Friday, 18 May 2007

Inclusive church?

I was on the website for Inclusive Church (liberal Anglican pressure group) and I was interested by their vision: "We have a vision of a liberal, open church which is inclusive of all, regardless of race, gender or sexuality. We firmly believe that this vision can and must, be rooted in the scriptures."

How can anyone be against inclusion?! Surely the gospel is the most inclusive and all-embracing force in the world. There are no limits to the grace of God or who He will include in His salvation. I consider myself to be a big recipient of this grace. If the gospel was not amazingly inclusive I would not have been included. So, I can't be less than very happy with a vision of a church that is inclusive of all regardless to race, gender or sexuality. In fact, that seems to me intrinsic to the very definition of church. How on earth could I define it otherwise?!

But as always, the same theological words mean very different things when put into different theological paradigms. The difference is between Inclusive church and inclusive Church. What is primary? A particular ideology of inclusion or ecclesiology? Church is, by definition, exclusive - it consists of those who are "called out" from the world by God's grace. It is, by definition, holy and distinct. Thus, the church is not inclusive of every thing nor every kind of practice or lifestyle. We welcome all but the welcome includes a call (to all of us) to repent. If you want to include without calling to repentance, then you are no longer talking about Church, but a religious club. A 'church' without repentance is not the Church.

The Inclusive church ideology, rather than embracing church, is actually subverting it. It's erasing the boundaries between the church and the world. And to be honest, the world has never been very impressed by a marginal religious group that simply echoes what it is itself already saying.