By Bob Allen
Southern Baptist Convention leaders helped draft a statement released Dec. 17 calling on evangelical Christians to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis with compassion rather than fear.
The statement, approved by about 100 denominational, network and nonprofit leaders in a closed-door meeting at Wheaton College, committed individuals and their churches “to actively care for and minister to global refugees with mercy and compassion, both here and abroad, based on God’s compelling concern for all people in need and especially refugees.”
SBC Executive Committee CEO Frank Page, LifeWay Research Executive Director Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Research vice president Micah Fries were part of a 12-member drafting coalition working together in advance of the GC2 Summit, an initiative co-sponsored by the research division of the Southern Baptist Convention and Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Humanitarian Disaster Institute.
The gathering, originally planned for spring but moved up by recent developments including shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and well-publicized calls by presidential candidate Donald Trump to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States, was convened to lay out an agenda for a Jan. 20, 2016, GC2 summit on the Christian response to the global refugee crisis.
GC2, Stetzer explained in a Nov. 18 blog, refers to concern both for Christ’s “Great Commission” to make disciples and “Great Commandment” to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“Unfortunately, refugees are being treated like the new Ebola,” Stetzer wrote. “Much like the Ebola panic, many are now terrified of refugees. Is there a response that is more in the way of Jesus?”
Signers of Thursday’s GC2 statement pledged to “not be motivated by fear but by love for God and others” and to act with “love and compassion for refugees who have been admitted into our nation(s) in refugee status.”
“We acknowledge that there are genuine security concerns and encourage governments to be stewards of safety, but we also observe that choosing to come to North America as refugees would be among the least effective ways for those who intend to do us harm,” the statement reads in part.
“We distinguish that the refugees fleeing this violence are not our enemies; they are victims,” it continues. “We call for Christians to support ministries showing the love of Jesus to the most vulnerable, those in desperate need, and the hurting. This is what Jesus did; he came to the hurting and brought peace to those in despair.”
Stetzer, a senior fellow for Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center, called the presence of refugees “one of the more compelling and pressing issues of our day.”
“Across spectrums and opinions, all Christians agree that we should show and share the love of Jesus Christ to refugees and their communities,” Stetzer said on the GC2 Summit website. “In these gatherings we hope to provide the framework for Christians and churches to do that most winsomely and with fidelity to God’s word.”
The GC2 Summit, featuring a number of speakers and collaborators from the evangelical community, will be held at Wheaton College, a Christian school in suburban Chicago ironically in the news for its own controversy involving suspension of a political science professor who committed to wearing a hijab during Advent to protest discrimination and persecution against Muslims.
Wheaton officials said the discipline had nothing to do with the head-covering but rather a statement the professor posted on Facebook saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Administrators said the posting appeared to conflict with the school’s doctrinal stance.
Scholar Miroslav Volf, author of Allah: A Christian Response who has spoken on Wheaton’s campus, blasted the suspension in a Washington Post column Dec. 17.
“Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy,” said Volf, who teaches theology at Yale University. “It is about enmity toward Muslims. More precisely, her suspension reflects enmity toward Muslims, taking on a theological guise of concern for Christian orthodoxy.”