Some background on our meetings this week:
The UMC Immigration Task Force is mandated by General Conference to bring together church leaders to shape church response on immigration. United Methodist Women has been a member since its creation in 2007. The Task Force has been a table to share the work of agencies, conferences and racial/ethnic caucuses as well as JFON and MFSA around immigration issues. It is chaired by Bishop Julius Trimble of Iowa Conference, with the active leadership of Bishop Minerva Carcano (Cal-Pac) and Bishop Elias Galvan (MARCHA), who have helped to lead the Council of Bishops on responses to immigration concerns. It helped to create the Rapid Response Network (led by GBCS) to create and mobilize conference Immigration Task Forces around Just Immigration Reform.
The Task Force on Immigration has:
• worked on public policy in Washington DC as well as State immigration policy
• organized immigrant rights rallies at General Conference in Ft. Worth and Tampa
• collaborated on UMC policy on immigration
• generated educational materials through different agencies
• collaborated on international delegations on global migration
• advocated for General Board of Pensions to adopt a new social investment screen to avoid investments in private prisons and private detention centers
• joined in prayerful civil disobedience at the White House (February 2014) calling for #Not1More deportation
• convened a fact-finding delegation to explore response to unaccompanied children from Central America
This week we will be exploring current realities on the US/Mexican border and needs for the church’s response, particularly the urgent needs of mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America.
The Methodist Border Mission Network began in 2007 as a dialogue among UMC Bishops on the US side of the border, and Bishops of the Mexican Methodist Church on the Mexico side of the border, to respond to critical needs related to migration. This evolved into the MBMN, which gathers lead staff from both sides of the border to develop collaborative programs. It has been involved in learning and building relationships on what it means to be Christians, and Methodists, working on immigration. Emerging from that have been collaborations between conferences to support ministries in Mexico, including community centers that feed and house people who have just been deported from the US and are dumped on the Mexican side of the border. Through UMCOR, blankets and health kits are distributed to migrants at the border and can save lives. Pastors in Tijuana/San Diego lead a joint worship service each Sunday with families gathered on both sides of the border, divided by a fence, yet sharing the Word and communion through the bars. When Arizona law SB1070 was passed in 2010 the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church of Mexico adopted a statement reflecting on how the law would hurt their sisters and brothers who cross the border and expressing solidarity with United Methodists in the US. It was the first such action that they had taken. Said Bishop Carcaño, “We work in spite of borders that keep us from doing the work that we feel called to do. We are reaching out in healing, merciful ways to our immigrant brothers and sisters. There is much servant work, done sacrificially, by many among our Methodist family.”