What Does It Mean to Be a "Sanctuary Church Body?"

14-Aug-2019 to 14-Aug-2019


Last week, Churchwide Assembly declared our church’s commitment to inter-religious relationships and to reject sexism and racism. They also nearly-unanimously declared the ELCA to be a “sanctuary church body.” Being the first denomination to claim such a distinction has left many of us wondering what it means and how to speak to our congregations about it.

The desire to be a sanctuary church is not new – in fact, it is our legacy.  William Passavant put the Biblical mandate to care for the orphan and widow into practice when he founded sanctuaries for children and the elderly in Western Pennsylvania.  Nor is the action of the assembly a call for congregations to engage in illegal behavior, as some have wrongly claimed.  It is rather a pledge to be our best selves for the sake of our neighbors in the world we share today. 

In every time and place, the Church strives to manifest the love of God in its care for all people, especially for those who do not have a safe home or homeland. To aid in the upcoming work of informing and engaging our congregations, we are providing a quick list of talking points as well as my pastoral message, which is a longer read, but one that I hope may be helpful in thinking about being our best selves.

Thank you for your faithful engagement with the ministry of the Gospel in this synod,  

Bishop Kurt F. Kusserow