Bishops' Letter on Hospitality and the Refugee Crisis
The United Methodist Church
Florida + Episcopal Area
Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
Florida Area Resident Bishop
December 7, 2015
Dear United Methodist Sisters and Brothers in the state of Florida:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, whose perfect love casts out fear, and who comes to us in the stranger.
As United Methodist Bishops assigned to Florida, we offer a pastoral response to the destructive consequences resulting from the war in Syria and the rise of ISIS. Our hearts break over the violent terrorist attacks in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and the awareness of the increasing number of vulnerable families, women, and children, who are fleeing Syria in search of safety. We are aware that many of those seeking freedom are Syrian Christians. As we approach Christmas, we remember that the Gospel of Matthew, written in Syria, tells the story of the Holy Family who flee the violence of their own home.
We call upon our churches to welcome our brothers and sisters, of all faiths. We also are reminded that the re-settling process of a refugee in the United States often takes eighteen to twenty-four months and includes a screening process. We take seriously the need to balance security with hospitality.
We invite our communities to join our Christian sisters and brothers in prayer and advocacy on behalf of this growing international crisis.
Let us pray:
- For an end to the conflict in Syria and the surrounding area.
- For those seeking safety in the surrounding areas of Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Europe, and the United States.
- For a lasting peace which will enable refugees to return home in safety.
- For those who serve our country by assisting refugees in passing through our security processes, that they will be strengthened with wisdom and understanding.
- That our communities will continue to welcome those in desperate need.
- That refugees will truly find “sanctuary” among the many sanctuaries where we gather to worship God.
- That our nation may model moral leadership before the nations of the world.
Rev. Jack Amick, Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), has noted that since its founding 75 years ago, UMCOR provides assistance to all. He said, “The stories we hear about Christian communities being persecuted break our hearts. But, as Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan reminds us, all human suffering should break our hearts such that we take action regardless of human divisions and labels of race, creed, religion.”
As advocates and partners addressing this refugee crisis, we give thanks for the work UMCOR is doing, in providing space heaters, mattresses, blankets, soap, diapers, and sanitary pads as a first response to basic human need. We also trust that our local churches, over the coming years, will partner with ecumenical relief organizations in resettling displaced families and welcoming them, in the name of Jesus, into redemptive communities of peace, safety and hope.
The peace of the Lord,
Bishop Ken Carter
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
Resident Bishop, Alabama-West Florida Conference