As has been written about elsewhere on this site we are looking at becoming members of Inclusive Church, and during August are preaching on this. Yesterday I spoke on an inclusiveness which isn’t one of the six areas that IC is focusing on, but which is close to my heart, and that is the inclusiveness of different beliefs.
I said that I wanted a big tent Christianity, where all are welcome. I was heckled with “what about devil worshippers”, and agreed that they might be an exception, but afterwards I was challenged on this. I was also challenged on whether the church has a role in enforcing behaviour. To take the last first; the parable of the weeds and the wheat says don’t tear up the weeds for fear of tearing up the wheat – let God judge (I paraphrase), and Jesus says:
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
The Church has been wrong in the past, is no doubt wrong at times now, and will no doubt be wrong in the future. How can we be sure that we are judging with God’s eyes? And given the quotes above, why would we even try?
The first question leads on from this – if we do not judge, then why would we exclude others? This does of course lead to the classic permissive dilemma, what do I do with people who wish to judge others?
It perhaps comes down to what you think church is – is it a place for the elect, the saved (a form of Calvinism), or is it a place for pilgrims on a journey?
If you believe the former, then what I am saying makes no sense; if the latter then it hangs together.
As for the problem of those who disagree with me, whilst I may invite them into my big tent, most will decide that it isn’t the place for them. However, this is not to say that I want a (wider) church without them – but that is a different issue!
Where I was curate we often sang this hymn: All are Welcome in this place. Amen.