Tag Archives: Christianity

Is there room for conversation about inclusion?

This week, as part of a series of blog posts engaging with the Methodist Church in Great Britain’s Advent & Christmas theme ‘There Is Room’, I posted a blog titled ‘There is Room for All Ages and Genders’.

The brief blog reflected on my own experince leading a school assembly last week, and through the charcter of Mary reflected on God’s calling to all people regardless of societal expectations around age and gender.

I confess to it being the blog post in the series that I was most anxious about – because there is so much debate and vitrol around gender in particular at the moment, in society and especially on social media. But I having been moved and challenged by my own experience during the assembly, this was a reflection I wanted to share.

As always, the post also linked to Twitter, and I’ve been surprised by some of the response… challenging my use of language in the blog, suggesting it was the most exclusive depiction of inclusion and blasphemy. Others challenged that to talk about age and gender was not inclusive because and lacked narrative about abuse, appearance and beauty.

I’m not perfect, no one is, and when it comes to the use of language, we are all at the mercy of writing something that means one thing to us but gets interpreted in different ways by others. We write from our perspectives, our experiences, our limited learning and understanding.

And I know as a white, heterosexual man I write from a place of privilege and power. I’m always conscious of that, and as a result, I know there are times in my past where I have dissuaded myself from engaging in this area. Knowing others have more experience, more knowledge, more right to speak into the debate.

But recently I’ve found myself feeling challenged afresh by God that in being relatively silent, I serve to enable the powerful, not empower the powerless. That I will facilitate the marginaliser, not stand alongside the marginalised. In not being explicit in speaking up – I abuse the place in which God has placed me.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at all that posting about inclusion of age and gender led to a backlash. But I think the idea that one short blog, from one voice, reflecting on my experience of one tiny part of scriptures story, should tackle every nook and cranny of inclusion, seems ridiculous.

Twitter isn’t always a healthy space – cramming what we want to say into 280 characters often drowns out the possibility of nuance and at times, friendliness.

Jesus was not afraid to challenge, but the gospel I read also shows Jesus’s character was one of compassion and grace. He taught his disciples, sometimes he rebuked them, but he also educated them.

This experience of choosing to speak out, while knowing I have less personal right to speak on it that others, leads me to ask – Is there room? Is there room for conversation? Is there room to help one another learn? Is there room to share together constructively, with compassion and grace, rather than shoot one another down?

I leave you witha short quote from John Wesley, which has guided me through many moments of diverse opinion in my early years of ministry.

“Be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion…
love each other, despite holding differing opinions.”

John Wesley, 44 Sermons

Recommended Read: Unapologetic

Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.
Written by Francis Spufford.

Published by Faber & Faber, 2012

I have loved reading this fresh and bold story and exposition of why belief in God matters and makes a difference. Loved it, but struggled to work out how to share it with you – because it is not a book that is easily reviewed – it simply needs to be read and experienced for yourselves.

I’ll be honest – it is a challenging read – not that the words are hard to read – in fact quite the opposite, you may well struggle to put it down. But it is challenging because every page has at least one line, idea, or phrase that will make you stop and need to think about – possibly even want to disagree with – and then find your mind blown and read on to the next bit that makes you stop and think.

Spufford offers a unique presentation on how to make sense of God, faith, Jesus, bible and church for today – challenging any reader to look in a mirror, recognise our brokenness and need for mending and to find that mending in the grace of Jesus.

Unapologetic will make you think deeply and differently about life and relationships and faith. It asks questions about the existence of God, how we understand sin, why there is suffering in the world and how on earth Jesus dying is what brought redemption to the world. And to those questions there are few definitive answers offered, but there is a whole lot of Jesus , and a whole lot of hope offered in the questions, the mystery and the uncertainty that emerges. Oh, and a whole lot of unconditional, unwavering grace.

Church, Spufford argues, is a space of failed people seeking to perpetuate the unlimited generosity of God. it is a messy place, where the institution messes up (actually, Spuffords language is more colourful than that!), but Christ is still looking at and God is still shining.

Spufford concludes (and this gives you a flavoyr of all the book explores):

“If that is, there is a God. There may well not be, don’t know whether here is. And neither do you, and neither does Richard bloody Dawkins, and neither does anyone. What I do know is that, when I am lucky, when I have managed to pay attention, when for once I have hushed my noise for a little while, it can feel as if there is one. And so it makes emotional sense to proceed as if He’s there; to dare the conditional. And not timid death-fearing emotional sense, or cowering craven master-seeking sense, or censorious holier-than-thou sense, either. Hopeful sense. Realistic sense. Battered-about-but-still-trying sense. The sense recommended by our awkward sky fairy, who says: don’t be careful. Don’t be surprised by any human cruelty. But don’t be afraid. Far more can be mended that you know.”