More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement and his “dramatic reduction” of the total America will accept this fiscal year.
The open letter, published Wednesday as a full-page ad in The Washington Post with more than 100 of the signatories listed, was notable for two reasons. First, it contained only conservative evangelicals, instead of the mix of progressive names that usually sign such open letters. And second, topping the list were Tim Keller and Max Lucado—two well-known and well-respected pastors and authors who rarely speak out on political matters.
Other key signatories include Kathy Keller, Willow Creek’s Bill and Lynne Hybels, authors Stuart and Jill Briscoe, author Ann Voskamp, Southern Baptist seminary president Daniel Akin, and pastors Joel Hunter and Derwin Gray, among many others.
“As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement,” stated the group letter, later noting, “We have a historic call expressed over 2,000 years to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now.”
Currently tied up in the court system, the president’s controversial executive order suspends the entire US refugee resettlement program for 120 days and indefinitely bans refugees from Syria. It also halves the number of refugees that can come to the United States this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000.
“We live in a dangerous world,” acknowledged the group letter, “and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions.
“However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades,” it continued. “For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.”
The organizer of the group letter—World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and one of the nine agencies that resettle refugees in America—explained on a conference call Thursday morning that the signatories have grown to more than 3,000. It continues to gather signatures.
Three key takeaways from the executive order’s implications and evangelical reactions so far:
1) Evangelical leaders overwhelmingly oppose the four-month refugee freeze and resettlement reduction.
2) American evangelicals at the grassroots are much more evenly split.
3) Regardless of the court fight, fewer persecuted Christians will find refuge in America under Trump’s plan.
1) Most evangelical leaders oppose the executive order’s impact on refugees.
While a small group of conservative evangelical leaders—including Samaritan’s Purse’s Franklin Graham, the National Religious Broadcasters’ Jerry Johnson, and the American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow—have spoken out in defense of Trump’s plan, the open letter in the Post further cemented the growing consensus among evangelical experts that Trump’s executive order on refugees is unnecessary and harmful.
The letter was also signed by Fuller Seminary’s Richard Mouw, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ Shirley Hoogstra, Open Doors USA’s David Curry, the Christian Community Development Association’s John Perkins and Noel Castellanos, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition’s Gabriel Salguero, The Wesleyan Church’s Jo Anne Lyon, the NAE’s Leith Anderson, and World Relief’s past president Stephan Bauman.