"We believe in an inclusive Church - a church which does not discriminate, on any level, on the grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.".
We believe that there are 6 main areas to consider regarding inclusivity - Disability - Ethnicity - Gender - Mental Health - Poverty - Sexuality - Plus a few other areas (Singleness, Divorce etc)
Enabling churches where disabled people belong. Disabled people are often excluded from the life of the church in many ways. Churches have a legal responsibility to ensure that their buildings are safe and accessible – but inclusion for disabled people goes far beyond installing ramps and toilets.
Seeking to raise awareness of the need to create a church where those from different ethnic backgrounds are enabled to feel welcome. The affirmation of ethnic diversity can give the individual believer and the local congregation a sense of cohesion and belonging.
The Church has long been seen as a patriarchal institution which has reinforced beliefs about inequality between gendered roles, discrimination against women, and rigid heteronormative stereotypes. We seek to educate across a range of gender-based issues within the church.
Mental ill health is a key feature that affects people within church life. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people live with mental health conditions. This means that within our churches and communities we have a significant number of people for whom this is an issue, within congregations and the clergy.
An Inclusive Church does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power. Churches can be places offering a huge amount of service and support to those who live in economic poverty. At the same time, some living in poverty often experience exclusion from faith communities, there are things that churches could do better to ensure this doesn’t happen.
People attracted mainly to the same sex have made a major contribution to the life of the church through the ages, and in recent decades have become more visible. In many countries there has been growing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people, and awareness of the damage done by prejudice and discrimination.
Other areas which potentially exclude or marginalise people from the life of the church include singleness, divorce, childlessness, old age etc. We seek to help churches identify and address these challenging areas.
Raising awareness about the ways that people feel excluded by the church
A diverse church would be one that invites, disciples, and encourages a mix of people from various cultures and walks of life. It would also include a wide variety of races, genders, ages, ethnicities, education levels, socio-economic classes, abilities, and political and social associations. Through diversity, a church can express the totality of God’s human creation and be blessed with an assortment of perspectives and gifts.
An inclusive church goes the next step and makes concrete moves to recognize, treat, and involve every individual with dignity and respect. This means that equal value is placed on the people of the congregation without regard to their roles, race, gender, or other cultural, social, economic, or political markers.
What’s more, an inclusive church not only recognizes, and invites, diversity, but goes the extra mile to encourage the acknowledgement and confession of anxiety, fear, and stress caused by imbalances or under-representation. This is important because a diverse church is not a cure-all. We are still a bunch of sinners with prejudices, problems, and perspectives that can often come into conflict with our desire for diversity.
And thus, a diverse and inclusive church will not tolerate any favouritism or segregation (Law), but instead, open avenues for a full expression of Christ’s body in all its stunning diversity and comprehensiveness with an eye toward grace and forgiveness along the way (Gospel).
To do this will require clearly stated and congregationally endorsed expectations and policies for equality and fair practices in ministry and mission.
Where can your church start? With a conversation.
Pay attention to your community. Who is missing in your pews? Talk to one another. Listen and learn. Dialogue and discern how your church might not only desire diversity but begin to take concrete steps toward inclusion.
Resources for Inclusivity
- Inclusive Church UK https://www.inclusive-church.org
- The Inclusive Church Resource book series – published by Darton Longman and Todd. Designed as resource books for churches, each book has an introduction, theological reflection, stories from lived experience and a practical resource section. Books can be ordered from the publishers (http://www.darton-longman-todd.co.uk/series/inclusive-church-resources ) or via https://www.inclusive-church.org There are 6 books in the series:
Disability by John Hull
Mental Health by Jean Vanier and John Swinton.
Sexuality by Susannah Cornwall
Poverty by Susan Durber.
Ethnicity by Michael Jagessar
Gender by Rosemary Lain Priestley