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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Church USA

The culture of hospitality

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One of the many reasons I chose to be Mennonite is the culture of hospitality. Between potlucks and the overall warmth in the congregations I have interacted with, I have always felt a sense of belonging … to a point.

Recently, I listened to a discussion about the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation, which was passed by delegates at the 2022 special delegate assembly, as compared to hospitality. The question of how congregations, conferences and Mennonite Church USA can be hospitable to LGBTQ people reflects embedded bias.

Firstly, hospitality includes an essential power dynamic. There are hosts, who manage the space that guests are invited into. At the heart of the resolution, there is the need for former and current power holders, “hosts,” to recognize their role and step aside, so there is equitable, just, space for LGBTQ Mennonites to also be “hosts.”

Christian life invites all people to mutual service, without hierarchy.

At times, Jesus graciously received hospitality, as he traveled town to town. He also hosted meals for the disciples. Jesus’ relationship to hospitality was mutual, and so should that of Mennonites. It is news to most cishet[1] people that LGBTQ people actively choose — or not — to be hospitable — or not — by welcoming them into queer spaces, such as Pride events this month. Like Jesus, we are each and all called to be a host and a guest in mutuality with others in the community.

Secondly, a synonym for “hospitality” is “accommodation.” For example, lodging is also called accommodation. To host is to accommodate the space one manages for someone else temporarily. LGBTQ people are not simply visitors passing through and in need of accommodation.

Gender and sexuality minorities have always been present, since well before 1525. We were in the room during the merger that formed MC USA in 2002. We were in the room when the Resolution for Forbearance in the Midst of Difference passed in 2017. We were in the room when the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation passed in 2022. We have always been present, whether welcomed or not. We are here, competent and well past ready for shared leadership, so that everyone may benefit from the gifts of LGBTQ people who have historically been marginalized.

When delegates voted in favor of the Resolution for Repentance and Transformation, they voted in favor of outlined concrete action steps to become allies, advocates and accomplices for LGBTQ justice. Now is the time to follow through on those steps, as we move closer to shalom — wholeness for the other, interwoven with wholeness for oneself.

It is time to redefine our Mennonite culture of hospitality as a Mennonite culture of mutuality. Potlucks and healthy congregational life are all mutual. Everyone brings something to share and sits down together at potlucks. Healthy congregational life requires shared leadership locally, nationally and globally.

Erica Lea-Simka (she/her/hers)

Pastor at Albuquerque Mennonite Church

Southwest Regional Representative at Mennonite Women USA

[1] “Cishet” refers to cisgender, heterosexual people — people who identify with their birth genders and exclusively engage in romantic relationships with people who identify as the opposite gender.

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