We recently put up these banners outside our front door, on a main thoroughfare through Plymouth. They are 12ft tall! If you zoom in you can see our newly adopted values.
This bloggage explores the second of our values which Mutley Baptist Church has adopted. The full text is:
Jesus calls us to love God and love people, and to be a community of his followers who are:
Like Jesus: celebrating and affirming every person and refusing to discriminate; valuing everyone and being accessible to all; ensuring everyone has a safe place in God’s family; and especially caring for and welcoming those who have been marginalised.
By ‘lovingly inclusive’ we mean that we want to be inclusive of everybody, regardless of ‘difference. That includes disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality – the list comes from the Inclusive Church Network website.
For far too long churches have been known as places that exclude others for various different reasons. But when I look at Jesus he seems to be on the opposite trajectory. He tried to break down barriers and rules that religious people had put in place to try to protect God from people or people from God. Yet God’s character and nature of limitless love and grace seem to be all about inclusion and embrace, not keeping people beyond arm’s length.
When we look at Jesus in the gospels he breaks social and religious rules about gender, ethnicity, economic power, health and much more. In his death he destroyed the myth that God wants to keep us away from him: signified by the supernatural tearing from top to bottom of the vast curtain in the Temple that kept people out of the Holy of Holies.
Because of God’s loving nature, the quality of our inclusivity is loving too. Love that wants the best for the other person, love that is willing to sacrifice our own resources, needs, ambitions and reputation for the benefit of others.
I am delighted to be minister of a church that is seeking to be lovingly inclusive. We won’t always get it right. But when we fail we will humbly seek and offer forgiveness, and we will always seek God’s Spirit’s help to be more like Jesus.