For Congregational Discussion: Immigration

For Congregational Discussion


[1] The Journal of Lutheran Ethics hopes to provide reading material to stimulate thinking and conversation among academics, clergy, and laity. To this end, this new section will be included in each issue of JLE in order to encourage constructive discussion within congregations about the topics discussed in JLE.  Consider using this section in formal adult education classes or in informal small group discussions.


[2] The December/January issue of JLE is dedicated to the topic of immigration. This is a fitting topic for Advent, when Christians think about the coming of Christ into a world that tells his family that there is no room at the inn, into a world where the King wants to kill him as an infant lest he endanger his rule, into a world where the Lord and Master of all must seek asylum as a refugee.   The following quotes and questions might be used to generate discussion about the emotions and reasons surrounding congregation members’ views about immigration and how these integrate with their Christian faith at Christmastime.


Quotes to Consider and Discuss:


[3] Again and again, without my inquiring, Protestant laypeople brought up the idea that the newcomers to the community were fundamentally different from them.” –Jeremy Rehwaldt  How do you feel about the word “stranger”?   What is the difference between offering hospitality to a stranger and offering hospitality to a friend?


[4] “What happens when we invert our perceived roles in this sending of the seventy? When we take the place of the people providing hospitality, rather than one of the seventy receiving hospitality, suddenly we are they who experience the kingdom of God. In addition to experiencing the kingdom of God, we are the ones who receive ministry and a cure of our ailments. By occupying the place of those providing the hospitality, which our cultural security allows us to do, we are opening ourselves to the relationships that are built on love and pleasing God.” –J.J. Lynn    Both Lynn and Rehwaldt ask us to consider who is benefitted most when we offer hospitality.  Instead of considering the church’s decision to offer sanctuary as a gift to immigrants, what would it mean to consider it as an openness to receiving a gift from immigrants?  How might you be served and ministered to when you open your heart, your home, or your church to someone requesting hospitality?


[5] “Christ takes on the flesh of a criminal, a law breaker whose fate is solely in the hands of the legal authorities. In the United States there may be no more dehumanized person than the one labeled “criminal”. . . . Undocumented immigrants, who have been labeled “illegal” by the wielders of legal authority, are left vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, harassment, and complete disenfranchisement. This is the kind of human experience that God chooses to enter into in Christ.”

  Nicholas Tangen.    What are your reactions to the words “criminal” and “illegal”?  Do these words affect your view of undocumented immigrants?  How does the story of Herod’s search for the infant Christ or Pilate’s prosecution of Jesus change the meaning of the words “criminal” and “illegal”?



[6] The Theological Declaration of Barmen . . .  provides theological, ethical, and political implications for the political responsibility of Christians in response to the flight, migration, and integration of displaced persons also in our own time.  –Craig Nessen.   What do you think about the political responsibility of Christians?  How do you see your religious commitments impacting your politics?


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.