Called to "Wade in the Water": A Letter from Bishop Jennifer

Wade in the water, wade in the water children
Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water

I can’t even count how many times I’ve joyfully sung this spiritual while processing to the font to baptize someone into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The lyrics came to mind again last week when I joined a couple of our congregations on a visit to the Underground Railroad and Freedom Center museum in Cincinnati. The story of the Ohio River and the history of Indiana and Ohio as border states speaks to our current moment. It was impossible for those of us visiting the museum to ignore the parallels between enslaved people crossing the shallow depths of the Ohio River seeking freedom and those seeking refuge on the southern border of the United States. Indeed, seeing images of enslaved children being separated from parents reminded us that much of what horrifies us today is deeply part of the history of our country. I must confess to you that I’m moving through these days feeling at turns angry, sad, and grasping for hope as I watch a policy of “zero tolerance,” unequally distributed, compound the trauma of society’s most vulnerable—our children.

Beloved, I used the word, “our” quite intentionally because there is no way for us to disentangle ourselves from the people who come to the United States seeking refuge and asylum. They are our children too. When we marched in the Indianapolis Pride Parade earlier this month, proclaiming, “God loves you, no exceptions!” we really meant, “no exceptions.” And so we must ask—how is God’s love shown in policies that forcibly separate children from parents? How is God’s love shown in “zero tolerance” policies? Those who seek to cross our border have myriad reasons for doing so. Our baptismal covenant commits us to respecting the dignity of every human being and our faith demands that we advocate for immigration policies that balance justice with compassion.

It is sobering to realize that what we are witnessing is not new. You can no doubt comb the pages of our holy Scriptures and find instances of children being separated from parents and families. However, the overwhelming message of God’s interaction with all creation—humanity especially—is one of love and reconciliation.

We often say that “God makes a way out of no way.” As part of the Jesus Movement, we know God to be loving, liberating and life-affirming. That same God is calling us to wade in the water, to stand with the vulnerable and marginalized and work to transform systems of injustice.

Our diocese will be participating in a number actions: a virtual vigil will take place tomorrow on Facebook and you are also invited to join me, our Faith in Indiana partners, and others at the U.S. Federal Building on Saturday, June 30. Details are still coming together but watch our diocesan Facebook page for updates. Deacon Fatima Yakubu-Madus, our missioner for community engagement, will be coordinating our participation and you can reach her at Fatima@indydio.org for more information. To attend a rally closer to you, search here. I also commend those who are seeking refuge in our country and those who govern and make our immigration policies to your individual and corporate prayers.

Faithfully,

Bishop Jennifer