- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is expected to adopt a resolution this week promising to work for immigration reforms in the United States, becoming the latest religious denomination to boost its efforts to advocate for immigrants and refugees.

At its annual conference in Florida , the ELCA will call on its 10,000 congregations and nearly 5 million members to commit “to being an advocate and justice seeker in regard to refugee and immigration issues.”

The resolution does not mention illegal aliens, although it criticizes “burdensome laws and procedures and unjust practices [that] undermine our security.”

The ELCA’s action is the latest push by national religious officials in favor of loosening restrictions on immigration.

In May, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced an immigration project and last month endorsed a bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. Their bill would give illegal aliens a multistep path to citizenship and also create a new program for 400,000 new foreign workers a year, with the possibility of eventual citizenship.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s archbishop, said the Bible supports the bishops’ call to legalize illegal immigration.

“We go right to the New Testament and say, ‘Him or her who is without sin cast the first stone,’” he said during the May announcement. “How many of us have not violated some laws, whatever they might have been — either they’re traffic laws or immigration laws or tax laws, something like that.”

Meanwhile, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, in a statement endorsed by 15 national Jewish organizations and dozens of local groups, called for legislation that would “provide a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants.”

The National Immigration Forum, which supports legalizing aliens, said the efforts by religious communities should send a signal to Congress.

“Our nation’s religious leaders are monitoring the immigration debate and stand ready to galvanize their respective communities in support of real reform,” the forum said.

In other business, the ELCA will consider a proposal on whether to allow active homosexual clergy. Current policy in the denomination allows clergy who have a homosexual orientation to be ordained, but stipulates they must remain celibate.

The church is considering a variety of alternatives, including one that would allow applicants in “lifelong, committed and faithful same-sex relationships” to be ordained with the approval of local church leaders and bishops.

The homosexual clergy policy is scheduled for tomorrow and Friday, while the immigration resolution could be voted on today.

Both the ELCA and the Catholic bishops are putting a particular emphasis on services for refugees. The ELCA is also encouraging its bishops to establish task forces to help facilitate refugees and immigrants as they assimilate into society.

• Julia Duin contributed to this article.

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