Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.



So show your love for the alien,
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
—Deuteronomy 10:19

Good Shepherd's steepleThe word "sanctuary" means "an especially holy place within a site of worship." Sanctuary also means "a place of refuge or protection." Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in Cave Creek, Arizona tries to provide both a holy place for worship and a place of refuge and they are taking heat for it.

The self-proclaimed "Little Church with the Big Heart" was on ABC's Nightline program last night as that show considered the Imigration debate. An article on the church's ministry is here Nightline to feature Arizona Congregation at the Episcopal News Service. An article on the segment itself is online here America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegals.

The controversy is this: In 2000, the Town of Cave Creek asked the church to allow workers to gather in its parking lot from Monday to Saturdat as a place where employers can find day laborers. Good ShepherdOut of that beginning, came The Good Shepherd Dayworker Program which matches individuals willing to work in a day labor capacity with those in need of temporary workers. The program is self-supporting with workers earning $8-$10 per hour paying the program a dollar a week to take part. Private donations and donations from other churches also support the program. It was, according to the church, designed to offer, "a safe place, no questions asked, for employers to meet laborers." On a given day, 35-50 workers take advantage of the program.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio shows the pink underwear he makes inmates wearThen the sheriff started targeting vehicles leaving the church, searching them for illegal aliens. Once rounded up, they are taken to the county jail where Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants everyone to know that he can always make more room at the county jail, with its always flashing neon "vacancy" sign and signature pink underwear for inmates. According to Nightline,
He's built a tent city to handle the overflow. With no air conditioning in the blistering desert heat and just two spare meals a day that cost the county 15 cents each, the conditions there rival the prison for enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay. The jail seems geared to punishment, rather than rehabilitation.
Good Shepherd's Rector, the Rev. Glenn Jenks says that the sheriff misunderstands the basic drive fueling the illegal imigration,
The drive that brings them here is one of the most basic and powerful drives, and that is for a father to feed his children. And I think a lot of people underestimate that -- they think that if they can just make it a little uncomfortable for them they'll go home. Some will, but the vast majority won't. More will just come. And they'll keep coming and keep coming.
But the church has become a flash point for some. Last year, the American Freedom Riders targeted the church program. See a Sonoran News article American Freedom Riders Return. The AFR believes churches and other nonprofit organizations facilitating illegal activity should have their nonprofit charters revoked, which is something the group has discussed pursuing.

The town still stands by its original request as the town manager recently confirmed,
From our side as the town's administration, we think the Episcopal Church is one of the best assets in our community.
photo of the nearby desert from the church's websiteThe program has become a "signature ministry" of the church according to its rector who says that goals is letting day laborers "know they're cared for, loved, welcomed and safe. Just the fact that they are here on a daily basis reminds us always of why we're here."

What do you think? Is the church providing sanctuary in the sense of a safe place, a refuge, in a positive sense? Or are they simply harboring illegal activity?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

The county's jail
The county jail as photographed by Nightline
There is also a tent city jail for overflow

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment;
and I will be a swift witness against...
those who oppress the wage earner in his wages,
the widow and the orphan,
and those who turn aside the alien
and do not fear Me,"
says the LORD of hosts.
—Malachi 3:5

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  • At 10/19/2007 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow! Hot topic! I pray that all our responses will remain within the IRENIC realms!

    I think there are two questions that we need to ask ourselves as Christians: How would Jesus handle the immigration situation? Is there a middle ground between loyalty to our God and loyalty to our country concerning those in need?

    Let's take a look at the story of the laborers in the fields. The workers who worked part of the time were paid the same wages as the workers who labored all day. Is that fair? Is it fair that our ancestors "labored all day" to pay the price for our benefits and that illegal immigrants can come in later and reap the same rewards?

    HE says it is. And even with that said, my heart still searches for a middle ground between the Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

  • At 10/19/2007 9:39 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    Very tough topic with many, many contributing factors.

    First, I disagree with the comparison to the laborers in the fields. The issue is not one of being late to our country but one of their right to be here at all. In a free market, companies should be able to hire whomever they want at whatever rate they deem necessary, within the law.

    Mexicans are in a tough situation where corruption and incompetence have ruined a good place to live. This drives the people to look for something better.

    No problem so far. The US is a country built upon immigration. But our laws covering this are pretty tough and restrictions on the numbers may be too tight. There's a great desire to come here anyway, though, earn some money, have children who automatically become citizens, and take advantage of the people here who have extremely charitable hearts.

    There are also plenty of businesses with lots of political power who fight changing the system that exists because it would interrupt their flow of cheap labor.

    On the other side are American workers who aren't able to get those jobs and are being punished for following the rules.

    In short, there's plenty of responsibility (blame?) to go around for this problem.

    I'm a supporter of stronger borders (for this and national security reasons but that's another discussion), punishment of companies who hire illegals, deportation of those who are illegally here, better immigration policies, an amendment to somehow modify automatic citizenship, etc.

    The real problem is how to get there from here with the minimum amount of abuse. We are talking about human beings here and they do have a basic right to be treated as such.

  • At 10/19/2007 2:43 PM, Anonymous denise said…

    Maybe a smarter idea would be to spend the money the immigrants would earn on items they need and just give it to them, and take the rest to help fill out the proper paperwork to be here legally.
    Fair or unfair, the law is the law and the Church, and it's congregation are not above it. They could probably make a bigger statement and change if they'd vote and write letters to their legislators, protest, etc. than breaking the law, not to mention what kind of example they are setting for their members?

    Thing is, when you publicly break the law, makes folks wonder what other laws you will break, good intentions or not.

  • At 10/19/2007 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually, the church is not breaking the law by acting as a sanctuary. ANYBODY can take refuge in a church because of this and the law can't touch them. That's why the sheriff has to wait until the immigrants leave the church property before he can apprehend them.

    And yes, there are times in history when God's law has been above the law of the land. For example,and this is merely an example, when the Jews found sanctuary in Christian homes when hiding from the Nazis. I would hope that my heart would have told me to harbor a Jew rather than turn him over because it's the law. I believe the church in this story is trying to reach out in God's way.

    God's law is perfect in that we treat our neighbors as ourselves. That's why this immigration situation is difficult. There's got to be a solution somewhere that would be fair to all involved.

    And, I don't get the difference between buying them things with their wages and allowing them to keep the money they earn. They're still working here illegally. Or, are you saying we should donate? That would be a good thing. It is also a great idea to help them become legal. Maybe the church should spend time initiating this first with these immigrants.

    I'm not saying that I'm in agreement with people working here illegally or that I am above the law. I just wonder what the world would really be like if God's law ruled and everyone abided by it.

  • At 10/19/2007 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I now oppose illegal immigration, somewhat to my surprise. We must make jobs available first to our own country's poor people. The church could provide the same important services to poor Americans who often look in bewilderment at undocumented Hispanics building houses or doing other work in this country. Would it cost employers more to hire Americans? Almost certainly. Would that increase prices for the rest of us? Almost certainly. Do we have a Christian responsibility to fight poverty here? Certainly. I do not wish Mexicans or other Hispanics ill. Not in any way. I support aid to other countries and I would support it to Mexico, Guatemala and other nations whose poorest people risk their lives to move here. Let's not forget our own poorest in the meantime.

  • At 10/22/2007 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think everyone who has commented is missing a key piece of information. The reason businesses hire these illegal aliens is because not only are they cheap labor but they are taking jobs that "hardworking Americans" won't deign to take. The truth is, Americans are spoiled; it's hard enough finding Americans willing to work for minimum wage, which, by the way, those employers would have to pay plus benefits(and they don't want to do so).

    In addition, paying Americans or legals minimum wage plus benefits would raise the cost of the product. And would Americans pay those prices? We have, much too willingly as far as I'm concerned, paid the ever-increasing gas prices while still driving gas guzzling vehicles. But would we pay twice or three times the amount for an apple?

    Most of the world sees us (America) as inordinately selfish and extremely rich. And, compared to a lot of the world, we are. So, why wouldn't immigrants want to flood our shores where making less than minimum wage is still ten times more than they make in their country?

    Is there a solution? Not as far as I can see.


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