First of all, don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the organisation Inclusive Church. If you’re not familiar with their work, check them out here: http://www.inclusive-church.org.uk/ They’re brilliant, really they are, and they’re doing wonderful, Godly work.
What I’m not a fan of is the habit of churches describing themselves as inclusive of a particular group: “at St N’s we’re inclusive of children/women/LGBT people”. Undoubtedly this is well meant. But it inherently sets up an uneven power dynamic: one party (“us”) is doing the including; the other (“them”) is having the including done to them, as it were. One is active, one is passive. And the power, the decision making, the choice to be inclusive (or not) is all with one party, the “us”.
So when I see something about a church (or any other group of people, really) being inclusive, I want to ask myself three questions:
1. Who is doing the including?
2. Who is being included?
3. Is the relationship between the two a relationship of equals, with an equal balance of power?
The answer to question 3 is, almost inevitably, “No”.
So am I saying that the church can’t be inclusive? Absolutely not! Because there is One who can do the including, who can and already does include everyone: God.
God already includes everyone, already invites everyone to the table. Our job is simply to pass the invitation on. God’s church is sometimes a bit slow (or more than a bit!) to catch up with the absolute, boundless, radical inclusiveness of God.
But we have to keep on trying.