Five years ago, it was hard to imagine what the future could look like for Allegheny Mennonite Conference. The conference had experienced decline in membership and finances for almost two decades, capped off last year when it lost a beloved peace and hospitality ministry in Washington, D.C – the International Guest House (IGH). The silver lining? The sale of the IGH property has given conference delegates an opportunity to dream new dreams out of a new sufficiency. On March 6 at the conference’s virtual Spring Faith & Life Gathering, delegates affirmed distribution of a tithe of the IGH sale proceeds towards hospitality and justice ministries, responding to a proposal from Allegheny pastors and honoring the IGH legacy. The property was purchased in the 1960s for about $50,000 amid racial unrest. It sold in 2020 for $1,351,000.
As the IGH Board of Directors and a Transition Team developed proposals for the closure and options for dividing the proceeds, they too were guided by the general principle of honoring the legacy of IGH. There was consensus that most of the proceeds should further peace, justice and hospitality ministries within the conference and the denomination. Over the years, many volunteers and supporters of the ministry came to Washington D.C. to oversee daily operations, helping with facility upkeep and renovation. Hospitality around the table at breakfast and teatime (the signature events of each day) allowed conversation with global visitors, some of whom were avowed enemies, but who came to appreciate sharing table with one another.
During several recent pastor peer gatherings, Allegheny pastors developed a specific proposal for the tithe – $135,000 – which is in line with the IGH legacy and seeks to address current headline issues in ways that might shape what happens with the remaining proceeds. The “Justice Fund,” recently established by Mennonite Church USA, seemed a logical first choice, both because of its denominational reach and focus on BIPOC congregations and organizations. Immigration, a gift to a first nations group, dismantling the doctrine of discovery, and assisting another MC USA conference became the other pieces of the proposal. Allegheny was assisted by Central District and Indiana-Michigan Conferences when Allegheny did not have funds to send representatives to Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leadership Council (CLC) and other national meetings. Now Allegheny will honor the spirit of Central District and Indiana-Michigan by “paying it forward” to another conference.
“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. We believe that taking these initial steps will assist us in our conversations for the use of the remainder of the proceeds,” said Conference Minister, David Mishler. He added, “We have opened communication with MC USA, Mennonite Mission Network and people focused on first nations’ justice, because we hope to do more as we learn how best to be generous and wise with what we have been presented with.“ AMC Moderator, LeAnne Zook offered, “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 that have long been present, too often built by our governments and sanctioned by our churches.“
The disbursement of the tithe affirmed by Allegheny delegates at their March 6, 2021 Faith & Life Gathering is as follows:
- $60,000 – to the Justice Fund of Mennonite Church USA: $45,000 undesignated gift and $15,000 to be used to generate matching funds for this new ministry
- $35,000 – for immigration ministry at the southern border – various ministries of San Antonio Mennonite Church, including La Casa de Maria y Marta (developed in consultation with Mennonite Mission Network)
- $30,000 – gift to a first nations group and educational initiatives ($20,000 gift to a Washington, D.C. area indigenous group and $10,000 to the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition)
- $10,000 – gift to Gulf States Mennonite Conference for the purpose of representation at
denominational meetings ($5,000 a year over a two-year period)
- $135,000 – Total
For questions, contact Allegheny Mennonite Conference, David Mishler, Conference Minister at 814-443-2007.