Radical inclusiveness

(Some of you will have seen this before…sorry. It’s been published in two places. But Robin’s comment on my last post asked some questions about my view on women, so I thought I’d regurgitate this for the blog.)

I sighed as I climbed the stairs in the stately library on the Fuller Theological Seminary campus. Entering the classroom, I sat with my back to the window, watching unfamiliar faces enter the room and find their seats around me. Professor John Thompson welcomed us to “Women in Church History and Theology,” and I smiled, knowing that when this final was taken in 10 weeks, my seminary days were finished

“Why don’t we circle up our chairs and share what we hope to get out of this class?” I tried not to roll my eyes as we rearranged our desks. My quest for learning and growth was at its lowest ebb, washed away by two and a half years of cramming and studying. But, as people began sharing, my tide of interest came flooding back in. What I heard in that room that evening changed my life.

Most in the class were women studying to be in the ministry. We heard the same theme from person after person, in story after story. Each of the women felt called and gifted by God to give their lives in ministry. They longed to be able to serve God with their lives. But over and over, in church after church, they had been told there was no place for them to serve. Over and over, they were told what they thought was their call must be a mistake. Our entire three hour class session was spent listening and praying and grieving together. We began our historic study of women in the church with a fresh understanding of injustice that still occurs within the church.

On my way home, I found myself asking God over and over again, “Why?” Why did these women have to experience the pain and rejection they did? Why couldn’t others see God’s clear call on their lives? But most important of all, I began to ask God for the first time: why does the church too often hurt those whom Jesus called his lost sheep?

Wrestling with those questions has led to a deep conviction. I want to be a part of a church that is working in tangible and visible ways for peace and justice in our world, that models equality in regard to gender, race, and economic status. I want to be a part of a community that tears down the walls that segregate society and one that builds new bridges of God’s love through Jesus Christ.

But I don’t know how.

One of my greatest frustrations in talking about this issue is having people write it off as a desire to be “politically correct.” For me, it has nothing whatsoever to do with being politically correct, but rather being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who healed a Samaritan woman and wasn’t afraid of eating with people from the wrong side of the tracks. In Galatians, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It saddens me that our Evangelical Christian culture is not at the forefront of speaking out the radical inclusiveness of Jesus Christ. It saddens me that we are perceived by those on the “outside” as fighting against justice and for intolerance.

How might we change that perspective by how we engage the communities we live in? How might we be people who love as Jesus loves, who break down the barriers between men and women, black and white, rich and poor? I don’t know…but I look forward to seeing how we try!

4 thoughts on “Radical inclusiveness

  1. Funny how these things work. On Sunday afternoon, in a conversation with some folks from Berkely Friends Church I used the exact words “radical inclusiveness” and made a comparison to the inclusive love of Jesus to describe how I thought you (and AJ – my main reference points) and Newberg Friends Church were different from my assumptions about evangelical Friends. And now I see you use them too.

    There’s a great essay about this failure of the (Catholic) church to support women in the book “My Monastery is a Minivan” by Denise Roy who also went to seminary but ended up giving birth to her first child on the same day the rest of her class was ordained.

    Makes me glad I found Quakers before I heard my calling to service in the church.


  2. Amen!
    This has been a huge, confusing struggle for me. The recent “Religious Right” movement so vocal in our political system has left me embarrassed and deeply saddened. For a while around the latest election, I was at place where I was more comfortable telling people I was a Democrat than a Christian. This broke my heart. I God I worship loves all people – regardless of color, income, sexual orientation. Pat Robertson’s latest comment about Ariel Sharon’s stroke being punishment from God is just another example.

    I yearn for the time when Christians are known to the “outside” for our love and concern for fellow humans, not for intolerance. You know the song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”? What would it be like if that were actually true?

    Gregg, your leadership and example has truly been an inspiration for me. I am proud to have you leading my church. Thank you for being you.


  3. One more thing, here’s my verse for today from Air1:

    Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 1 John 3:18 NLT


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