campaign on Christian radio in five key states: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. In the ads, local pastors from each state encourage listeners to support immigration reform based on Table principles.

The message should be clear to lawmakers in both parties: The time has come for Congress to engage in the kind of respectful debate that we’ve seen in churches all over the country. These conversations are changing hearts and minds in the pews, and it is time for Congress to work together to pass just immigration reform that includes a road to earned citizenship.

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A media advisory for the Evangelical Immigration Table’s April 17 Day of Prayer and Action follows.

Hundreds of Evangelicals to Gather in D.C. for Day of Prayer and Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On April 17, hundreds of megachurch pastors, denominational leaders, heads of evangelical organizations and other leaders will gather in Washington for the “Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to introduce immigration reform legislation in the next few days, and lawmakers will hear a unified evangelical voice proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform that respects the rule of law, reunites families and upholds human dignity.

The Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action will feature a Capitol Hill press conference, worship services and meetings with legislators to support legislation that reflects Christian values and builds the common good.

WHAT: Evangelical Immigration Table Day of Prayer and Action on Capitol Hill

WHO: Confirmed speakers include:
•    Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill.
•    Dr. David Uth, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Orlando
•    Dr. David Anderson, Founder and Senior Pastor, Bridgeway Community Church, Columbia, Md.
•    Lee de Leon, Executive Pastor, Templo Calvario Church, Orange County, Calif.
•    Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
•    Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
•    Tim Goeglein, Vice President for External Relations, Focus on the Family
•    Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
•    Sandra Van Opstal, Director of Worship, Urbana Mission Convention, will lead worship.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Daylong events will include a press conference, meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, and worship services.

PRESS RELEASE: Florida Faith Leaders Call For Bipartisan Immigration Solutions

JACKSONVILLE, FLA., APRIL 3, 2013 — As the immigration reform debate moves forward in Congress and in our nation, evangelical leaders continue to strongly support just and accountable immigration solutions. Today, prominent Florida and national faith leaders spoke at “Who is My Neighbor? An Evangelical Forum on Immigration,” where local residents discussed the urgency for a new immigration process based on biblical principles. The discussion follows the launch of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s immigration radio ad campaign in Florida and other key states.

Matthew Soerens, a nationally recognized evangelical leader, spoke with Florida evangelical leader Travis Trice about the complexities of the debate for fellow Christians. They urged attendees to turn to scripture to see what Jesus had to say about welcoming the stranger and asked them to pray and strategize about how to improve our immigration process.

Said Matthew Soerens, U.S. Church Training Specialist, World Relief, “We are working to build a moral movement of evangelicals who believe in just and practical immigration solutions that include an earned process for citizenship. Tens of thousands of Christians have accepted the ‘I Was a Stranger Challenge’ and are reading 40 days of Bible verse to learn about God’s heart for the immigrant. This is inspiring a new and productive conversation in our churches about the value of immigrants and immigration to our nation.”

PRESS RELEASE: Evangelical Leaders Amplify Call For Bipartisan Immigration Reform With Radio Ads in Key States

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 3, 2013 — With members of Congress home for their Easter recess, leaders from the Evangelical Immigration Table announced today a new round of immigration ad buys on Christian radio in four key states: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. The ads are playing statewide at saturation levels.

The ad campaign further increases the Evangelical Immigration Table’s support for Congress to produce a new, bipartisan immigration process this spring. It also presages the April 17 Day of Prayer and Action in Washington, during which evangelicals will meet with legislators to demand action, as well as continue the biblically inspired reflection on immigration exemplified by the “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge.

The buy follows a successful ad campaign on Christian radio stations in South Carolina that led into the recess. Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with evangelical leaders in South Carolina, including the speaker in the ad, to discuss immigration.

The following quotes are from the speakers on today’s call.

Dr. Richard Land, President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention:
“Evangelical Christians who listen to Christian radio tend to be well educated in the scriptures and politically engaged. Reaching them with this message about God’s heart for immigrants and the importance of immigration solutions rooted in biblical values will be absolutely crucial for building the political will we need to pass meaningful reforms in 2013. Our political leaders need to hear from our constituents and from their constituents and know that evangelical Christians are strongly behind them if they have the moral courage to act on the values we see in Matthew 25 and other places in the scripture concerning welcoming the stranger.”

Rev. Dr. David Uth, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Orlando:
“There’s a consistent message throughout scripture, and it’s a command to welcome and to treat fairly all people, but especially the stranger and the foreigner in your land. … When we fail to welcome the stranger, in essence we fail to welcome Christ. And so Christians in our church, when they learn about God’s heart for the immigrant and what the Bible has to say, their hearts are open because we are a people of faith and it is our desire to live out that faith in our world. Coupled with that, when they meet these immigrants, when they have personal encounters, all of a sudden this issue has a face, it has a story. And it’s in that meeting that transformation happens and has happened here for us. … We know that the time is now for this discussion.”

Rev. Dr. David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston:
“We’re beginning now to see [immigrants as] ‘us’: We live together, we work together, we serve together, we’re all in this together, and the notion of welcoming the outsider and the stranger and inviting them in has been key to that. We see the immigrant as a person created in the image of God. They’re husbands and wives, they’re parents, they’re children. Oftentimes our broken immigration system causes great suffering in the homes and in the families and in people’s lives. … I believe and my experience has been here in Texas that conservative Christians and evangelicals are rising to support a biblical approach to this very complex issue.”

Rev. Nick Lillo, Lead Pastor, WaterStone Community Church, Denver:
“The Bible doesn’t give us a piece of legislation to govern our immigration system, but it does give us a framework and an approach on how we can think as Christians in a way that’s faithful and biblical. … I really didn’t understand the injustice of our immigration system or how convoluted of a process and unfair of a process it is, but when you start talking to people who are even in the midst of that, it just angers you, because it’s not treating them fairly or justly. … As evangelical Christians, we have to ask ourselves whether or not the way we think and feel and act toward immigrants as individuals, as a community, and as a country really reflects the way we think that Jesus himself should be treated. And we need to ask our elected officials to ask themselves the same questions.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association:
“It is impossible to read the scriptures and not to conclude that how we treat the stranger and the vulnerable among us is very closely connected to the authenticity of our Christian faith … The focus of our effort as evangelical leaders goes way beyond politics. It’s about changing hearts around the nation, including changing the hearts of our legislators. … We’re a growing movement of evangelical Christians who are committed to supporting Congress and exerting pressure on our elected officials to make sure that commonsense, just immigration reform is a reality this year.”

**To listen to a recording of today’s call, visit http://tinyurl.com/Evangelical0402.
To listen to the ads, visit https://soundcloud.com/eit_1.**

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