Greater NW Pride: The Rule of St. Benedict, Hospitality, and LGBTQ+ People


The Rule of St. Benedict, Hospitality, and LGBTQ+ People

            Almost 20 years ago I became a Benedictine oblate with the monks at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. My oblate name is Alcuin, after Blessed Alcuin who was the educational reformer under King Charlemagne. Simply put: to be a Benedictine oblate is to promise to live by the simplicity of the Rule of St. Benedict, which was written by St. Benedict of Nursia (480-550). He wrote this for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. As a Benedictine oblate I promised to dedicate my life to God and God’s service, following the Rule of St. Benedict. An oblate is a person of upright character and has an earnest desire for spiritual advancement according to the Christian ideas set for in the Rule of St. Benedict. I became enamored with the Benedictines as I studied the nature of Christian community, visiting L’Arche communities, the Catholic Workers homes, and Koinonia Farms in Americus, GA, along with time spent at Church of the Savior and Sojourners community in Washington, DC, who all drew from the teachings of the Rule of St. Benedict and the Benedictine community.  Today, there is an emergence of a new monastic order in denominational and non-denominational churches, in which the ancient words of Benedict are being given new life across the Christian context.  
            What still captures my attention and imagination with the Rule of St. Benedict is in Chapter 53 of the Rule: “Any guest who happens to arrive at the monastery should be received just as we would receive Christ himself, because he promised that on the last day he will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Proper respect should be shown to everyone while a special welcome is reserved for those who are of the household of our Christian faith and for pilgrims…the greatest care should be taken to give a warm reception to the poor and to pilgrims, because it is in them above all others that Christ is welcomed.  As for the rich, they have a way of exacting respect through the very fear inspired by the power they wield.” 
            In my work in both the PCUSA and the UMC, I keep on reading and re-reading these words in regard to hospitality and ask myself: what would have happened in our respective denominations if we had practiced, or practice, this kind of hospitality with LGBTQ people, as well as others who are considered “different from us?” This isn’t about anything as simple as the best china, lace napkins, and crystal wineglasses.  The real meaning of hospitality has to do with making room inside yourself for another person, in small and big ways. While it may not always come easily, may we go forward with the best of intentions of welcoming all, seeing the possibilities of welcoming others, with a heart big enough to make room for someone else. 

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!