Beyond Welcome

Centering Immigrants in Our Christian Response to Immigration

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Publishers Weekly starred review

"A top-notch Christian look at immigration, humane and full of heart."--Publishers Weekly

Many American Christians have good intentions, working hard to welcome immigrants with hospitality and solidarity. But how can we do that in a way that empowers our immigrant neighbors rather than pushing them to the fringes of white-dominant culture and keeping them as outsiders? That's exactly the question Karen González explores in Beyond Welcome.

A Guatemalan immigrant, González draws from the Bible and her own experiences to examine why the traditional approach to immigration ministries and activism is at best incomplete and at worst harmful. By advocating for putting immigrants in the center of the conversation, González helps readers grow in discipleship and recognize themselves in their immigrant neighbors.

Accessible to any Christian who is called to serve immigrants, this book equips readers to take action to dismantle white supremacy and xenophobia in the church. They will emerge with new insight into our shared humanity and need for belonging and liberation.


Part 1: Words and Myths
1. Strangers in a Strange Land: The Myth of Assimilation
2. The Scarlet Cord and the Myth of the Good Immigrant
3. Russian for Beginners: Words Matter
Part 2: The Bible and Belonging
4. Reading the Bible: Interpretations Have Consequences
5. Mi Casa Es Su Casa: The Hospitality of Jesus
6. The Land before (Western) Time: A Theology of Belonging
Part 3: Dignity and Departures
7. Departures: People on the Move
8. Ethical Storytelling: Disrupting the Narrative
9. The Kin-dom Where Everyone Belongs


"González's weaving together of biblical stories, immigrant realities, and her own experiences in community brings clarity to how white supremacy and American exceptionalism play a role in our desire to be heroes of good immigrants. This book needs to be in the hands not only of those seeking to love immigrants but also of immigrant advocates."

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, pastor, author, activist

"In Beyond Welcome, Karen González masterfully weaves together biblical scholarship and life experiences to articulate a powerful and compassionate theology of belonging that recognizes all people--regardless of national origin, language, immigration status--as image bearers of God and part of God's 'kin-dom.' It's an important and compelling work that I strongly recommend; it provides a road map to help all of us fully live out what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves."

Rev. Adam Taylor, president of Sojourners; author of A More Perfect Union: A New Vision for Building the Beloved Community

"Beyond Welcome is a beautiful and compelling invitation to experience the depths of human belonging. With a powerful exploration of Scripture and her own story, Karen González boldly calls us to center our immigrant neighbors in our theologies and daily lives. 'Words, it is very clear, have power and can open doors,' writes González. This is exactly what we experience in this work: an open door leading toward our shared humanity and collective liberation. This book is a sacred and necessary gift to the church."

Kat Armas, host of The Protagonistas podcast; author of Abuelita Faith

"Rooted in Scripture and in her personal experiences both as an immigrant and as an advocate for immigrants, Karen González's Beyond Welcome asks weighty questions about how Christians respond to issues of immigration. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not--I usually did, occasionally did not, and in a few cases am still wrestling with what I think, long after reading this poignant book--you will find Beyond Welcome to be challenging, constructive, and helpful in drawing Christians toward an immigrant-centered, Christ-honoring response to a complex issue."

Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization and advocacy, World Relief; coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate

"Karen González is wonderfully brave. She tells hard and often hidden truths about immigration, about the church, and about parts of the Bible we often ignore. She does it all in the light of Christ, through his words and action as revealed in Scripture. We all need to take the challenges in Beyond Welcome seriously, particularly those of us who care about Christian engagement in immigrant ministry."

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, academic dean, Centro Latino, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Beyond Welcome is an invitation to re-read Scripture through the eyes of the people at the center of the story--immigrants who find their identity in God's family. Karen González has offered us the opportunity to unlearn the habits of colonized hospitality and to know the beloved community God makes possible in the fellowship of those who know this world's systems are not their home. It's an invitation for all of us to find our true home by reimagining the spaces we inhabit."

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Revolution of Values

"With powerful and evocative stories about her life as an immigrant to the United States, Karen González opens our eyes to new perspectives on ancient stories. Her book presses into the complex hope and resilience of people who leave home only to face threats of assimilation and racialized myths. In Beyond Welcome, González pushes us past sentimentality and into the fleshy good news of God's border-crossing, transgressive love."

Melissa Florer-Bixler, author of How to Have an Enemy

"This book presents many challenging and helpful questions about how we think about and relate to immigrants and immigration. Written from her own perspective as an immigrant, González explores a broader, constructive framework to engage in a way that recognizes the often unjust and unequal power dynamics inherent in an immigration system and country that has often treated immigrants as 'less than.' González's unique and compelling perspective is much needed as we think about what it means to move beyond welcome to learn from and become like family with our neighbors. I hope this book will challenge you as much as it challenged me!"

Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and policy, World Relief; coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger

The Author

  1. Karen González
    Brandon Tobias

    Karen González

    Karen González is a writer, speaker, and immigrant advocate who emigrated from Guatemala as a child. She attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where she studied theology and missiology, and she has worked in the nonprofit sector for thirteen years. In...

    Continue reading about Karen González


"[González] urges Christians to welcome immigrants in this incisive appeal. . . . The author's biblical analysis achieves the difficult task of drawing fresh conclusions from familiar stories and finding wisdom in those less discussed, and her keen attention to how language, race, wealth, ability, and sexuality intersect with immigration is compassionate and inclusive. The result is a top-notch Christian look at immigration, humane and full of heart."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A gifted storyteller, González punctuates her argument with tales: biblical narratives, stories of her childhood as a Guatemalan immigrant, anecdotes from her time teaching English in Kazakhstan, and stories she tells with care about her family and friends. . . . This book is readable and compelling enough for the average layperson, but ultimately it is for all of us."

Lauren D. Sawyer,

Christian Century

"[Gonzaìlez] emigrated from Guatemala as a child and now advocates for immigrants. Combining her strong storytelling skills with her background, she has written a book that challenges readers to rethink their understanding of immigrants. She mixes personal stories and those of others with an examination of familiar biblical passages viewed from a unique perspective. . . . This book will be of interest to general readers but especially those wanting to know more about immigration or biblical and theological reflections on the topic."

John Jaeger,

Library Journal