Evangelical group steps up efforts to sway congressmen in Texas, elsewhere, on immigration reform

West Texas pastor Coffey joins in radio ads calling for compassionate, fair solution

AMARILLO—An evangelical group pushing for “broad, commonsense immigration reform” has upped its advertising campaign beyond $1 million with radio ads aimed at Republican congressional members in 14 states including Texas, and a prominent pastor from West Texas is among the voices in the ads.

Stan Coffey, longtime pastor of The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo, joins a group of notable Southern Baptists supporting the efforts of the Evangelical Immigration Table “Pray for Reform” campaign.

Touted as “92 days of prayer and action to pass immigration reform,” it seeks, as Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, put it, “broad immigration reform, without delay” to address what the group calls “an unacceptable political stalemate” that falsely divides the issue between “open borders and amnesty versus deportation of millions.”

Evangelical Immigration Table leaders say they are calling for neither. Instead, the groups says it wants policy that respects “God-given human dignity,” keeps families intact, secures borders, is fair to taxpayers and creates a path to legal status or citizenship.

The $400,000 in additional ads come during a Congressional recess as many House members are back in their home districts.

Coffey, who served two terms as president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention beginning at its founding in 1998, said he has long been concerned about the illegal immigration problem and that the current system is “broken.”

“The Old Testament mentions strangers in your midst something like 92 times,” Coffey told the TEXAN in an interview. “Of course, I come at it from the standpoint of compassion and the standpoint of a concerned pastor. I’m certainly not here to write or dictate legislation but just to encourage members of the House from Texas to take up this issue and deal with it.

“You think about Texas; it is a tremendous problem and usually these are people who love their family, who want to work, they want to be a part of us. The biblical worldview would dictate compassion.”

Coffey said a phone call from Duke convinced him to make his views known. Coffey recorded a radio spot for the group on Aug. 22.

Asked if he had received any criticism from his stance, Coffey said he hadn’t.

“I do know the people in our church in general—not every single person of course— our people have a heart for the stranger and the immigrant, for those folks who come into our state and our community,” he said.

The ERLC’s Duke said in a news release about the ad campaign, “The rule of law and love of neighbor are both necessary values for any civilized people. They don’t have to be competing values. I am praying for our members of Congress as they engage in the nation-defining work of developing immigration solutions that temper justice with compassion.”

More than 60,000 people nationally have signed the group’s petition at pray4reform.org, but they have gotten criticism from some in the conservative camp.

For example, a group called NumbersUSA, which advocates lower immigration levels, has its own campaign, with telephone calls and ads aimed at pressuring lawmakers to turn back any reform that includes a path to legal status.

In June the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would provide a 13-year path to citizenship for qualifying illegal immigrants and a $46 million border security package, but none of the House proposals provide a path to citizenship.

Other states where the ads are running are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Among Texas Southern Baptists who have signed the Evangelical Immigration Table petition are David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston; David Galvan, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Dallas; Lamar Cooper, professor of Old Testament at Criswell College; Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern Seminary.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and a former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president, were among the early signers.

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TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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