Friday, October 10, 2008

An Inclusive Church

So the next element of my previously stated religious agenda is 'an inclusive, non-discriminatory church which openly welcomes all people regardless of race, ability, gender or sexual orientation'. I have to admit, this is a really tough one. Most churches are pretty homogenous by nature. In fact, this is one of the themes of the church growth movement - intentional homogeneity is a successful strategy because people feel more comfortable around others that are just like them. I guess this is one of the reasons why the early church had such a struggle letting the gentiles into their fellowship.

It's not really a question of who you let in the door. It's really about who feels comfortable enough to stay and ultimately who gets to participate fully in the life of the church. This means that our leadership has to be both inclusive and representative as well. I would like to go through the list more thoroughly over the next few days but for today let me mention a different example - economic inclusivity.

The Brunswick Corps which has been our church home for the past 5 years has a total attendance of about 100 people each week. Less than 3% of them would earn more than $25,000 p.a. The vast majority survive only on a government pension or benefit. I can't honestly say that it would be easy for a wealthy business person or even a middle-class family to feel at home in our corps. I wish they would but frankly it can be hard work some days. Many of our folk have mental health problems, disabilities or drug and alcohol issues. They need to belong somewhere but shouldn't have to be relegated to a ghetto of the disadvantaged. A truly inclusive church will contain people from all socio-economic strata of society.

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