A Theology of Inclusion, Part One

The church where I serve as Associate Pastor is discerning becoming and Open and Affirming congregation. As we talk about this, I have been grappling with how to view this theologically.  I don’t consider myself the greatest bible scholar or theologian, but I do think that as Christians we have to give a clear response to why being inclusive to LGBT persons matter theologically.

A lot of the times when I hear people talking about a church become more welcoming to gay folks, the reasoning can be pretty thing and sometimes feels barely Christian.  You will hear things like “Jesus hung out with scandalous people” as if Jesus was kind of like Pippi Longstocking.  (Anglican Philip Turner has a good post on the weakness of what has become the working theology in mainline churches.)

But I think I might have found at least the beginnings of what could be a solid theology of inclusion.  Ian Mosby, a British Anglican Emergent Priest writes about his experience seeing John 4 as a tale of the Trinity working to do Mission and be Inclusive:

I love it that God seeks out the excluded and the lost, those that are hated within their own cultures.  Why it gives me a hope that someone like me can be acceptable to God with all my faults, insecurities and complexities.  But this time there was more.  The Woman, was exposed to the reality of the Trinity. Christ is present as the Redeemer. Then in verse 23, But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.  Beautifully Jesus finishes off the Samaritans question about the Messiah as coming with the words ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you’.

So in this encounter, the Woman experiences Jesus as the Redeemer, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the worship of the Father.  It doesn’t get more Trinitarian than that, with a woman he was not supposed to speak to, and with a people the Jews despises as unclean.  So what does Jesus do – he goes into mission mode, loving them into understanding, and then stays with them for two days – something a Jew was banned from doing.  I love it.  This is the radicalness of Christ and the New Testament.  A radical love that seeks to restore all things into restored relationships.  This is the context of real mission, and it inspires me to keep going when I feel so inadequate and crap so much of the time, in a dysfunctional church and a broken world.

I have to say I’ve also loved this story for some of the same reasons.  There is something in this story that makes inclusion more than just a Benneton ad and more than just something that nice people do.  It is the very movement of God that draws people in, makes the circle wider and changes that person and the entire community for the better.

Hmmmm…I might have to share this on Sunday….

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