Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I was having lunch the other day with one of my very best friends. We have known each other for over thirty years. I look to him for support and encouragement; I hope he looks to me for the same things.

We had eaten and pushed our plates aside when we started talking. Often we get into "deep" subjects. We enjoy the exchange. And, we can say what we really think to each other without fear of reprisal.

My friend said: "I want a church that is truly inclusive..." We talked some about what he meant by that and it became clear that he meant the kind of "Howard Hangar" inclusive. Howard Hangar is a kind of off-the-wall (I think he's admit that) pastor of a church in Ashville, N. C. He was recently defrocked by the UMC for marrying gays. You get the picture.

I have always admired my friend's honesty and his openness. He knows I'm not quite there yet. So, we talked further about being inclusive.

Playing the devil's advocate I offered: "There is no such thing as a totally inclusive community." The minute that a group of poeple come together and define themselves they create boundaries. Others who do not fit their definition are not included.

A church made up of liberals is not welcoming to conservatives by definition, if being liberal is the treasured value. The same is true of conservatives.

The challenge of the New Testament was to create a community, a church, founded on Jesus Christ as Lord. Those who meet the requirement of commitment to Jesus Christ are included. Seekers are welcome but membership is reserved for all who believe.

I know what my friend means though. There ought to be a way in Christ's name to treat others as Christ treated them and include them in the fellowship whether we agree with their particular sin or not. That would, I guess, be the Kingdom of God.

But, humanly, and even Christianly, there is no such thing as a totally inclusive community. We shoot in that direction, but we have to settle for getting as close to target as we can.


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