By Robert Dilday
Ministers affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina rallied in Winston-Salem April 2 to call on their representatives in Washington to support “comprehensive, fair immigration reform” that supports “the common good.”
“Our Scripture repeatedly calls us to care for the immigrants and strangers among us,” said Ka’thy Gore Chappell, the CBFNC’s leadership development coordinator and one of about 20 ministers who gathered on the steps of the city’s First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue.
“As Christians, we know that Jesus Christ taught us in Mark 12 and Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” she said. “Jesus taught that there is no greater commandment, and that the entire law can be summed up in those words.”
Glenn Pettiford, associate pastor at First Baptist Church, said the demonstration was timely because Congress is in recess and most of its members are in their home districts.
Linda Jones, CBFNC missions coordinator and a co-pastor at Via Faith Community in Winston-Salem, encouraged church leaders to contact lawmakers and challenge them to “consider how their faith informs public policy.”
Immigration issues are personal for members of North Carolina CBF. In 2011, Hector Villanueva, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Roca in Siler City, N.C., was nearly deported when his application for citizenship turned up a 16-year-old felony conviction in California that occurred before he accepted Christ while in prison.
“Daily, ministers in our CBFNC Hispanic Network face checkpoints and racial profiling,” said Fortino Ocampo, pastor of Centro Familiar Cristiano in Siler City, N.C. “Police officers who act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials camp outside their churches on Sunday morning to check IDs. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters risk splitting up their families to exercise an American value and a protection of the First Amendment — freedom of religion.”