A Pastoral Letter on the Immigration Executive Order

President M. Craig Barnes Addresses the Seminary Community

Dear Seminary Community,

The executive order issued on Friday by the White House that halts the refugee program and prohibits citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entry to the United States raises grave concerns. Several judges have issued temporary stays against portions of the executive order, the acting Attorney General was fired for questioning its legality, and the full implications of this shift in policy are still unfolding. We will be monitoring this situation closely as it continues to evolve. The Office of Multicultural Relations will provide support for any of our international students, scholars, and members of our community who have questions or concerns about their visas or international travel.

While this order has particularly serious ramifications for some, it heightens the sense of anxiety and uncertainty among many in our community and around the world who fear being unfairly targeted for their race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or immigration status. Policies that promote such fear do not represent a gospel vision for the flourishing of humankind or for our life together. As a seminary community, it is important that in this season we affirm the values that undergird our faith and our mission as a school of theological education. Christ calls us to the work of reconciliation and the task of welcoming the stranger in our midst, not to burning bridges and building walls.

A constant injunction throughout Scripture is to care for the foreigner, the marginalized, and the vulnerable in society. The prophets of Israel held a vision of justice that extends not to a privileged few but to those most in need of its protection: the poor, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant. The prophets insisted that political leaders are vested with a responsibility to promote justice in the public realm, acting as agents of God’s own mercy, compassion, and righteousness. Likewise, Jesus calls his followers to welcome the stranger and to treat every person with dignity and compassion as God’s beloved child.

One of our cherished commitments as a seminary is to extend the love of our community to all of those who are around us, including those of other faiths, and to seek greater understanding of their lives. Professor Ellen Charry has invited a delegation from the Islamic Society of Central Jersey to visit our campus in March to share in a time of conversation and learning. On April 11, the Office of Multicultural Relations and the Religion & Society Program will sponsor a forum on “Religious Tolerance: An Islamic Perspective,” with Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, in Washington, DC. More information about these events will be forthcoming.

As a community, let us hold fast to Christ’s light as we pray for ever brighter glimpses of God’s kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Craig Barnes
President, Princeton Theological Seminary

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Environmental steward at St. Paul’s Christian School

Nick Babladelis, Class of 2015

“The faculty and staff at Princeton Seminary took my interests in science and theology and gave them real direction.”