08/27/2014 04:06 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

What Needs to Rise Out of the Ashes of Christendom? Immigration Reform.

Shaped By Our Ashes

Religious history, Christianity's included, is often scarred by its worst moments, but it is also shaped by them.

I don't know many people of faith who aren't troubled by the evils woven into their traditions: the violence, the war, the oppression... not to mention the "softer" but no less valid injustices of not listening, of dismissing, of invalidating those in need. We mourn these events and other disappointments -- past and present, grieving them and the good they have stolen from our faith experiences.

But our grief is not limited to tears shed in some remote separatist corner, but rather it is pain that stirs and inspires. That takes root and swells in us, moving us -- we hope -- to humanizing and feeling. It is an active, sacred grief that energizes us to express our faith in Jesus with more care and compassion. To kiss the wounds of the past by healing the future.


This is the heart of Christianity21, a gathering that will take place in Phoenix, Arizona in January, as 21 speakers are invited to deliver 21 big ideas inspired by the ashes scattered along our Christian history.

Below are quotes from five of the 21 speakers, representing tribes across the Christian theological spectrum, who have raised public awareness about immigration reform. We who organize and speak at the event hope engaging their thoughtfulness on immigration, and their presentations about various topics at the event, will encourage Christians from the right to the left to redeem the ashes of our faith and move toward a brighter future together.

We invite you to join us. All are welcome.

5 Leading Voices of Faith on Immigration

Brian McLaren

"A lot of people don't realize the Bible is a book about immigration," McLaren said. "Abraham was an immigrant. Moses was a refugee. The Hebrew scriptures have so much to say about how how we should treat the immigrant and the alien. So much of Jesus' ministry is defined by his reluctance to play along with the nativist urges of his day."

"All white people are immigrants," McLaren said. "This would be a good time to remember that. One of the really hard things in building Christian community is getting people to give things a second thought, to go against the flow. When we see these scapegoating attitudes toward immigrants, if pastors don't create a process where those can be challenged, we can become an uglier nation. We can even look at our own history; segregation was the order of the day when I was a little kid and it was defended by thousands of clergy and tacitly accepted by thousands of others." - from The Bible Is a Book About Immigration

Jenny Yang

"We can all do a better job of understanding cultures that are different than our own. For those of us who have taken the strides, I feel like we receive more from immigrants than we would ever be able to give them. In general, refugees and immigrants are really resilient people. Hearing their stories of what they went through and understanding all the ways that God is working through their lives really expands our mission of how God moves and how God works all around the world. So I think partnering with refugees provides a great opportunity for churches to welcome and to receive a lot from refugees and immigrants by expanding their view of God." - from What the Church Needs to Know About Immigration

Chris Seay

"According to the Scriptures, we are to show hospitality to all people, specifically immigrants:

'You must treat the outsider as one of your native-born people--as a full citizen--and you are to love him in the same way you love yourself; for remember, you were once strangers living in Egypt. I am the Eternal One, your God.'

But Celtic Christians didn't merely bring you in for bread and water and a roof over your head. These kinsmen and kinswomen considered it a blessing to serve the Lord and encounter Christ in a physical way. One of my favorite Celtic prayers echoes this sentiment:

'I saw a stranger yestereen,
I put food in the eating place
drink in the drinking place
music in the listening place
and in the sacred names of the Holy Trinity,
he blessed my house,
my cattle and my dear ones,
and the lark sang her song often,
often, often goes the Christ in a strangers guise,
often, often, often, often goes the Christ in the strangers guise.'

The Celts took the words of Scripture very seriously, believing that in strangers we often encounter angels and even Jesus himself..." - From A Place at the Table

Efrem Smith

"There are some city transformation and urban church planting models that in the end will actually be more problematic than transformative and missional in cities across the United States. These expressions of church planting seem to put at the forefront those that are coming into the city thru an urban redevelopment model known as gentrification. The poor, the immigrant, and the longstanding residents of urban communities become secondary objects of outrreach. This approach seems very different from the missional work of Jesus, which begins with the paralyzed, the Samaritan woman, the tax collector, fishermen, and those marginalized and oppressed by the Roman Empire and the religious leaders of the Temple." - from The Problem With City Transformation and Church Planting Movements

Jacqui Lewis

"We are afraid to speak up, to stand in, to voice our disgust and disappointment at the ways systemic racism continues to grip our nation in its ferocious teeth. We are waiting on someone else to do it, waiting for some hero to arise and lead us to freedom. And while we wait, the myth of "post racial" plays in our country because we elected an African-American president. While we wait, we build higher fences on our borders to the south, where the darker brothers and sisters live, our xenophobia and racism seething under the guise of immigration control.

It's important that we address the ways race matters in our communities, and why not start in our churches? We need faithful, courageous leaders who are unafraid of their light, unafraid to turn God's liberating love loose in a world that desperately needs it." - From Lead the Change

You can find out more about these speakers, this gathering, and how to reserve tickets here. (Tip: There are still three days left to get the best ticket rates of the season.) If you would like to raise your own voice around some issue or ashes in your story, there are opportunities for audience members to participate and be heard as well. The hope is this event will stage 21 mainstage voices, plus yours.