Five years ago it was hard to imagine what the future would look like for Allegheny Mennonite Conference. The Mennonite Church USA conference had experienced decline in membership and finances for almost two decades, capped off last year when it lost the International Guest House, a beloved ministry of peace and hospitality in Washington, D.C.
Yet the sale of the guest house has created an opportunity to dream new dreams. On March 6, at a virtual gathering, conference delegates affirmed tithing the proceeds toward hospitality and justice ministries, honoring the guest house’s legacy.
Purchased in the 1960s for about $50,000, the property sold in 2020 for $1.35 million.
The sale was necessary because the convergence of COVID restrictions and a more stringent application of safety codes had become insurmountable challenges.
The guest house’s board of directors and a transition team agreed that most of the proceeds should go to peace, justice and hospitality ministries.
Over the years, hospitality and peacemaking went hand in hand at the guest house. Fellowship at breakfast and tea time, the signature events of each day, allowed conversation with global visitors — some of whom were avowed enemies but who came to appreciate sharing a table.
Allegheny pastors developed a proposal for a $135,000 tithe to address current issues in ways that might shape plans for using the remaining proceeds.
The MC USA Justice Fund seemed a logical first choice, both because of its denominational reach and its focus on Black, Indigenous and people-of-color congregations and organizations.
Immigration, a gift to a first nations group, dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery and assisting Gulf States Mennonite Conference became the other pieces of the proposal.
By helping Gulf States, Allegheny follows the example of those who offered aid to Allegheny in the past. Central District and Indiana-Michigan conferences assisted Allegheny when it did not have funds to send representatives to MC USA’s Constituency Leaders Council and other meetings.
“We realize that our tithe is only a beginning gesture into centuries-long injustices, but we are compelled to open these channels as we attempt to honor the legacy of IGH,” said David Mishler, conference minister. “Taking these initial steps will assist us in our conversations for the use of the remainder of the proceeds. We have opened communication with MC USA, Mennonite Mission Network and people focused on First Nations justice.”
Moderator LeAnne Zook said: “With these monies, we as a conference acknowledge that our God is a God of justice and is calling us to participate in undoing the structures and policies of inequality that have long been present, too often built by our governments and sanctioned by our churches.”
The tithe is disbursed as follows:
$60,000 to the MC USA Justice Fund ($45,000 as a direct gift and $15,000 as a matching grant to double the value of new donations).
$35,000 for immigration ministry at the U.S. southern border, including San Antonio Mennonite Church and La Casa de Maria y Marta.
$20,000 to a Washington-area Indigenous group.
$10,000 to Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition.
$10,000 to Gulf States Mennonite Conference.