November 28, 2005

Inclusive Community 2

This is the second in a series of thoughts on what it might mean for a local congregation to be an inclusive community. In the first, I discussed the meaning of inclusive culture and its basis on the Trinitarian fellowship (see here). In this post, I want to discuss what a community must be aware of when attempting to create an environment that might be described as inclusive.

This thought had been percolating for days, and then I found the words that I had wanted, but they weren't mine. On Sunday, I came across a short little gem--Leslie Newbigin's Truth to Tell. He's well known for his discussion of the gospel and truth amidst pluralism. In this book (pp. 63-64), immediately following a discussion of the New Age and nature worship, as if an organ began to pipe and a bride began her march, Newbigin says
Nor can we accept a kind of pluralism which confuses the normal with the normative, which supposes that the unity of humankind can be achieved by raising no question of ultimate truth, a false and deceptive ecumenism which advocates unity as an end in itself and denies the central claim of the gospel, that it is Jesus, the crucified and risen Jesus, who is alone the center around which alienated human beings can be drawn together in a reconciled fellowship.

In essence, the search for unity in diversity, for a place in which diverse persons (especially the boundary-definers--see yesterday) are actually included, the idol of unity can creep in that ultimately denies the reality of Jesus as the only unifier. One must not lose sight of the core of the gospel and the presuppositions on which it is properly understood--a Jewish Messiah seen as the Savior of the world, supposing creation, fall, and redemption.

If these are lost, then the foundation on which anyone can actually be welcomed is lost. At that point, all that one is left with is feeling welcome, and it is not a loving thing to make one feel welcome when they are not. At that point, either you are serving the idol of unity (humanism) or you are serving yourself ("we're so inclusive"). Apart from the ultimate reference point on which a real inclusive community can actually be found, one is left with illusions and deceptions, and that is ultimately of the kingdom of the prince of this dark world.

Read the next post in this series.

Inclusive Community 2

November 27, 2005

Inclusive Community 1

Per the encouragement of some close friends, I decided to start blogging on the idea of inclusive community. There will be a series of posts that you can follow from one to the next. So, let us begin...

First, an attempt to define the terms: "inclusive community" likely refers to a space in which a diversity of people experience an invitation to be and are welcomed as part of (this comes from what I gleaned during conversation with these friends). I want to discuss each of these terms in turn.

Inclusive modifies community describing what kind of community it might be (we'll get to that in a minute). The use of inclusive might suggest a few things. It might suggest a community that is broad in scope (potentially covering or allowing for all possibilities of diversity), it might more specifically refer to a group of believers without regard to rigidly sectarian barriers, or it might mean a grouping that includes the stated barriers (whether sectarian or otherwise). While the last option more often refers to mathematical notation, it seems that it might be a good metaphor for a local congregation as it stays committed to being a place of access for the least of these, the boundary-defining ones, to the Trinitarian fellowship via the cross.

That leads me to the second word--community. Just as "university" results from the pursuit of unity in diversity, so it is with the amalgamation of diverse people seeking to form a common grouping. A community implies a group of people coming together around a commonality to form a unity. In the context of a local congregation, the commonality is God--specifically as revealed through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. As Paul the Apostle said in Galatians 3, in Christ there is not one who, being in Christ, is thereafter defined by any other category. All are invited into the fellowship of the body, and this fellowship, as John said in his first epistle, is with the Father and His Son. It is the invitation to the Son's banquet (Luke 14), the memorial feast of which is Himself.

So, in sum, a local congregation might be called an inclusive community if it provides an equal invitation to all persons within an intended scope, especially the boundary-definers, to the fellowship that the Holy Spirit draws us up into, which is with the Father and the Son via the cross of Christ.

Go on to the next in this series of posts.

Inclusive Community 1

November 19, 2005

Revisions to blog...

I know I haven't posted in a few weeks. I have been trying to update the page and make some template changes as well. Please be patient with me.

Revisions to blog...