This past March, a group of churches, organizations and individuals – including Bishop Craig Loya – came together to form the Minnesota Sanctuary State Coalition. The goals of the coalition included creating greater awareness of the ways that Minnesota state and local government entities share information or collaborate with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) that can be used to detain or deport immigrants who are in the United States without proper documentation, and advocating that the sanctuary status of Minneapolis and St. Paul be extended to the entire state of Minnesota. Rex McKee, our deacon, has provided extensive leadership to this effort as co-chair of the coalition, which is endorsed by the Episcopal Church of Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Churches, and many other faith communities.
Since then, Lisa has made extensive efforts to inform our community about the opportunity to join the Coalition and support its goals, and to invite conversation about the merits of doing so. The Justice & Service Committee, the Vestry and clergy unanimously endorsed the possibility of St. John’s joining this coalition, but a number of committed long-term members of St. John’s strongly objected. After this outreach, and after much thoughtful discernment, the vestry recently decided that St. John’s would not join the coalition as “St. John’s” but that individual members of St. John’s would be encouraged to sign on together under a heading that might name St. John’s. Those interested in signing up in support of the Coalition and its goals can do so at this link: Sanctuary State Commitment. I will be signing on, and I hope many others will join me in doing so. This approach will allow the full support of those who agree, without implying that those who disagree are not also an important part of St. John’s.
Given St. John’s strong commitment to social justice over the years, joining the Coalition seemed like a natural step. However, our recent dialogue suggests we might more deeply explore the question of where faith and politics overlap. Rex’s recent mini-series on civil conversations was an example of how we can do that. But even more deeply, St. John’s is being called to listen carefully for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. As newer St. John’s member Howie Anderson recently said in his October 10 Stewardship Talk, St. John’s has a long history of listening to the Spirit and being called to take courageous action. As we look to the future, we will seek to keep Jesus’ Way of Love at the center of our community’s discernment about how to use our gifts and resources. These include our public voice on matters that are deeply religious even though they have a political expression, such as immigration, systemic racism, and other justice issues. We will expressly invite continued listening to God and one another, learning together, and discovering when the Spirit is asking us to make a united stand as an entire St. John’s community—to learn the meaning of faithful consensus. This has been an important step in that journey.