Radical Hospitality Core Curriculum

Six-week core curriculum

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Download the Radical Hospitality Bible Study Guide.

También disponible en español: Hospitalidad radical: Responder al tema de la inmigración (Una guía de estudios bíblicos)

When you have completed your study of Radical Hospitality, we would greatly appreciate you taking three  minutes to fill out this simple evaluation. Thank you!


To view the following videos with Spanish subtitles:

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Session 1

Immigration: Today’s Civil Dilemma and Theological Challenge—What Does the Bible Say? (Part 1)

M. Daniel Carroll R., Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Denver (Colo.) Seminary

(An excerpt from his keynote presentation to the Mennonite Church USA 2013 Delegate Assembly in Phoenix on July 2, 2013)

Provides history and examples of immigrant stories throughout the Bible and examines our identity as Christian “aliens” here on earth.

Referenced Scriptures: 1 Peter 2:11, Genesis 1, the story of Abraham, the story of Joseph, Exodus 1

Discussion questions

  1. What Bible verses have you heard used to argue that it’s not our responsibility to engage with issues of immigration and migrant people?
  2. What Bible verses have you heard used to argue it is our responsibility to engage with issues of immigration and migrant people?
  3. As a group, revisit the story of Ruth and Naomi in the Book of Ruth. How does the immigration status of the women change in the story? What else stands out to you in reading this story with issues of immigration in mind?
  4. If your family immigrated to the U.S., what memories of those experiences have been passed down? Was your family given any advantages or special preferences? How might these memories and stories guide you in the present and in your current interactions with immigrants?

Session 2

Immigration: Today’s Civil Dilemma and Theological Challenge—What Does the Bible Say? (Part 2)

M. Daniel Carroll R., Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Denver (Colo.) Seminary

(An excerpt from his keynote presentation to the Mennonite Church USA 2013 Delegate Assembly in Phoenix on July 2, 2013)

Examines Old Testament laws pertaining to “strangers in the land” and biblical guidance for Christians practicing radical hospitality. Challenges Anabaptists to engage issues of immigration from Anabaptist theological and historical perspectives—a present-day response.

Referenced Scriptures: Deuteronomy 31, Deuteronomy 10:17-19, Romans 12, Romans 13

Discussion questions

  1. Session2_cartoonThe history of Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: Chinese immigrants were “tolerated” when they came to the U.S. to help mine for the Gold Rush and build the First Transcontinental Railroad. However, it was perceived that Chinese people had become too numerous, and lynchings began in California. The Exclusion Act passed in 1882 prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers and wasn’t rescinded until 1943. This cartoon was a metaphor at the time, but now it’s a reality; the U.S. government is literally building a wall at the Mexico border. What happens when we forget our history? What are other examples of when we’ve forgotten our history?
  2. Dr. Carroll mentions how a group of Lutherans processed issues of immigration in light of their particular theology, traditions and history. He then says, “My challenge to you is to process immigration as Mennonites.” What unique gifts, perspectives and approaches might we bring? Keep in mind our particular theology and history as well as our current-day reality of being a multicultural, multiracial church.
  3. As a group, write down any New Testament stories or verses that can guide your time together as you engage with issues of immigration. Keep these posted somewhere visible as you work through the rest of the sessions.

Session 3

Root Causes, NAFTA, Myths and Facts

Saulo Padilla, immigration education coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Office on Immigration Education

Unpacks the root causes of migration, with a focus on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the current economic pushes and pulls that cause migration flows to increase. Also provides a short overview of the current immigration system.

Discussion questions

  1. During the last four decades, U.S. presidents have said that the immigration system is “broken” and needs to be fixed. What do you know about the “broken immigration system”? How is it broken?
  2. What do you know about the process for becoming “legal” or entering the U.S. legally?
  3. Why has there been an increase in migration from Mexico and Central America in the last 20 to 30 years?
  4. What forces are pushing immigrants? What forces are pulling them?
  5. What do you think about immigrants as a threat to your job, home, community or well-being?
  6. Descriptive terms for people facing migration have changed over time. How do you think terminology affects what we think of people migrating?

At the end of this session, consider playing the song Are My Hands Clean? by Sweet Honey in the Rock. This is a thought-provoking song that speaks to overall globalization but is also relevant for discussions of the NAFTA and its impact. This song also poignantly connects each of us to personal decisions that affect lives around the world.


Session 4

Walls of Immigration

Kristina Schlabach, community minister, Tucson, Ariz.
Jeannette Pazos, director, Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (Home of Hope and Peace), Nogales, Sonora, Mexico
Cindy Schlosser, social services coordinator, The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona
Bryce Miller, pastor, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, Ariz.

Features on-site visits to various “walls” of immigration: the wall at the Arizona/Mexico border; the walls of The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Florence Processing Center in Florence, Ariz.; and the sanctuary walls of Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson, Ariz. Hear firsthand stories of interactions around and within these walls.

Discussion questions

  1. What are your feelings about the increased militarization of the U.S./Mexico border, which includes hundreds of miles of fencing and walls? Affirming that it is reasonable and necessary for countries to maintain their borders, what might be alternatives to this wall and to armed border patrols?
  2. How do you feel about the increased criminalization of undocumented immigrants, including the detention of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants each year in prisonlike conditions? More than half of immigrant detention centers are run by private, for-profit corporations, and many of these corporations give money to members of Congress. How do you think this impacts policy-making in Congress?
  3. What have you learned about immigration issues from your neighbors’ immigration stories or from your own immigration story?
  4. Where are the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or private subcontracted detention centers closest to your congregation? (See the U.S. map of all of the detention centers at www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.) Would you consider involvement in a letter-writing or visitation program to migrants held in detention?

Session 5

The Law and Advocacy

Tammy Alexander, senior legislative associate for domestic affairs, Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office in Washington, D.C.

Undocumented immigrants are breaking the law, aren’t they? What about God’s laws regarding hospitality and welcoming the stranger? Hear thoughts on these questions and learn about proposed changes to U.S. immigration policy. Also, get suggestions for concrete actions that congregations and groups can take to work for just immigration reform.

Discussion questions

  1. How do we balance a desire to respect the rule of law with a desire to show immigrants hospitality and humane treatment?
  2. Do you think the policy solutions proposed by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) (see note below) or in legislation such as the Senate immigration reform bill would move the U.S. toward a better immigration system? Why or why not? What’s missing?
  3. Does our responsibility to welcome immigrants extend to our speaking to policymakers and urging them to craft a fairer and more humane immigration system? What are you willing to commit to do—as individuals or as a congregation—to speak up on behalf of immigrants in your community?

Note: Please refer to the handout MCC Washington Office Memo—Spring/Summer 2013 for facts about U.S. immigration as well as an outline of what should be included in reformed immigration policy.


Session 6

Mennonite Church USA Churchwide Statement on Immigration
(2014 Revision of 2003 Statement)

Read through this information- and inspiration-packed statement, which undergirds the entire study. (It’s helpful to provide the statement at the end of Session 5 so that participants have ample time to absorb all that it offers and can come prepared to engage in discussion.)

If time allows, consider reserving the last 30 minutes of the session to decide on next steps/actions that you could take as individuals and/or as a group. You could also plan for an action day (Session 7) for which you could facilitate a letter-writing campaign, plan a local learning tour, organize a prayer vigil, etc. If you opted to facilitate the six-week core curriculum, this would be a natural time to check in and see whether there would be interest in a Part Two, or in continuing with one of the optional sessions below.

Discussion questions

  1. How does the issue of race overlap with opinions and policies regarding immigration? (You could use What does an immigrant look like? by John D. Thiesen as an additional resource and conversation starter.)
  2. Has this series led you to think about the issue of immigration differently? If so, how?
  3. The statement notes, “We lament the reality that injustice in how we treat each other happens not only outside the Church but also in our congregations.” Identify ways in which your congregation may be perpetuating injustice to immigrants. How could this be addressed and changed?
  4. What is one commitment you could make as an individual and/or group from the Appendix A: Actions list?
  5. Considering that “for/against sides” have become increasingly polarized on the issue of immigration, what is one step that you as an individual could take to bridge the divide? What would be a step that your group/church could take?

When you have completed your study of Radical Hospitality, we would greatly appreciate you taking three  minutes to fill out this simple evaluation. Thank you!