Syrian Refugees Are Welcome in Ohio!

November 19, 2015

After the horrific attacks in Paris, we find ourselves once again mourning the loss of lives due to violence.  As a congregation that is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with its strong connectionalism and ecumenical relationships all over the world, we mourn the many deaths, not only in Paris, but also in Beirut, Baghdad, and Egypt.

It is with shock, that in the aftermath of the Paris attack, a number of Governors have announced that they want to stop their states from resettling Syrian refugees, with some members of Congress introducing legislation that would stop refugee resettlement altogether.  Moved by our faith in Jesus Christ and motivated by our history as a church that deeply desires to build a lasting culture of peace, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wooster Ohio, sees itself as a sanctuary for refugees from Syria and elsewhere.  As a community of faith, we are appalled that Ohio’s governor and presidential hopeful, John Kasich, would declare Ohio an unwelcome state for the displaced and distressed fleeing war and violence.  In this light, Westminster's Session has unanimously approved our church's welcome to Syrian Refugees as an expression of our Christian faith and shared values in the United States of America. 

November 19, 2015

Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
United States State Department
Foggy Bottom
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

The congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wooster, Ohio, Congregation in Residence on the campus of the College of Wooster, sees itself as a sanctuary and hereby volunteers to welcome up to three refugee families from Syria or elsewhere to help them settle into our community.  We are confident we could find more sponsors within our community if needed.

We make this offer to express our Christian duty to care for the stranger in need and to help the least of these, our siblings. We hope you will give us the opportunity to help those in need.

We respect and appreciate the pursuit of national security by our country, but find the dehumanization of Muslims in general morally reprehensible.  Islamophobia is a sin, and therefore we will welcome any family, including Muslims.   

As a community of faith, we are appalled that Ohio’s governor and presidential hopeful would declare our state unwelcoming to the displaced and distressed.  That declaration is not true to American or Christian values.  We want you to know that there are people in Ohio who welcome the opportunity to care for refugees as an expression of our Christian faith and our shared values in the United States of America.



Andries Coetzee, Pastor

cc: Governor John Kasich

State Representative Ron Amstutz

Congressman Jim Renacci

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Rob Portman


Westminster’s action is not in isolation as our denomination the Presbyterian Church (USA) calls us to Choose welcome, not fear in a statement released on November 17, 2015 by the Stated Clerk, The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Office of the General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church (USA).

For more information on this action, contact the Rev. Andries Coetzee at 330-263-2398.


Keywords: syrian refugees
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Comments (29) - Post a Comment
I am so proud to be a member of Westminster for 40 years. Helping those in need and working toward social justice is at our core. I agree 100% with our outreach to help refugees in need.
Elaine Smith Snyder at 2:49pm EST - November 19, 2015
Thank you for taking a Christian stand, Westminster Church. Our Lord himself was born a refugee and we in the Presbyterian Church (USA) understand our responsibility to welcome other refugees.
Rev. Virginia BIrks at 2:50pm EST - November 19, 2015
I am so proud to be a member of Westminster church. I was appalled that the Governor of Ohio would take the stand to refuse immigrants from Syria to settle in Ohio. I concur with the stand our church has taken.
Otis Whitmore Jr at 3:06pm EST - November 19, 2015
Dries and the Session of Westminster,
Thank you for your bold and unequivocal stand on the Syrian refugee issue and your offer to host families. A group of concerned members of First Presbyterian are holding an initial meeting this evening to discern what the calling of our church is in this matter at this critical time. I will plan to be at Westminster this evening before my meeting to stand in solidarity with you and others on this issue that goes to the heart of what it means to practice the justice and shalom of God in the manner of the Way of Jesus.
David Rice at 4:15pm EST - November 19, 2015
I was so glad to stand with you all on Thursday night. It gave me hope to hear clear, calm, and compassionate voices.
April Gamble at 9:44pm EST - November 20, 2015
Thank you everyone for attending Wednesday night's event! It gives me much hope for our community that there are those of us who are willing to stand with refugees. I know there is much opposition but these public, peaceful and positive events are the kind of education that we need to work together with the differing voices in our community. My prayer for this community is that we knock down the borders and the dividing walls from misunderstanding each other to have more open communication with the larger Wooster community for greater clarity. That we may gracefully offer words of honesty and words of justice that must be spoken for people who are in need of refuge.
Emily at 8:04pm EST - November 22, 2015
Working with refugees this past year has further clarified for me the sustainable and cooperative and co-ministry of Christ. Working alongside refugees in Tucson this past year, I see the as my friends who helped me through my own challenging times. They were the ones encouraging me. As much as we would be giving them a gift, they will return that gift ten-fold to our own community. There is a great mutuality in extending hospitality to refugees.
Emily at 8:07pm EST - November 22, 2015
Your so proud to help eh? when these Devils Hordes start killing,..will you be proud then? They will definitely eventually knock down the so called borders,...any violence on their part is on you,...time will tell if i am correct or you are wrong. Also,..the Christian stand is against Satan,...think about it,..see what these people ( Syrians ) are doing in France and other European countries, Germany. Take a good look.
Dan at 6:41pm EDT - September 8, 2016
How can my wife and I help Westminster Church with its Syrian refugee initiative? 330-439-8551
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