St John's has for many years prided itself on being an 'Inclusive Church' - welcoming, involving, engaging with those of the LGBTQ2Si community, people of any race, culture, background, and social status. But the time has come to consider another way of being - as 'Inclusion', like 'Diversity', can easily slip from being a celebration of difference to a sense of 'tolerance' or even a sense of 'all are welcome - if they fit into the way we do things.' Inclusivity was a huge step forward in the life of the Church and for many churches is still a struggle, but it is not enough. Inclusivity has become, in some cases, as one scholar said "the modern version of assimilation" - fit in, do things our way, be like we are.
To truly be a Gospel-based, loving, community we are called, as all Christian communities are, to be fully affirming of what and who people are, exactly as they are, bringing the rich diversity of their gifts and personhood to the community to which they feel drawn.
So we have questions to ponder: How can those who seek to be the community of Christ followers emulate Jesus Christ, who affirmed people for their own faith, who welcomed and embraced the outsider and the outcast? Who had as his closest friends those who were revolutionaries, those who were excluded from society, the uneducated, the ordinary, both men and women, and who challenged the world view of empire and the power of patriarchy, dominance, and religious and political power?
How can we, as Christ followers, not only welcome and embrace, but celebrate and value, engage with and truly include disparate voices, different ways of doing, different ways of being?
We begin by opening ourselves up to what others have to tell and teach us. By choosing listening over speaking. By seeking new ways to work together, to learn together, to live together. By allowing others to change us, challenge us, and make us better for having been willing to share in the transformation which comes from community where all are affirmed for who they are, and recognised for the ways in which we enhance one anothers lives, when we are truly open to encountering who each other are.
...for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.