To welcome the stranger: hospitality with Ghanaian immigrants in the United Methodist Church
Scott, Laurel E.
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America is a nation of immigrants, yet immigration continues to be a troubling issue for the nation as immigrants face a variety of challenges to settling into life in the United States of America. In facing these challenges, immigrants look to the church as they have traditionally done, for relief and support. This study gathers and reflects on the experiences of a group of Ghanaian immigrants and their host congregations to compare their experiences of the church. In particular, it focuses on the experience of Ghanaian immigrants in United Methodist congregations in the Northeast, asking how immigrants experience congregational practices in comparison with the experience of long time members of the same congregations and what ecclesiologies are enacted or embedded within those expectations and practices. The study also asks how these ecclesiologies support or thwart Wesleyan convictions on hospitality and inclusion and how congregational practices can be transformed to become more Wesleyan and more liberative. The study proposes new and expanded ministry practices that position the church to respond to and learn from immigrants first within the church itself, and then within the wider society. While the study focuses on Ghanaian immigrants in particular, it points to implications for the welcome and reception of African immigrants more broadly into communities of faith in America. The results of this study of Ghanaian- influenced congregations may also have implications for the treatment of newer immigrants from across the globe. The question of the treatment of immigrants by the church is approached through a methodology that combines elements from Juan Luis Segundo's "hermeneutic circle" and Don Browning's strategic practical theology, and it utilizes the ethical methodology of Gustavo Gutiérrez, which parallels the reflexive movement of Browning's practical theological method. It describes the crisis that exists in three congregations with large numbers of Ghanaian immigrants, reviews current hospitality, worship and ministry practices, and sources of faith to reveal newer more appropriate practices that address the crisis, resolve the tensions that exist, and point to new ways of living in community.