WASHINGTON — With Congress facing a deadline to resolve the situation of “Dreamers,” several prominent evangelical leaders from Oklahoma are among the signatories to a letter urging President Trump and Members of Congress to protect Dreamers, refugees, persecuted Christians, and immigrant families seeking reunification.
The letter was published yesterday as a full-page ad in the Washington Post and announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill that featured South Tulsa Baptist Church pastor Eric Costanzo. Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) also spoke, as did Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and several nationally prominent evangelical leaders including Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Shirley Hoogstra of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Ruth Velasquez of Voices of Christian Dreamers.
The letter and press conference were coordinated by World Relief, a global Christian ministry that serves refugees and other immigrants in various communities throughout the United States.
Select Quotes From Oklahoman Signatories to the Letter:
Eric Costanzo, Senior Pastor, South Tulsa Baptist Church, Tulsa:
“We’re at a time right now where it probably seems like many evangelicals, and many evangelical churches, are trying to keep immigrants and refugees at an arm’s length. And I’m here to say that that’s not true for all evangelicals, and it’s certainly not true for all evangelical churches. It’s been a challenge to shepherd our congregation to do the work of Jesus Christ among the nations, especially in the last 18 months. As a church we are located in the most affluent part of our city. For the most part we are very homogenized in our whiteness, but we have since become home in the last few years to several international people – immigrants, refugees from all over the world. And as we’ve sought to open up doors to welcome and serve them, we now see people from over 30 different countries in our church building on a weekly basis.”
Josh Kouri, Lead Pastor, Frontline Church, with congregations in Oklahoma City, Shawnee, and Edmond:
“In the Bible we see that God has a unique heart for the vulnerable and the oppressed, specifically for the sojourner and the stranger. God’s repeated expectation was that the love he gave to his people would then be extended through his people to those most at risk. As Christians rescued by this God of love and grace, we cannot allow the complexity of immigration policy to be used as an excuse for our disobedience to the simple command to care for the most vulnerable among us. Particularly for those with DACA who will lose their jobs and be put at risk of deportation in the coming weeks and months, it is past time for Congress to act. And I’m grateful for Senator Lankford helping lead the way forward.”
Felix Cabrera, Lead Pastor, Iglesia Bautista Central, Oklahoma City
“The termination of the DACA program affects young people in my congregation, who now fear they will lose their jobs, which would mean losing their ability to pay tuition, to make a rent, mortgage or car payment, and to contribute with the skills God has given them. They even could be at risk of deportation, in some cases to countries they cannot even remember since they were small children when they arrived. I’m thankful for Senator Lankford’s eagerness to work in a bipartisan fashion to find a solution—I pray he and our other elected officials will be successful!”
World Relief invites others to add their name to the letter here.
View the ABC News livestream of today’s press conference here, including comments from Tulsa pastor Eric Costanzo at 41:32.
World Relief is a global humanitarian aid and development organization that stands with the vulnerable and partners with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transform lives and build sustainable communities. With over 70 years of experience, World Relief has 25 offices in the United States that specialize in refugee and immigration services, and works in 20 countries worldwide through disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding. www.worldrelief.org