Evangelicals Push Immigration Path
Senior pastor Kenton Beshore said the first sermons on the plight of illegal immigrants didn’t go over well with many members of his evangelical church, which sits on a 50-acre campus in Orange County and has a 3,400-seat sanctuary, sports facilities, restaurant and a man-made lake.
“We took a hit on it,” said Mr. Beshore. “We had people who walked out and whose giving went away.” It was part of the reason the church ended 2012 with a $500,000 budget shortfall, he said.
But much has changed in the two years since—both at Mr. Beshore’s 14,000-member Mariners Church and at conservative evangelical congregations around the U.S.
After decades of sitting on the sidelines of the debate, evangelical Christians are prodding Republican lawmakers to support a path to U.S. citizenship for the nation’s illegal immigrants, based on their reading of Bible teachings. Evangelical pastors from pulpits across the U.S. cite Scriptures about welcoming strangers. Some compare illegal immigrants with modern-day lepers, who should be treated with compassion by Christians.
An estimated 300 evangelical leaders, including Mr. Beshore, plan to convene in Washington next week to lobby lawmakers of both parties for an immigration policy overhaul, an issue that has divided voters, lawmakers and church congregations.