To love, not fear refugees focus of GC2 summit
NAPIERVILLE, Ill. (BP) -- Southern Baptist leaders were among about 550 evangelicals from a diversity of denominations at a summit on Wednesday (Jan. 20) to pinpoint concrete ways Christians can spread the love of Christ at home and abroad amid a global crisis of 60 million refugees.
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and a BGCE senior fellow, moderated the event that included video messages from International Mission Board President David Platt and Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, and comments from Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page.
Stetzer revealed preliminary results of a survey conducted Jan. 8-15 among Protestant pastors, in which 45 percent said their congregations fear refugees; 85 percent of pastors agreed that Christians have a responsibility to sacrificially care for refugees, and 68 percent of pastors believed the church can balance security with compassion. Regarding the Syrian refugee crisis in particular, a third of pastors surveyed have addressed the topic from the pulpit, Stetzer said the survey shows.
In the largest and longest global refugee crisis in history, the world's 60 million refugees are among 232 million migrants globally, Stephen Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief, told those assembled. Typically, refugees have exhausted all of their earthly resources, are saddled with insurmountable debt, lack the opportunity to earn a living, suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder and are hopeless. Most refugees living in camps will live the remainder of their lives there, leaders said.
"We are facing a critical moment as the church," he said. "Will we acquiesce to fear, ignoring the facts and blaming the victims of war instead of its perpetrators? Or will we find courage within ourselves to honor the vision and values of our faith?"
In a video presented during lunch, International Mission Board President David Platt presented a "God-centered view" of the refugee crisis, extolling God's sovereignty over all things and Satan's sovereignty over nothing.
He told leaders to remember that God oversees the movement of all people; God generally establishes government for the protection of people; God specifically commands His Church to provide for His people; and God seeks, shelters and showers the refugee with His grace. Platt exhorted leaders to serve refugees by speaking the Gospel clearly, praying to God for help and guidance, acting justly, loving sacrificially, and hoping confidently.
"God is sovereign over even suffering in this world," Platt said. "There is coming a day when wars and crises will no longer exist."
Among many other presenters were Wesleyan Church General Superintendent Jo Anne Lyon; World Vision President Rich Stearns; World Relief President Stephan Bauman; Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago; Christine Caine, founder of the A21 global anti-human trafficking campaign; John Azumah, a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana and professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary, and Fayez Ishak, missions director Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church in Cairo.
The summit included morning breakout sessions focusing on the role of the church in caring for refugees, the logistics and dynamics of refugee domestic resettlement, and a detailed update on the international refugee crisis itself. The afternoon presentations were livestreamed for those not in attendance and included talks, videos and personal testimonies encompassing the subjects of justice, Islam and ISIS, the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, the Great Commission, justice fatigue, crisis leadership, and the personal story of a refugee family.
Refugees on the international front can best be served by organized and cooperative groups that have resources already established where refugees are most populous, leaders were told.
Caine, who said she was abandoned at an Australian hospital by immigrant parents and later adopted by Egyptian refugees, captured the mood of the gathering by referencing the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. The Levite and priest who passed by the robbery victim were no doubt respected leaders who considered themselves too busy to stop and help, she said, encouraging leaders to put love into practice.
"We are called to love the lost," Caine said. "The church doesn't run from the darkness, it runs to the darkness."
In a stirring prayer between afternoon presentations, Page told the story of a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who photographed a starving child on her knees, too weak to walk to a feeding station less than 100 yards away, as a vulture patiently waited only steps behind her. When the journalist was later asked what happened to the child, he had no answer, and evidently had not stopped to help her.
"We have to save the girl," Page said. "Let us do that we need to do to save the girl," he prayed.
The BGCE, the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, LifeWay Research and World Vision co-sponsored the event, held a month after an ad-hoc group of more than 100 evangelicals drafted and signed a joint declaration on caring for refugees.
The "Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees: An Evangelical Response" signed in December 2015, affirms six key beliefs:
"-- Refugees possess the image of God and, as such, are infinitely valuable to God and to us.
"-- We are commanded to love our neighbor, and it is our privilege to love refugees.
"-- As Christians, we must care sacrificially for the refugee, the foreigner, and the stranger.
"-- We will motivate and prepare our churches and movements to care for refugees.
"-- We will not be motivated by fear but by love for God and others.
"-- Christians are called to grace-filled and humble speech about this issue."
The statement is available at www.gc2summit.com/statement, and may be signed by supporters at www.gc2summit.com/signatures.