SBC leader appears in immigration ads

Russell Moore, incoming chief of the Southern Baptist Convention’s moral-concerns agency, says advocacy for just and fair immigration reform will be a “major touchstone” of his administration.

By Bob Allen

The incoming head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said May 30 that immigration reform will take a high priority in his new role.

“Just and fair immigration reform … will be a major, major touchstone of my administration,” Russell Moore, who begins officially June 1 as America’s second-largest faith group’s top spokesman for moral and policy concerns, told reporters in a conference call.

russell moore mug“We plan to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in calling for justice, compassion and fairness for the sojourners among us and for just and fair immigration reform,” said Moore, who leaves a post as vice president and dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Moore is featured in a quarter-million-dollar radio and billboard ad campaign paid for by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of diverse evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum launched in June 2012.

Gabriel Salguero, president of National Latino Evangelical Coalition, described participants ranging from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention to left-leaning Sojourners “the broadest coalition of evangelicals I have ever seen.”

Moore, who served on an SBC resolutions committee in 2011 that drafted a historic resolution supporting “a just and compassionate path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants,” said he believes the reason for such wide diversity and acting now is because evangelicals are coming to understand that a broken immigration system is a moral issue.

“This isn’t just a political issue… It isn’t an economic issue only,” he said. “It’s a moral issue, and it’s been a stain on our country for too long. And now is the time for the country to come together for an immigration system that respects the God-given human dignity of every person.”

“Here you have a movement that just a few years ago was a handful of leaders and not a lot of attention given to questions of immigration,” Moore said. “Now it’s a quarter-million-dollar ad campaign that is going to reach millions in the next several weeks. I think it’s really, on a whole, a growing evangelical concern for loving neighbor and for recognizing the importance of human dignity.”

“Why this is so important to us, particularly as Christians, is because God has a heart for the sojourners in the land,” Moore said. “God has a heart for the marginalized and suffering.”

Described as the largest and most aggressive paid-media campaign about immigration to reach evangelicals in recent history, the ads will air nationally on the Salem Communications Network and in 13 key states. It includes billboards near congressional offices in four states.

The effort is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s 92-day “Pray for Reform” campaign. The number 92 was selected because that’s how many times the Hebrew word for “immigrant” occurs in the Bible.