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Update on Refugee Support in The Episcopal Church

The following letter was sent to Alyssa Stebbing from The Rev. Linda Shelton, the Diocesan Liaison for Refugee Ministries. Trinity is currently partnering with Holy Comforter in Spring in support of a refugee family, who are adjusting to their new life in southwest Houston. As Rev. Shelton says, “Refugee ministry support is a tangible, meaningful, and powerful way of being in the world: loving our neighbors as ourselves, through living out our Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people, as we respect the dignity of every human being.”

Additional resources are available if you want to learn more. Contact Alyssa or The Rev. Linda Shelton, whose contact information is included below.

 

Dear Clergy, Outreach and Mission Coordinators,

As a diocesan liaison to Episcopal Migration Ministries, I am writing to update you on the current and ongoing need for our diocesan churches’ support of refugees. The Episcopal Church remains committed to refugee resettlement in the midst of current challenges to this longstanding tradition and faithful practice of welcoming the stranger, victims of war and persecution, to our state and nation.   Last month we saw our Texas Bishops join together and send a letter to Governor Abbott to express their concern regarding his intent to withdraw the State of Texas from the US refugee resettlement plan.  Despite similar letters from other faith leaders and appeals from the public and the resettlement agencies who actually carry out this humanitarian program in a forty- year tradition and practice of welcome in Texas, Texas Health and Human Services Commission began the 120- day process of withdrawal on Sept 30th.  The State of Texas will no longer provide services to private and non-private agencies effective January 31, 2017.

Refugee resettlement will continue in Texas, however.  A federal program of the United States, resettlement of refugees and necessary services for that process will be administered through the selection of one or more non-governmental non-profit agencies to work with existing resettlement agencies.  The work, ministry and need will go on. The real consequence of our state’s action is one of disappointment and loss for our state’s proud tradition of welcome, friendship and opportunity; extra work for the dedicated resettlement agencies, staff and their community supporters; anxiety and confusion for former refugees now living and making their homes in our communities; and, ongoing fear regarding national security based on misunderstanding and a lack of factual awareness and appreciation of refugees, their resettlement selection and the security process of their admissions.

As Episcopalians, people of faith and practice, and citizens, we are called to respond.  Refugee ministry support is a tangible, meaningful, and powerful way of being in the world: loving our neighbors as ourselves, through living out our Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace among all people, as we respect the dignity of every human being.  It is in keeping with our national tradition and the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.  It is community-building work as we partner to establish a climate of welcome, understanding and respect for other people, regardless of their religion or country of origin.

Your congregation can respond through voicing support for refugees to our elected leaders and engaging with Episcopal Migration Ministries and its local partners in Austin and Houston.  As our state’s decision is recent, now is the time for us to phone and speak in favor of refugee resettlement. Please share the action information below. There are many other ways to help, large and small, one-time projects and long- term commitments, behind the scenes or actually mentoring and walking alongside refugees as they achieve self-sufficiency and make their homes and lives as new community members.  Prayer support, public advocacy and factual awareness support refugee resettlement and are needed to guide our nation’s choices at a time when there are now more than 60 million displaced people in the world, over 20 million of whom are refugees and less than 1% of whom will be resettled in new nations.

Facts, resources, news links and action items which your congregation may find helpful are listed below.  The Rev. Sherry Williams, Diocesan Liaison for Refugee Ministry in Austin, Alyssa Stebbing, Outreach Director for Trinity, Woodlands and an EMM Pilgrim who traveled to Africa as part of a learning and advocacy program for refugee ministry, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.  We can connect you with local refugee resettlement affiliates, or visit with your parish to share this ministry of advocating for and supporting arriving refugees.  Please contact us if we can be of service and thank you for your attention to these current challenges and opportunities to show support and welcome to refugees, some of our newest neighbors.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Linda Shelton

 

The Rev. Linda Shelton

Diocesan Liaison for Refugee Ministries

713-529-6196

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