We are to be, the thinking goes, an inclusive church.
That includes (catch that?) the language we use about God. You can read the denomination’s perspective on gender-inclusive language here.
Such gender inclusivity applies not only to our God-talk, but to our people policies as well. It’s why we have a General Commission On The Status And Role Of Women (COSROW).
It includes our approach to ethnic diversity. It’s why we continue to staff and fund a General Commission on Religion and Race.
It’s why many in our movement push for “full inclusion” of non-celibate homosexuals, including the ordination of gay pastors and the endorsement of same-sex weddings. I recently read about a new group called United Methodists Of Color For A Fully Inclusive Church.
And a logical extension of the commitment to inclusivity is an open-ness to all kinds of doctrines, beliefs, and worship expressions.
That’s why the UMC’s Claremont School Of Theology is now but part of a new, multi-religious institution called Claremont Lincoln in which pastors-to-be train alongside rabbis-to-be and imams-to-be in the kind of “can’t we all just get along” environment characteristic of Southern California.
Such doctrinal/religious inclusivity is why there is even a Methodist worship gathering in our own state with the name Inclusion Community; a congregation whose earliest celebrations were called to worship by the ringing of a Buddha bell.
And I could go on. Do a Google search of “United Methodist Inclusive” and you’ll see what I mean.
What is the ardent hope with all this inclusion? That the United Methodist Church would: a) grow numerically; and b) grow in diversity. If you include everyone and all beliefs, you’ll get more and different kinds of people. That’s the hope and that’s the goal.
Why this lesson in denominational rhetoric?
Well . . . and you might know where this is headed . . . we have a completely different kind of model at Good Shepherd.
When it comes to doctrine, theology, and Lordship, we are unapologetically and unashamedly exclusive. We celebrate these and other Scriptural claims:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5).
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17).
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure (Hebrews 13:4).
And what’s the result of this theological exclusivity?
A congregation that is blessedly, amazingly, miraculously . . . inclusive.
A typical Sunday at Good Shepherd features people from approximately 35 different countries, including places such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Argentina, and, most recently, Romania.
And on the domestic side, the church includes Northerners, Southerners, African-Americans, Anglos, and even folks from the two tribes who rarely hang out in the same place: Democrats and Republicans.
Isn’t it interesting?
An exclusive commitment to a singular savior leads to an inclusive church.
Because people don’t want to rally around a result, like diversity.
They want to rally around a cause, like a Savior.