My brothers and sisters in Christ, families belong together.
I have heard your concern for families at our borders this week. You have shared your sense of outrage, sadness, shame, and powerlessness. These existential feelings are rooted in compassion given to us by God in Christ. Compassion is the starting point for Christian action. Although we may feel paralyzed by witnessing inhumanity, we are not powerless. Indeed, we have a responsibility to use our power for the common good.
The separation of children from their families at our national borders is sinful. From the perspective of Christian ethics, it is immoral. The fact that it is being done in our name is unacceptable and deeply painful.
The use of scripture by the government to justify any policy in a secular democracy is troubling. The government’s use of scripture to justify the cruel and unusual treatment of children is evil and must be unequivocally rejected. I join all religious leaders of conscience in doing so.
Attorney General Sessions’ own Bishop, David Graves said this week, “I implore Congress and the current administration to do all in their power to reunite these families.” Former First Lady Laura Bush, a United Methodist layperson said, "I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Michael Curry has said, “It is not American to separate children from parents. This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. It is a humanitarian issue.”
In the coming days and weeks, I will share opportunities to come together in prayer and action regarding this matter of personal and national conscience. Our concern for families does not stop at the doors of the church or the borders of the nation. We remember that our Lord Jesus was himself a child refugee.
Katherine Lee Bates wrote a poem in 1895 that became a national hymn still sung in The Episcopal Church. Most Americans know the first verse. Few know the second:
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.
God calls us to love mercy more than life. Our forebears prayed that God might confirm the soul of our nation by self control and liberty. We continue that prayer today and we work for its fulfillment in our time.
America! America! God mend thine every flaw.
Yours in Christ,
The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen Dean of the Cathedral
Lectern of Jesus with the Little Children from the Cathedral of the Incarnation