Wednesday, June 14, 2006

General Convention II - Immigration Speech

I feel like a newsreel - everything I'm reporting from the Convention is about a day late because I'm just not finding very much time to really say what I want to say here.

The Millenium Development Goals have emerged as the biggest topic of discussion besides all the "gay stuff"... the MDGs are also a part of the "ONE Campaign" that we've all heard a lot about from people like Bono. The idea with ONE is that if every person and institution in the developed world gave only 0.7% of their annual revenue towards alleviating impoverished conditions, extreme poverty would be eradicated by 2015. Already, many regional divisions of the Episcopal Church (called "dioceses") give 0.7% of their budgets, and all churchmembers are encouraged to do the same themselves. The resolutions at hand call for the national church to follow suit - this would be a huge boost for the ONE campaign.

But, of course, straight men just can't get enough of talking about gay men - and so the only issue the mainstream press cares about from the General Convention is the issue of the gay bishop we elected in 2003. Some are calling for the Church to officially "express regret" about what it did. Considering that I found the Episcopal Church and eventually became Episcopalian exactly because I saw a Church going through an honest and open discussion of sexuality. In fact, it was right around the same time that I was really coming out to myself that I started to look for a church again - and the Episcopal Church welcomed me. Should it "express regret" for me, and for the countless others it has drawn in from the cold by being so inclusive? I think not.

On the 13th (yesterday), I testified to the Church's National and International Concerns Committee about a resolution proposed to adopt a new document as part of the Church's policy on immigration. The document ("The Alien Among You" - located just above the resolution in the link above) is a good step, but misses some fundamental concerns such as more protection against criminalization of humanitarian aid for migrants at the border, deeper reform of the path towards legal residency and citizenship to make these paths more accessible, and opposition to militarization of the border and vigilante activity by groups like the "Minutemen."

In the Christian spirit, here is my resurrected speech:

Resolution A017 is a good step forward for the Church's policy on immigration. It makes some crucial recognitions such as recognizing that a system which forces immigrants to live in fear and hiding creates an underground world where they are subject to exploitation, that the system of attaining residency is broken, and that xenophobia since 9-11 has sharply increased. A good summary of the document is made near its end: "Let us not fear being agents of generosity and abundance."

However, several key shortcomings to the document make it incomplete as the Church's holistic policy. My colleagues will review several of these - I would like to highlight the issue of border militarization and vigiliantism.

We see that President Bush recently deployed about 5,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. The federal government recently approved funds for the construction of a fence - I ask you here, does a fence keep "them" in or does it keep us in?

Especially here in Columbus, the idea of a border fence is especially ironic, considering we meet today in a city named after a gentleman, who, with good intentions, nevertheless inaugurated the age of European border drawing around the world.

If we are truly committed to the radical hospitality of Christ as key to our ongoing conversion and salvation, we can't stand by and watch as guests to the Wedding Banquet are blocked from entering or even actively being thrown out, as is the case with the Minutemen.

The document and A017 are good steps towards addressing what we recognize to be an issue that violent and fearful reaction cannot solve. I believe that this resolution should be amended to not only adopt the document as our policy-in-progress, but to call for further development of the document that could address these and other concerns.

The ability of people to pursue a different life in America is the unique American ministry to the world. We as the American church have a chance to speak for the extension of this ministry to all of God's honored guests, non of whom we are entitled to turn away, none of whom could ever be called "illegal."


Karl Smith said...

I'm sure I speak not only for myself, but also for the billions of people who don't read this blog, when I say that I am looking forward to your thoughts on the election of a woman to head the Episcoplian church.

I trust you find it as heretical as the rest of us? ;-) Seriously though, I'm certain the delegates were aware of how such an action would be received. Do you think it reflects frustration by the mainstream members of the church with more conservative elements?

Alex Kim said...

Only bishops vote in the election of the Presiding Bishop - the deputies (everyone else) only vote on whether to consent to whomever the bishops choose.

The bishops were definitely aware of the implications of their choice. From my own feelings and from my conversations with people, it seems like the election of Jefferts Schori reflects less frustration and more committment to the inclusive mission of the Episcopal Church - even when our allies in some parts of the globe are uncomfortable with it.

I think the bishops have acted remarkably wisely - the whole fiasco in the church right now over the selection of Bishop Gene Robinson (openly gay) is being talked about by "orthodox" conservatives as an issue of our unity and solidarity with the worldwide church. My feeling is that conservatives really don't care that much about the worldwide church - they just want more positive language in which to pad their overriding discomfort with gay and lesbian people among us.

So will conservatives in the church continue to hold up a united front on the issue of privileging "global single-mindedness" over justice for historically oppressed people? Many predict that we'll now see a split within the "orthodox" - because while picking on gays is recently the "cool thing to do", you really can't pick on women in the same way anymore. And so now, the issue will either just fracture and dissolve, or people will finally begin talking about what I believe the real issue to be: our acceptance of LGBT people.