ELCA Sanctuary denomination

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And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:40

On August 7 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), through its Churchwide Assembly, voted to become a sanctuary body. 

The ELCA has a long history of advocating for immigrants and working to welcome and resettle refugees. In fact, several congregations in our synod sponsored refugees in the years after World War II and again after the Vietnam War. In line with our historic understanding and action responding to the needs of immigrants and those seeking asylum within our nation’s borders, the ELCA has declared itself to be a sanctuary body.

This is a declaration of our continued commitment to “welcome the stranger.”  As a sanctuary church, the ELCA is committed to serving and supporting migrant children and families in communities across the country (

How each congregation lives into this commitment will vary. Some members will volunteer or donate to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), others may wish to host our synod’s AMMPARO team to learn more about immigration (more information can be found at, still others may find ways to support immigrant families in their own communities.

As a denomination, we are still living into what this designation means. Part of the action the Churchwide Assembly took was to direct the ELCA Church Council to provide guidance and resources related to the question what does it mean to be a sanctuary body?.

To be clear, this action does not require congregations or individual members to engage in any particular activity and nothing in this action binds synods or congregations.

It is our hope that as individuals and congregations you will thoughtfully engage in prayer, discernment and conversation in light of this declaration. As you do so, a centering question might be: how can we best live into our identity as the people of God in this place?

May peace and courage be yours, 
Bishop Steven H. Delzer and Bishop-Elect Regina Hassanally

Links to more information about what this means:

Talking points from the ELCA
Letter from Bishop Suarez of the Florida-Bahamas Synod
Biblical texts on being a sanctuary church