Ordination Questions, Part 8: Inclusive Ministry

Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…

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n) Describe your understanding of an inclusive church and ministry.

            Western thought tends be dualistic.  We often think in polemics: matter vs. spirit, body vs. mind, conservative vs. liberal, etc.  The problem with dualistic thinking is that it tends to create us vs. them thinking. The first Century Christians also wrestled with dualistic thinking.  For them, the issues were: Jews vs. Gentiles, slave owners vs. slaves, and men vs. women.  Into this context, Paul write these revolutionary words to the church at Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

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            Therefore, as followers of Jesus, false polemics should not be part of our thinking.  There is no “them” – it’s all “us”.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.

            The world “religion” often has a bad connotation in our world. It often conjures up people who are narrow minded and bigoted in some way.   But the word “religion” comes from the words: “Lig” – (which we get our English word “ligament”) which means to connect, to join together, to unite, to bring everything together in wholeness, and the word “re” – which means “again.”  So, one could say that good religion is about connecting us together again. Or the purpose of religion was supposed to be to connect us together with God, with creation, with other people. Religion, in its purest sense, is about finding again that vital connection that makes us whole.

            Of course, sometimes religion instead:  promotes conflict and selfishness rather than generosity and love, prioritizes one’s own personal salvation over the well-being of others, and teaches people to fear, dehumanize, and judge others. And when it does that, it is straining or tearing the ligaments of God’s creation rather than strengthening them.  It is “de-ligimenting” instead of “re-ligimenting” us. 

            In practical terms, an inclusive church and ministry concerns itself with the relationship between a dominant group and a minority group.  The following grid shows the continuum of inclusion in a church or ministry:**

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**2 —I am indebted to Kristina Gonzalez in the PNW Innovation and Vitality team for her thoughts on this issue.  Also, my friend Jeremy Smith and his blog www.hackingchristianity.net.

Dana Hicks