Does the OPC support amnesty for illegal immigrants?
We are grateful for your question.
The 73rd General Assembly of the OPC (2006) responded to an overture from the Presbytery of Southern California seeking advice for "presbyteries and sessions regarding the reception of illegal aliens into membership in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church."
The 73rd General Assembly responded "by electing a committee of three, and one alternate, to study the issue regarding the reception of illegal aliens into membership in the OPC and to propose to the 74th General Assembly advice for presbyteries and sessions" (Minutes of the Seventy-Fourth General Assembly, item 93). That committee did, in fact, present a study report to the 74th General Assembly (2007) which can be seen in the Appendix, pages 334-367 of the Minutes of the Seventy-Fourth General Assembly. This document can also be viewed online at http://opc.org/GA/aliens.pdf
In the report the Committee argued [line 942 ff.]:
Can an illegal alien, then, honestly promise to obey Christ when he knows that he will continue intentionally or perhaps unintentionally to break the third, fifth, eighth, and ninth commandments? We believe a credible profession of faith requires that the illegal alien seeking church membership should be willing to repent of these sins as he comes to understand them in the light of God's Word and through the ministry of the pastor/evangelist and the elders. What does this mean for the illegal alien? We believe that the illegal alien, out of a desire to serve the Lord with all that is in him, should honor the government by attempting to remedy his unlawful immigration status.
Committee members, however, offered differing views as to what steps should be taken to remedy one's immigration status prior to reception into church membership.
You must understand that study reports that come to the General Assembly do not bear constitutional status. They are in the realm of pastoral advice. The OPC has historically, on principle, understood the church’s power in terms of the definition of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter XXXI (“Of Synods and Councils”), Section 4 [http://www.opc.org/wcf.html], states the following:
Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.
Thus it is that the OPC, as a church denomination, has not spoken on the issue you raise. The responsibility for doing justly belongs to the courts of the church (sessions, presbyteries, and the general assembly) on a case by case basis in keeping with our constitutional standards—the Scriptures (our primary standard), the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
We are well aware that many denominations in America have gone in the direction of attempting to speak authoritatively on the many issues that come before the state. We are also aware that the National Association of Evangelicals has recently adopted a resolution calling for immigration reform in the US and that several churches, including the Christian Reformed Church, have endorsed that resolution. The OPC, however, on principle, is not a member of the NAE and has not endorsed their resolution or otherwise made any official statement. The study report presented to the 74th G.A. is offered solely as a help.
Again, we are encouraged by your question and for the opportunity to offer a response.
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