On Immigration

by Larry Moffet Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Lincoln

Several members of the NWU community have commented on the way that classroom studies and First Church Peacemaking Workshop events have strengthened each other on the topic of immigration reform. I thought your readers would like to know that even on contentious issues like this one, the original vision of the founders of Nebraska Wesleyan, First Church, and University Place continues to be lived out at a grassroots level. Learning, faith and community do indeed all strengthen each other here.

Many opinions on the subject of immigration find expression on campus. That's as it should be. Academic freedom is a value here.

Over 50 students took part in First Church’s November multi-faith Peacemaking Workshop on immigration. One student, Leslie Bellas, was a key speaker. The purpose of the event was to give people from widely differing theological backgrounds ways to talk about the hot-button issue of immigration with compassion and with a desire to learn and be proactive rather than reactive. Over 250 people from many academic and faith backgrounds, some not claiming a faith background, attended.

The work of the interfaith Peacemaking Workshop planning committee was shaped by filmmaker Eric Byler’s appearance on campus. Byler’s documentary, 9500 Liberty chronicles the great economic and social distress that a county in Virginia went through when it adopted laws like the recent Arizona and Fremont, Neb., statutes. (You can watch a trailer at www.9500liberty.com.)

Many opinions on the subject of immigration find expression on campus. That’s as it should be. Academic freedom is a value here. And it’s not surprising that student tutors in the Cooper Center for Academic Resources report some student papers expressing draconian positions on immigration that they cannot defend with research.

I believe academic rigor benefits a campus’s most compassionate and most judgmental students in identical ways. It calls on them to express and analyze their positions, consider alternatives and make informed choices about defending or adjusting those beliefs. All ideas are explored with unbending respect and civility in an environment of Christian concern. And the best are strengthened in the process.

The miracle for me as a pastor is to see the multiple ways this dynamic community—Nebraska Wesleyan, First Church, and University Place—continues to nurture constructive dialogue and respectful action on even the most contentious issues. President Ohles says with a twinkle in his eye that Nebraska Wesleyan and First Church represent a happy marriage of Athens and Jerusalem. May it continue to be so.

In pursuit of learning, faith and community,
Larry Moffet