Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Sanctuary Movement Launches

After two months of hard work, we finally launched the New Sanctuary Movement yesterday at a huge press conference at St. Paul's near Columbus Circle. It was pretty amazing. Rising up and taking a stand in society, for churches to proclaim that they are stepping right into the middle of the immigration debate and the actual environment of raids and deportations the government has created - and to insert ourselves physically between the government and the people we love and are determined to protect. We proclaim the churches of this nation as a place of sanctuary for those pursued by a system run amok.

If you know of anyone in fear of deportation, please connect me with them. If you would like for your church to consider joining us and becoming a Sanctuary Church, please write me (

Personally the experience yesterday was unique in my life. As I said before we did a few small press conferences recently, so that gave me some good preparation - but this thing was crazy.

Cameras and reporters everywhere - and they didn't stay still, they were moving all around getting all different angles. I was one of six speakers - the others far more experienced at this and pretty big religious leaders in New York City. So I did my best to be the emergent voice and to call evangelical churches into the fray.

I think some of my friends didn't kind of believe me when I talked about this being a major national press conference - here's a partial list of who covered it:

Associated Press

New York Times

ABC News

CBS News



Catholic News Service

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly/ Jim Lehrer Newshour

Fox News Channel Live


Sing Tao Daily

Fox News Channel--Weekend Live

Tucker Carlson Live

BBC World News Service

Religion News Service

Chicago Tribune

CNN Radio Network


Fox News

USA Today

So just turn on the TV or open a newspaper and you can read all about it.


Tony Myles said...

Very cool!

JR said...

I'm sorry, but as a Christian I think the "New Sanctuary" Movement is very misguided, and I'll tell you why

From my blog (reference links on the page):

1) By helping a few, the sanctuary movement is hurting many others. And I'm not talking about Americans who lose their jobs to illegals. I'm talking about the dozens of people who die every year making perilous journeys across deserts, in crates, or through dangerous waters, like the dozens of Haitians lost at sea last week. All this talk of amnesty, and now "Church Sanctuaries" encourage more people to risk their lives to sneak into the USA, often stoked with false hope by despicable human smugglers looking to increase their profits and feeding on the unrealistic expectations of undereducated people.

2) One web site, here, makes a good point. Basically, by tolerating illegal immigration we are sending a message to our children that its okay to covet your neighbor's goods, and steal government services (not to mention bearing false witness when using fraudulent documents or SSNs). The site also points out that Romans 13 tells us to submit to civil authorities, and defines those as authorities that are not a "terror to people of good conduct but to people of bad behavior".

3) Jesus did tell us to love our neighbors. But is enabling them showing them love? If I decide tomorrow that I would prefer to live in Paris or Monte Carlo, are the Churches there obligated to help me do it? Are Christians obligated to set up another "underground railroad" for anyone who wants to live somewhere else? What is their definition of luxury vs. necessity?

4) Finally, this is what skewers the mission of the "New Sanctuary" movement the most: Exactly what are you saving illegal immigrants from? Deportation is NOT persecution. Deportation (when done under the law) does not involve torture, forced starvation, beatings, or other kinds of human rights violations. If it did, then I would be one of the first to join this "sanctuary movement" and oppose deportations of all kinds. All it involves is sending the person back to their home. That's it. Now, its certainly not a pleasant process, but when the problem has been ignored for so long that law enforcement has to get involved, nothing is ever pleasant. And frankly, illegals only have themselves to blame because they certainly could have left the country themselves long before the government had to do it for him. Or just not violate the law in the first place.
I happen to be in the military. I have been ordered to move several times, and not always to places I wanted to go, sometimes to very unpleasant places (like Iraq). Is that persecution? Would these sanctuary churches help me out if the Army decided to move me from Germany to Fort Bliss, TX, and I didn't want to go?

Now some may retort that since the living conditions in Mexico and some other third world nations are so bad, that sending someone back there is a form of persecution. If that is correct, then I would ask them are they willing then to invade Mexico or otherwise overthrow the government there? Because if Mexico is such a hell-hole that the very act of living there is a human rights violation, then there are 100 million people there that need our help right away.
But of course, Mexico is not that bad. It's not as wealthy as the US, but then again, no country is. Mexico's per capita income is $10,600 a year, and that's higher than about 60% of the world's countries and 80% of the population of the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. In other words, Mexico is a wealthy country. Now, I realize that its income distribution is as equitable as the US, but still, its not that bad. I've been there. In fact, some locations are very beautiful. .

So what to do then? Belive it or not, it is entirely possible to help everyone who asks for it and do so entirely within the law. Church groups can provide legal aid and advice. They can contact their congressmen and write letters of appeal. If a person is to be deported, they can provide loans, more comfortable transportation, and contact other Churches overseas to assist the individual in finding a home and a job back in their native country. In the long run, that would probably be more productive than hiding people in a house of worship or acting as human shields against the authorities.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is a modern tragedy what has arisen from the illegal immigration crisis...families being torn apart and people being deported...however illegal immigration is still is harmful to the immigrants and it is harmful to our nation and even more it makes the immigration process for the hard-working legal immigrants that much harder...therefore as a brother in Christ my advice is to be very illegal immigrants and treat them with the same dignity and respect that you treat everyone else with yes but do not condone their law-breaking, life-endangering practices.

The Bible calls us to look at for the poor and the desolate and the needy but it also calls us to respect the human authority that God has temporarily put over this I am not saying to not question the law and to treat George Bush like God's divine prophet (far from it) but I am saying that it does clearly say in the Bible to respect authority and to follow the law (unless this law blatantly and directly contradicts with scriptures). There is a reason why our nation has the immigration laws it does...our country has to keep the best interests of the people as a whole in mind and when people immigrate to the U.S. illegally they cannot be protected by the U.S. government because they are undocumented...our nation has to maintain high standards for immigrants otherwise just anyone would come over and there are many people believe it or not that hate the U.S. and would love to get into here to destroy our country...I'm not saying that illegal immigrants are like this but I am saying that our government has legitimate reason to be very cautious with immigration matters.

This being said...I cannot see your biblical justification for preventing authorities from carrying out their duties and maintaining the law.

Just remember Jesus was not some rebellious anti-establishment teenager...He was a wise and loving teacher who respected the authority under which He Christians we are called to be examples of Christ not a raucous authority-hating rebel group.

I respect your intentions in trying to help these people in such tragic situations but out of love I ask you to continue to show love and support to illegal immigrants but please do not support an illegal activity that has no Biblical justification...and please remember even if you hate George Bush and despise the GOP and our current Christians we are called to respect our earthly authority and stand up for justice in clear abuses but in all other situations we are bound to the law of the nation...just because we follow God's laws does not mean that we can simply ignore our government's laws.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

Romans 13:1-2

-Peace and Blessings,

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with both jr and andrew...Mr. Kursonis I really urge you to look at the Biblical mandate for respecting authority...deportation is a part of the due process of law it is not oppression...

My advice: read Romans and pray (and by pray I don't mean pray and then determine based on your incline what God's advice is...I mean actually pray and listen to God) and seek advice from other brothers and sisters in Christ.

-A. Baker

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see an apology to The King's College student body...maybe you've already apologized to President Oakes in private...I don't know...but an apology is in order...please demonstrate your leadership skills and be humble enough to ask for an apology.

Anonymous said...

By the way, while you're thinking about that, you may want to keep President Oakes in your prayers, as he is in the hospital with what may be a brain tumor and is undergoing exploratory surgery in a couple of days.


Jeff Kursonis said...

Though I don't normally comment to comments - because President Oakes is in the hospital I thought I should mention this. Actually President Oakes contacted me through his secretary to have lunch, we made an appointment, and then the day before she contacted me to reset it because he wasn't feeling well, and then a few days later she again contacted me to tell me that he had gone to the hospital. So I have been praying for him and his family all along and contacting some friends and checking on him - Oh Lord, please heal him. I was thrilled he contacted me and looked forward eagerly to our time together. I'm sure we will do it another day.

And just for those who are asking me to "step up and apologize" - I just want you to know so you don't wonder about my lack of response...My blog posts were not written out of misplaced passion or anger in the least. They were carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully written with many, many, many careful edits. I stand by them completely and also I stand by my brother in Christ J. Stanley Oakes - who I have never ceased to respect, and who especially now I am deeply concerned for his health and well being. I do not think I am right and anyone else is wrong. I think we are all on this journey together and we have much to learn from one another and in this day and age these kind of blog exchanges are where much good grows. That is why I don't comment much on comments. I listen to them all and take them in and learn much, (ie. I don't seek to prove a point but to engage in dialog where I seek to gain relationship and learn).

As for some of these comments on the New Sanctuary Movement - I totally hear you and I would have probably had similar views at another time in my life. But I hope you do understand that what you believe puts you squarely and without argument in the category of fundamentalism. If you're cool with being a fundamentalist - then I won't attempt to dissuade you. But also understand that you will be completely ineffective in contemporary society with ministering to anyone without a church/religious background. If they have that background they might lend you an ear, but if they don't they will find you repulsive. I don't find you repulsive, but I am deeply sympathetic with those that do (I just find you mildly icky). And though I won't try to change you directly, I will for the rest of my life attempt to nudge people of faith away from that direction. Please read the post in response to the students comments for more on the reasoning here.

JR said...

I'm not sure if you were including me or not, but if so, its kind of funny to call me a "fundamentalist". In fact, I don't feel comfortable with hard core Christian fundamentalists, and I have been shot at on several occasions by Islamic fundamentalists.

I'm not going to repeat anything already said, but just to respond to your point about being "repulsive", or "ineffective in contemporary society". First of all, should that really matter? Certainly Christ was not always embraced by the contemporary society of his time. If you are wrong, you are wrong. If you are right, you are right, and you should continue to do the right thing even if it costs you popularity.

But if you are concerned about the Church's popular image, then I think you are missing the mark anyway. You should realize that US citizens are overwhelmingly (according to the polls) tired of the current anarchy where our immigration laws simply aren't enforced at all, and I'm afraid they will see Churches like yours as part of the problem, contributing to anarchy, not the solution. Right now, congress is considering various types of immigration reform. You should instead push for one of these measures, if the issue is really important to you.

Eric said...

JR's comments regarding what he sees as the "misguided" nature of the New Sanctuary Movement deserves a reply.

I'll take them up in order.

1) The idea that the New Sanctuary Movement will increase the numbers of undocumented people in this country and put them at risk (by encouraging them to make often dangerous journeys en route to the U.S.) sounds plausible hypothetically, but is highly unlikely. Undocumented people (and here I am only talking about those who put themselves at physical risk when they attempt to enter the U.S.--and they are by no means the majority) come to the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but most of these are economic and thus driven by our own government's behavior. The great disparity in the world's wealth--atop which the U.S. sits in a preeminent position--is an will continue to be the leading factor in immigration, legal or otherwise. No declaration by a handful of religious organizations will increase immigration whatsoever. Until we (and by this I mean the globe) deal with the principal problems (uneven economic development being chief aong them and one which many of our country's policies serve only to maintain if not to deepen) undocumented people will continue to come to the U.S.

2) This brings us to the shameless prooftexting issue. If the New Sanctuary Movement encourages the message that it is okay to covet one's neighbor's resources, doesn't Christian complacency toward the U.S.'s highly assymetrical extraction and use of the world's resources--to say nothing of policies that exacerbate global wealth inequalities--smack of "grinding the face of the poor?" I seem to remember a prophet or two, and perhaps even some material in the New Testament condemning this. Prooftexting in order to support one’s own privileged overconsumption of the world’s finite resources and to justify horrific inequities in distribution of global incomes is morally repugnant.

3) This is frivolous and insulting. The New Sanctuary Movement is taking a stance on behalf of those who are here because they are poor and attempting to support themselves (often only barely) and those in their home countries who often subsist on under $2.00 a day. The Paris/Monte Carlo comment is an absurd comparison.

4)The exclusive focus on Mexico is a distraction, but more importantly JR creates the false impression that perhaps undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. don't have it as bad in their home country as we think. It is highly doubtful that a majority of undocumented Mexicans in this country enjoy decent standards of living in Mexico. Those willing to take the risk of entering the country no doubt do so largely as a result of lack of opportunity and the desperate economic circumstances prevailing in their home countries. To turn to two other countries in Central America, El Salvador and Nicaragua, I can tell you that only the truly desperate tend to make the difficult passage. Although large numbers of Salvadorans and Nicaraguans tend to stay in their home countries despite lack of opportunity (and by “lack of opportunity” I mean incredible poverty the likes of which few of us in the U.S. are able to imagine), those who do migrate to the U.S. do so in order to send remittances back to their families. If these undocumented people were suddenly deported to El Salvador and Nicaragua, the economies of these countries would almost instantaneously collapse and we would be faced with a major humanitarian crisis in this hemisphere.

Finally, let me say that no one should make a shibboleth of legal documentation as a requirement for residence in a country. There are many circumstances in which I think most of us would agree that lack of legal documentation would be irrelevant. If a war was to break out somewhere in Central America and people were displaced by it, would we really require them to show legal documentation for being here?

Anonymous said...

Jeff have you honestly ever met a true fundamentalist Christian because I don't think you have. I have lived around fundamentalists much of my life coming from the rural Midwest and I while I love them I believe that they have become grossly out of touch with the true meaning of scriptures. It seems that you categorize anyone that believes in absolute wrongs and absolute rights and acknowledges the need for structure and authority as fundamentalists and this is a gross exaggeration of the truth. I am very moderate and disagree with just as many traditions of the conservative right as I do with the liberal left. I think that you are so liberal yourself that its hard for you to realize that people that are right of your left leanings are not necessarily conservative or fundamentalist but more likely are moderates (as most people are). You are only widening your opposition by making such gross generalizations. And even if you aren't repulsed by fundamentalists is it really fair to call them icky? I highly doubt that is what Jesus would call them.

As a word of advice coming from someone who grew up around fundamentalist Christians: you are never going to make fundamentalists see things your way by bashing them and calling them names and telling them how stupid or heartless they are...a vast majority of them automatically cite scripture where it says to expect persecution and hatred in the days to come but to not let that hinder their faith...therefore by bashing them and isolating them and calling them names you are only giving them confidence that they are doing exactly what God wants them you really want to do that? The only way you are ever going to change fundamentalist right-wing Christians is by loving them as Christ would and by striving to be the best example of Christ that you possibly can.


Anonymous said...

Jesus was NOT a liberal or a conservative...stop putting him in a box Jeff.

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