February 08, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest,
For over two decades, Church of the Resurrection has had a special outreach focus—our commitment to love and serve refugees. I still vividly remember driving my family to O’Hare seventeen years ago as we welcomed to our country six “Lost Boys,” children orphaned from the Second Sudanese Civil War who were being sponsored by our church family. In light of recent developments and heated conversations in our country around refugees and immigrants, now is an urgent time to reassess this focus. Of course there are legitimate fears and concerns about national security and the porosity of our country’s borders. I sympathize with some of these concerns. But since we serve a Lord who transcends our typical categories, we have to press into this critical question: How is the Church, and how are we as a diocese, called to love and serve the nations around us?
First, I’d like to highlight that immigrants and refugees already play a vital role in our diocesan family. In addition to three Latino congregations with members from Mexico and Latin America, our four Chicagoland university congregations serve immigrant and international students from countries as wide-ranging as Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Korea, Iraq, Iran, China, and Syria. We even baptized a Muslim student who has come to faith in Christ. Church of the Resurrection is currently welcoming new families through World Relief’s Good Neighbor Teams. Other congregations in our diocese, such as Church of the Cross in Minneapolis, also have a long history of welcoming refugee families.
As you can see, this is a church family issue more than a partisan political issue.
To those from immigrant and refugee backgrounds in our midst, we want to say that you are deeply loved by Jesus and by us. You are such an important part of our church family. We hurt with you in this time (1 Cor. 12:26). We need you and the gifts you bring to our diocesan family (1 Cor. 12:22).
To those who serve immigrants and refugees, including the many World Relief staff in our diocese, and others who are actively welcoming the strangers and sojourners, we want to thank you for the beautiful Gospel work you do. God will not “forget your work and the love you have shown towards his name” (Heb. 6:10).
To all of us in the Diocese, this is a key missional moment. We are all called to welcome the stranger and to love even those the world might call our enemies. This includes immigrants, refugees, Muslims, the poor and the unborn—all those whom the Bible calls the "widow, the orphan and the stranger" (Deut. 10:18). We belong to a new community, formed around Jesus Christ, which will radiate with redeemed people from every tribe and nation and tongue (Rev. 7:14).
Let me offer some practical ways you can respond. First, pray. In this regard, please see the excellent prayer resource from our Archbishop Foley Beach. Second, I encourage you to build relationships with the immigrants and refugees in our midst. You could start by visiting one of the immigrant or university congregations in our own diocese. (Please contact Pastor Matt Woodley at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Fr. Jonathan Kindberg at JKindberg@greenhousemovement.com if you are interested.) Third, I encourage you to support our longtime partner World Relief, and other organizations whose mission is to care for immigrants and refugees. I recently signed a letter that is being released by World Relief in the Washington Post; you can view details here.
As I said a few months ago about other complex and divisive issues in our country, no matter what happens, remember this: It is a great day for the gospel. It is a great day to rise up and be the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a great day to love our neighbors and share the good news of Jesus in word and deed.
Bishop Stewart Ruch III
Queridos hermanos y hermanas de la Diócesis del Centro Noroeste,
Por más de dos décadas, Church of the Resurrection (nuestra catedral), ha tenido un enfoque especial de alcance, amor y servicio hacia refugiados. Todavía recuerdo con mucha claridad cuando manejé con mi familia hacia el aeropuerto de O’Hare hace diecisiete años para recibir y dar bienvenida a este país a seis niños huérfanos de la segunda guerra civil en el Sudán quienes nuestra iglesia estaba auspiciando. En vista de los acontecimientos recientes y conversaciones apasionadas en este país respecto a inmigrantes e refugiados, ahora urge reconsiderar este enfoque. Por cierto hay legítimos miedos y preocupaciones respecto a seguridad nacional y la porosidad de nuestras fronteras. Entiendo algunas de estas preocupaciones. Pero servimos a un Señor quien trasciende nuestras categorías normales, entonces debemos preguntarnos: Como Iglesia y como diócesis: ¿Cuál es nuestro llamado y como vamos a servir y amar a las personas de todo el mundo quienes nos rodean?
Primero, quiero resaltar que inmigrantes e refugiados ya juegan un papel muy importante en nuestra familia diocesana. Además de tres congregaciones latinas con miembros de México y Latinoamérica, nuestras cuatro congregaciones universitarias en Chicago sirven a inmigrantes e estudiantes internacionales de países como Pakistán, Somalia, Corea, Irak, China y Siria. Hasta hemos bautizado a un estudiante de trasfondo Musulmán que llegó a conocer a Cristo. Nuestra catedral, Church of the Resurrection, actualmente está dando la bienvenida a nuevas familias a través de un programa “Buenos Vecinos” de World Relief. Otras congregaciones en nuestra diócesis, como Church of the Cross, en Minneapolis, también tienen una larga tradición de dar bienvenida a familias refugiadas.
Como pueden ver, esto es un asunto familiar de nuestra iglesia, más que un asunto político de un partido en particular.
Para los que son inmigrantes y refugiados en medio de nosotros, como obispo y como familia diocesana queremos decirles que son profundamente amados por Jesús y por nosotros. Ustedes son una parte tan importante de nuestra familia espiritual. Sufrimos con ustedes en este tiempo (1 Cor. 12:26). Los necesitamos a ustedes y los dones que ustedes traen a nuestra familia diocesana (1 Cor. 12:22).
A los que sirven a inmigrantes y refugiados, incluyendo los muchos que son staff de World Relief en nuestra diócesis y a otros que están dando bienvenida al extranjero y peregrino, quiero agradecerles por este trabajo tan hermoso del Evangelio que hacen. Dios “no olvidará lo que ustedes han hecho y el amor que le han mostrado al ayudar a los del pueblo santo” (Heb. 6:10).
A todos nosotros en la Diócesis, este es un momento misional clave. Todos somos llamados a dar bienvenida al extranjero y a amar aun a los que el mundo quizás llamaría enemigos. Esto incluye: inmigrantes, refugiados, musulmanes, los pobres y a los todavía no nacidos--todos los que la Biblia llamaría huérfanos, viudas y extranjeros (Deut. 10:18). Pertenecemos a una nueva comunidad, formada alrededor de Jesús, quien brillara con personas redimidas de todo tribu, nación y lengua (Ap. 7:14).
Déjenme ofrecer algunas maneras prácticas de como pueden responder. Primero, oren. Relacionado a esto les animo a ver el excelente recurso del Arzobispo Foley Beach aqui. Por segundo, les animo a desarrollar amistades con los inmigrantes e refugiados entre nosotros. Podrías comenzar con una visita a una congregación universitaria o inmigrante en nuestra diócesis. (Favor de contactar al Pastor Matt Woodley: email@example.com o al Pastor Jonathan Kindberg: Jkindberg@greenhousemovement.com si estás interesado). Por tercero, les animo a apoyar a World Relief y a otras organizaciones cuya misión es de cuidar y servir a inmigrantes e refugiados.
Como dije hace algunos meses acerca de otros asuntos complejos y polémicos en nuestro país, no importa que pasa, recuerda esto: es un gran día para el evangelio. Es un gran día para levantarnos y ser la Iglesia de Jesucristo. Es un gran día para amara a nuestro vecinos y prójimos y de compartir el evangelio de Jesús a través de palabras y acciones.
November 18, 2016
Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? The Book of Common Prayer, Baptismal Service
Beloved Resurrection and Upper Midwest Diocese,
Praise the Lord who is our coming king!
I am full of joy and gratitude as I write to you. I am picturing so many of your faces and am reflecting on so many Kingdom of God moments that we have shared together over this liturgical year. I am thinking of the beautiful worship services in all the deaneries, confirmations, ordinations, Holy Week at the Cathedral, and the stunning experience of the God of love at Revive 2016.
As some of you may have heard, I have just returned from a week of reciprocal mission in Jos, Nigeria. I had the honor of co-dedicating with His Grace Benjamin Kwashi two facilities—Resurrection Clinic, a training center and holistic health care center outside of Jos, and Resurrection Hall, a large classroom to teach the former orphans and community children at Zambiri School. Both buildings were named to honor the generosity of the people of God at Church of the Resurrection.
I also had the profound honor of visiting four villages outside the city of Jos that have been literally burned and destroyed by Islamist cattle herdsmen. Pastor Matt Woodley and I had joined a team of British Anglicans led by the Baroness Caroline Cox. Apparently, these same herdsmen were provoked by our visit and sought to ambush our mission party. You can read the article here.
Many of you have reached out to assure Katherine and me of your prayers. That means so much. I honestly was not aware of the level of danger that surrounded us.
Instead I was shaken to my core by the stories of surviving villagers. I was especially moved by a conversation with Pastor Paul whose own home was destroyed. He also witnessed the execution death of a fellow pastor. I was shocked on hearing this. This was not a documentary that I was watching in my living room in West Chicago. This was a living testimony of the persecuted church in Northern Nigeria. And this is our family—yours and mine.
Pastor Paul standing in front of his demolished house.
Archbishop Kwashi has regularly taught us in the West that a faith worth living for is a faith worth dying for. He and Mama Gloria have deeply suffered persecution as well.
Against this backdrop, I would also like to comment on matters closer to home—our recent presidential election. Before I departed for Nigeria, I considered writing to you about the election’s results. I refrained because emotions among all of us were intensified and, honestly, I was not sure what to say. Never before have I seen an American moment where Kingdom-committed Christians are either so encouraged or so devastated.
Our experience in Nigeria and conversations with Christian leaders in the Diocese of Jos helped to put some things in perspective. First, as Archbishop Kwashi so eloquently reminded us, Christ is our one king and we are subjects of our first country, which is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Two, we as brothers and sisters in this diocese must pass the test before us of “doing everything in love.” We must eschew a spirit of individualism and competiveness that sees a certain political party or political leader as an affinity greater than fellow Christians. Furthermore, we must respect the dignity of every human being, which certainly includes women, Latinos, and other racial minorities who are feeling especially vulnerable in these days. And, I hasten to add, we must lay down our lives for the dignity of the unborn that are the most vulnerable segment of our American society. This will take a filling of the Holy Spirit to do so.
Let us run to our Advent disciplines of prayer and Bible reading. Please practice hospitality in this season to those who think and live differently than you. Please be intentional about having unbelievers and those of different ethnic or racial background than your family heritage in your home. Prepare for the coming of Jesus by building relationships with all those he came to save. I encourage you to read the Call to Prayer After the Election written by our Archbishop Foley Beach.
Brothers and sisters, let us pass this current test by doing everything in love.
With all my love,
Bishop Stewart and Archbishop Ben Kwashi dedicating the Resurrection clinic in Jos