Posted on August 16, 2019

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Becomes Nation’s First ‘Sanctuary Denomination’

Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune, August 16, 2019

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America the largest Protestant denomination in Minnesota, has become the first North American denomination to declare itself a sanctuary church, committed to supporting and sheltering migrants entering the country.

The ELCA announced its decision last week at an annual assembly in Milwaukee, where leaders also participated in a march and prayer vigil at the Milwaukee Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.

While individual churches from many faith traditions already are supporting refugees on the southern border and in their communities, this is the first time a denomination has urged its members to engage in actions ranging from providing living spaces for migrants to supporting them in immigration courts.


Minnesota is home to the largest ELCA community in the nation, estimated at 670,000 members. Nationally, the ELCA has about 3.3 million members and 9,000 congregations.


“It may mean providing space for people to live; providing financial and legal support to those who are working through the immigration system; or supporting other congregations and service providers,” according to the ELCA’s online explanation.

Churches also could host English as a second language (ESL) classes, participate in vigils and marches to protest the detention of children, or just have “thoughtful conversations” with church members and the community about the issues faced by the migrants and the biblical response to it.


His church is not now housing anyone, he said, but has supported immigrants in other ways, including advocating for them at the state legislature.