By Bob Allen
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter and Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore were among a small group of faith leaders who met in the Oval Office April 15 to discuss immigration reform.
The White House summarized the meeting like this: “The faith leaders shared with the President stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. The President expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system. He emphasized that while his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress.”
Paynter, who pledged to increase CBF involvement in public advocacy since assuming leadership last year, expressed support for congressional action on immigration reform.
“It’s time to retool our laws for immigration,” Paynter said in a CBF news release. “We can meet as a country at the intersection of moral conscience and common sense and pass reform.”
“Congress has the tools to act and, as people of conviction, people of faith in the U.S. are in agreement that common sense measures can be taken,” Paynter said. “There is a place to honor the God-given dignity of persons, honor the rule of law, ensure fairness to taxpayers and seek a path towards recognition for immigrants.”
Moore, also elected last year and described as less partisan than his predecessor Richard Land, posted on Twitter: “Just left Oval Office meeting with President Obama. Tried to live up to 1 Pet 2:17 even though we disagree on many things.”
Other faith leaders in the meeting were JoAnne Lyon, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church; Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston; Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association in Chicago; Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza in Philadelphia; and Dieter Uchtdorf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah.
Administration officials included Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, and Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
According to the White House readout: “The President and the religious leaders expressed their longstanding commitment to immigration reform as a moral imperative and pledged to continue to urge Congress to act on reform as soon as possible. The President thanked the faith leaders for their leadership on this issue and their tireless efforts to encourage Congress to finish the job.”