Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) receives substantial support from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It is a partnership that needs to be terminated for the sake of the LCMS’s declared mission to “make known the love of Christ”, and to preserve the integrity of the LCMS’s third “mission priority” which is to “perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry”.
LIRS performs human care, but it has abandoned even a pretense at doing it near Word and Sacrament ministry. What is the point of “saving” people if it is not for the application of Luke 12:5? What exactly is Lutheran or even Christian about LIRS that the LCMS should continue to support it by lending it personnel, and giving it money, time, and recognition?
Examining LIRS’s literature leaves only the conclusion that it has evolved into a pillar of American civil religion. It invokes vague religious ideas, but despises non-universalist dogmas. Its faith is the generic faith of “faith initiatives”, “inter-faith dialogue”, “faith communities”, “faith-based” activities, “faith for justice”, etc etc etc. The organization’s President even uses the parting salutation “in faith” in her communications. Which faith? That amorphous faith that is everything yet nothing, and hangs its hat at Sojourners.
LIRS survives at the unique intersection between church and state that is actually celebrated not only tolerated; where they embrace to make heaven-on-earth in the image of man. Like most civil religions, the American version’s chief doctrine is salvation by and through the state, mediated by the persons and institutions approved by the power elite.
LIRS long ago became one of the anointed institutions of American civil religion underwritten with tens of millions of dollars of government funding. That has not stopped it from dipping into the collection plate of ill-informed, but well meaning, Lutheran congregations. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin would no doubt approve this erasure of the formal and material principles which Lutherans are supposed to confess:
“…I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing of good to men; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded either here or hereafter. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote or confirm morality, serv’d principally do divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induced me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increased in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.”
Illustrating the LIRS lurch into civil religion, look at the matrix below in which we reviewed all the most recently available annual reports published by LIRS. LIRS confesses nothing we might recognize as Lutheran dogma, never mind Romans 10:8-15. You will not find LCMS mission priorities reflected in anything LIRS says and does unless you agree that stripping away Word and Sacrament fulfills the mission.
To ensure that we were not being unreasonable, we also looked at the images used in the LIRS annual reports in case they were used instead of words to convey Lutheran identity specifically and “Christian” identity generally. Unfortunately, they convey the same story of human care absent Word and Sacrament ministry.
The LIRS annual reports have developed an increasingly secular flavor that simply mimics the output of most any organization in the immigration / refugee government-NGO complex. The pinnacle of its rebellion has been to embrace an alternative Gospel (welcoming the stranger) and a different Jesus (the refugee who needs to be saved).
The Gospel is the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. The Gospel is not being kind to immigrants, refugees, and “the other”. Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to save us from our sins, not to be an example for our felt needs.
However, at LIRS the only sins you will read about are “harmful immigration laws”. The only repentance you will encounter is “community-based interventions”. The only salvation offered is “resistance against repressive laws” (we have no illusions about that Bishop’s views on resisting abortion laws). LIRS even has its own sacraments: grace, relationship, acceptance, forgiveness, and community.
At this time when the LCMS is dealing head-on with apostatizing individuals and institutions, it is also time to call LIRS and its leadership to repentance. If it remains impenitent, then the LCMS has an obligation to sever all ties with it.