WASHINGTON ― It can’t feel good for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to see faith leaders of all persuasions condemning the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. But now a leader of his own denomination says the policy is inconsistent with their faith and suggested that it’s time for Sessions to repent.
“To disrupt or sever family relationships is incompatible with Scripture and Christian tradition,” Bishop Kenneth Carter, the president of the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops, said in a new statement. “And where the church has been silent in previous generations and cultures, or contributed to the separation of families, we have later understood our complicity and at our best have engaged in acts of repentance.” Sessions is a longtime Methodist.
Carter said that in Scripture, the law “is rooted in the nature of God who leads us out of oppression and bondage.” For Christians, that means following “the command to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22).” He added that especially for Latino Christians, “the image of the Madonna and Child profoundly shapes family life. It is a portrait of sanctuary and wholeness.”
A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment.
More than 600 clergy and lay members of the UMC are bringing church charges against Sessions over his zero tolerance immigration policy, which separates children from their parents so the adults can be criminally prosecuted for crossing the border without authorization. Previously, authorities typically kept migrant families together and routed them to immigration courts.
The formal accusation, filed Monday, charges Sessions with violations of the denomination’s Book of Discipline, including child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and, for his citation of Romans 13 to defend the policy, the dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the church.
“As members of the United Methodist Church, we deeply hope for a reconciling process that will help this long-time member of our connection step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families,” the letter states.
It is rare for Methodists to bring formal charges against a layperson. If the complaint isn’t resolved, it is possible for charges to result in a church trial and even expulsion. This has reportedly never happened in the church’s history.