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Southwest California Lutherans pass Sanctuary and Jubilee Resolutions

At the 2017 Southwest California Synod Assembly, held at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks on June 2 – 3, members voted overwhelmingly in favor of resolutions to become both a Sanctuary and a Jubilee synod.

In becoming a sanctuary synod, the SWCA Synod recognizes that its territory, which ranges from San Luis Obispo to Long Beach, is home to many immigrants and refugees, that more than two-thirds of immigrants live in mixed-status households, and that many jurisdictions in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have declared their support for immigrant communities and reject using local law enforcement to do the work of federal immigration agents. The Synod Sanctuary Resolution states not only that “the congregations of our Synod will commit to pray for immigrants and refugees among us and will strive to be places of radical welcome, refuge, and protection” but that “that we will work to protect the dignity, safety, and basic human needs of all immigrants and refugees among us, even by resisting policies that seek to turn away and harm the stranger.”

“Our holy scriptures call on us to ‘love the strangers,’” says Pastor Stephanie Jaeger, convener of the synod’s sanctuary network. “The goal of this sanctuary synod resolution is to empower every Lutheran and every Lutheran congregation in our territory to discern how they can ‘love the strangers’ by supporting immigrants in our churches and communities who are facing possible detention and deportation. For some, this will mean providing comfort and prayer, for others it means helping undocumented persons navigate our complex legal and immigration systems, for others it will mean advocating for immigration reform, protesting unjust detentions, or even providing public sanctuary housing.”

By this action, we join the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which became a “Sanctuary Diocese” at their Diocesan Convention in December 2016. The SWCA Lutheran and Episcopal organizations are ecumenical partners in Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS), and often work mutually in matters of social justice.

The Jubilee Resolution references the 1999 ELCA social statement “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All, ” which calls for “reduction of overwhelming international debt burdens in ways that do not impose further deprivations on the poor, and cancellation of some or all debt where severe indebtedness immobilizes a country’s economy.”

The ELCA Advocacy office supports the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 550 faith communities which has seen the cancellation of over $130 billion in debt for the world’s poorest countries. In becoming a Jubilee Synod, synod encourages its congregations, schools and members to pray for the world’s poorest countries; designate a contact person to be a liaison with Jubilee USA; to become Jubilee USA congregations; and to take action such as letter-writing to Congress or the Administration calling for economic justice in each country and especially the world’s poorest countries.

The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament calls for a “year of Jubilee” every 50 years, when all prisoners and slaves are freed and debts are cancelled. The Rev. Steve Herder of Ascension, Thousand Oaks, has been involved with the Jubilee Network for 17 years, spearheaded the synod’s Jubilee Resolution. He quotes the Congressional Digest Capitol Hill as calling the Jubilee USA Network “the last standing bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill.”

“We won $100 million debt relief for Haiti,” states Pastor Herder. “$100 million for the three countries in West Africa fighting Ebola, and $1 billion for Chad. Now we are very involved with Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt. I love this work also because it’s interfaith work. It’s global work. It’s bipartisan work. It’s work that fulfills what Jesus proclaims in Luke 4.  To be a Jubilee synod or a Jubilee congregation simply means that we are part of this amazing ministry of advocacy, and following our Lord Jesus, declaring and seeing Jubilee for the world’s poorest people.”

For information about becoming or supporting a sanctuary congregation, contact Pastor Stephanie Jaeger at (818) 762-2909 or For information about becoming a Jubilee USA congregation, contact Pastor Steve Herder at (805) 495-0406 or