Editor’s Introduction: Immigration: Moving Forward Faithfully

[1] JLE has had several immigration-themed issues in the past few years. As guest editor, I wanted to look at this pressing issue yet again. A fellow student of mine at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Pastor Betty Rendon, was deported in May, shocking many in the ELCA. Pastor Betty was an interim pastor in Racine with no criminal record.

[2] Then in August, the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a resolution to become a sanctuary designation. “In baptism, we are brought into a covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ that commits us to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Following the example of Martin Luther, we believe that advocacy is a crucial expression of baptismal identity[1].” This statement invites ELCA synods, congregations, and members to consider and reconsider the theological foundations and implications of our views on immigration.

[3] To that end, I pray that this issue leads to contemplation on a topic that directly impacts us as the body of Christ, fitted together as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12-13. This issue features four essays.  The first examines a former Lutheran declaration about the need for the church to stand with people in danger: the Barmen Declaration. The second is a pastor’s confessional story about his congregation’s intimate accompaniment of a family impacted by deportation.  The third essay discusses how resistance is informed by theology of the cross. And the final essay gives an important analysis about the language around the concepts of stranger and hospitality.  The book review section has been curated jointly by our book editor and AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities), the ELCA’s program to help children fleeing chronic violence, poverty, environmental displacement and lack of opportunities in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

[4] I hope that these essays will help readers to consider how we – as a church body as well as a nation – can move forward faithfully on immigration issues. In this season of Advent, we must ask what are the theological and ethical ramifications of our actions.  Even as we believe the kin-dom of God is at hand, we will have to contemplate what borders mean for our life together in Christ.


Denise Rector, Guest Editor.

Denise Rector

Denise Rector is a PhD Student at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago studying Womanist theology, decolonialist theory, and U.S. Lutheran history. She works for the Justice for Women program in the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop.