Inspired by the general theme “Turning Walls Into Tables,” Disciples and UCC constituents met at Iglesia Cristiana Casa De Oracion in San Diego, California, on February 10-13, 2011, for a Border Conference with the purpose of learning about and engaging in issues of immigration policies and border ministry.
Seventy participants from the United States and Mexico gathered to reflect on the challenge that the US/Mexico border reality and the immigration laws represent for the church; learn from specific ministries on both sides of the border that address those issues; and experience firsthand the border reality, including a visit to various humanitarian projects on the Tijuana side of the border. The event included keynote presentations on the subject “To Welcome the Stranger, To Welcome Ourselves” by Rev. Dr. Daisy L. Machado, Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York City; Rev. Dr. Carlos J. Correa Bernier, Director of Centro Romero in San Ysidro, California, who introduced the group to the Tijuana experience; and Ms. Jean Smyers, Associate Director for Immigration and Refugee Policy with Church World Service, who invited the participants to “Love Thy Neighbor” by taking action for needed reforms.” Worship throughout the conference was led by a team of young adults, including college students, seminarians and recently ordained ministers.
Participants also had the opportunity to hear the border issues testimonies of the executive church leaders of three Disciples/UCC partners in Mexico: Rev. Manuel Tovar, President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Mexico; Rev. José Martínez, President of the Confraternity of Evangelical Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ); and Mr. Miguel Villa Panduro, Superintendent of the Christian Congregational Churches of Mexico.
At the conclusion of the conference, participants produced a statement calling the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ to be more welcoming of all migrants by learning more about the borderlands; oppose the militarization of the border; provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants; speak out against economic practices that disrespect human life; advocate for righteous national immigration reform; speak out against anti-immigrant attitudes, especially those against the undocumented; build relationships through immersion experiences on both sides of the border; review our assumptions and language regarding the “other” and what it means to be “American” … and even “Christian;” and provide resources needed to make immigrant pastors and congregations full partners in ministry. As part of the statement, participants confessed that as “part of the body of Christ” we have failed to live out the words of Jesus, to love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:41), and to offer hospitality to strangers as we would Christ (Matthew 25:35). See the full statement below.
The Border Conference ended with an atmosphere of commitment to identify the walls that exist in our communities that impede the creation of God’s realm on earth, to change walls that divide into tables that welcome everyone regardless of immigration status, and to respond to the Gospel call to welcome the stranger. The Border Conference was jointly sponsored by the Disciples/UCC Global Ministries, Disciples Home Missions, the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, and Disciples Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries.
For more information about the conference and follow-up on the implementation of the statement, please contact Rev. Jennifer Riggs, email@example.com, or Rev. LaMarco Cable, firstname.lastname@example.org
To view an article on the Young Adult participation in the Conference, click here:
Statement of the Participants of Turning Walls into Tables: A Border Conference - February 13, 2011
We are members of Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ congregations in the U.S., together with leaders of the Disciples and Congregational Churches of Mexico, who have gathered in San Diego, California, February 10-13, 2011 to participate in the conference “Turning Walls into Tables”. Here we traveled to Tijuana, Mexico and visited communities living in the shadow of the border wall, subjected to the poverty and abuse created by the maquiladora economy of the borderlands, the North American and Central American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA and CAFTA), and other global economic policies. We have heard stories of dislocation and distress from those forced to leave families and homes to risk the dangerous migration to the border, and often across it to find work in the U.S.
As members of the Community of Faith we have come together as a diverse group interconnected by the fact that we are all created in the image of God. Yet we confess that we build walls where we should build bridges. We create barriers of division because of our perceived differences. We acknowledge that we have helped build this wall and many others that cut across God’s creation.
We confess as the Body of Christ that we have failed to live out the words of Jesus, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), and to offer hospitality to the Stranger as we would Christ (Matthew 25:35). We have not done enough to turn the walls of our world into tables of shared love and reconciliation.
Based on our experiences along the borderlands of San Diego/Tijuana, presentations by border and immigration experts, participation in workshops and theological reflection, we call on our two denominations and their congregations to be more welcoming of all migrants by
- Learning about the borderlands of Mexico and the U.S., and the vibrancy and the challenges of life here, including the root causes that push and pull migrants to the U.S., and the devastating impact of the separation wall on families and communities, the environment and natural life;
- Opposing the militarization of the border and the conflation of migrants with terrorism;
- Providing humanitarian assistance to immigrants in need, especially those who risk the journey of terror across the U.S./Mexico border;
- Speaking out against economic practices that make corporate profit more important than respect for human life;
- Speaking out against unjust state and local immigration policies in communities across the country, and advocating for national immigration reform that is just, fair and compassionate;
- Speaking out against anti-immigrant attitudes within our congregations and broader society, especially those directed at the undocumented;
- Building relationships through immersion experiences with communities along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and by seeking to engage and share ministry with Hispanic and Latino/a communities in cities across the U.S., whether immigrant or not;
- Reviewing our ideas, assumptions and language regarding the “other” and what it means to be “American,” “citizen,” and even “Christian”; and
- Providing the resources needed within our denominations to make immigrant pastors and congregations full partners in ministry.
We commit to identifying the walls that exist in our communities—from language, education, residency and economic disparity, to other political, religious and social boundaries. These walls impede the creation of God’s Realm on earth.
We commit our congregations to changing walls that divide into tables of welcome for everyone, regardless of immigration status.
We commit ourselves to respond to the gospel call to welcome the stranger, for we have become even more aware that we are “no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints, and also members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
Statement in Spanish