Exclusivists Among Inclusivists

pedestal

The problem with endeavoring to be an inclusive community is that there may be some who want to be a part of it who are exclusive. I found this to be one of my greatest challenges as a pastor. I continue to find this a challenge on this blog, nakedpastor.

My take on the ministry of Jesus as told in the gospels is that his greatest adversaries were precisely the exclusivists. The exclusivists were those who had a very exact and exacting understanding of the law that protected the intelligentsia and prohibited the rest. I don’t believe they necessarily intentionally or even consciously made it difficult for the rest. They just enjoyed the luxury of observing their interpretation of the law while it was near impossible for the rest for various reasons.

We see the same dynamic in Christianity today. Not many would dare declare that they are exclusivists. They would point to the Bible and say that’s just what it says. When in fact it is their interpretation of the Bible that says it. Unintentionally and unconsciously they exclude many who cannot or will not subscribe to their particular interpretation. When an exclusivist, who may enjoy the fellowship of an inclusive community, emphatically declares exclusivist values that has the effect of delineating a fellowship into these who know and obey and those who don’t, and this is mentioned to the exclusivists by the inclusivists, and the inclusivists ask the exclusivists to relax their divisive declarations for the sake of unity, the exclusivists often accuse their accusers of being exclusivists themselves by excluding them.

This is indeed a conundrum. The exclusivists believe that the Bible says it and if you don’t believe it or do it then that’s your problem. Their concern is for the integrity of biblical truth as well as the purity of a believing community. The inclusivists say the same thing, for their concern is also the integrity of biblical truth as well as unity.

Let’s take an example: Let’s say Judy genuinely enjoys being a part of a congregation that has gays in its membership. Most of the gay people have partners. Judy is verbal about her belief that homosexuality is a sin and that those who live a homosexual lifestyle are going to hell. She also says she loves them and wants to be in fellowship with them so that they might eventually be swayed by her prayerful patience for them. Some of the gay couples excuse her belief as narrow and love her enough to tolerate her occasional expressions. But some are very disturbed by her beliefs and its expression and are thinking of leaving. Neither the gay people or she will change their minds.

What’s to be done? Should she be asked to leave? This would break her heart. Should they be asked to stay and endure her position? This would break theirs.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Pat Pope

    I dealt with a similar situation to the one you mentioned in your last paragraph and I think I’ve mentioned it on your blog before. In my case, there were no gays, to my knowledge, in our church with the exception of an occasional visitor. However, we did have a woman who wanted to join the church who could not sign off on the church’s doctrinal statement that homosexuality was sin. The committee in charge of membership interviews, which I oversaw, overwhelmingly was not willing or able to move past their objections to her beliefs. Mind you, she was not gay, but simply had a good friend who was and that had led her to the Lord so saying it was sin was just not something she was comfortable doing. She still desired to join our church, however. After many conversations with her as well as with the committee, this woman left the church hurt and angry. I too was hurt and angry. Hurt for her and angry that I couldn’t get people to move their position. Oddly enough though, in my anger I felt some sympathy for where the committee was and knew that it would take quite a bit of work to get them to move past it. It would not be an overnight work. Meanwhile, someone was hurt in the process. I think that’s what hurt me the most.

  • fishon

    We see the same dynamic in Christianity today. Not many would dare declare that they are exclusivists.
    ___I would dare.

    They would point to the Bible and say that’s just what it says. When in fact it is their interpretation of the Bible that says it.
    ___Matthew 7:23
    And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    ___That sounds very exclusive, and not hard to interpret.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    thanks fishon for your honesty. and for providing more illustration to the dynamic at work. good to hear from you.

  • http://www.daddytude.com gwalter

    This is very well thought out.

    As I struggle to open the church to the LGBT community, I understandably get pushback from my friends who believe homosexuality is a sin. I agree – but I also think exclusivity, pride, arrogance, and a lack of compassion are all sins too. But those that openly practice these sins are welcome – why can the LGBTs be welcome too?

    Didn’t someone once say that the church is a hospital for sinners? Are there some sins that are untreatable? Maybe we need to exclude the exclusives, so that we can be more available to those who are truly seeking God?

  • http://www.pilgrimswaymin.org Jon F. Dewey

    This is all well and good in theory, but it goes both ways. In my experience, no where is truly inclusive. They weed out in some way shape or form. It is commonly used as an illustration of fundamentalist-types against any form of liberalism, but for the liberalist-type the exclusion is of the fundamentalist-types! Its pretty crazy.

    Social groups will always jell and create their own set of norms. This is true for any organized social group. In Pat’s example, what immediately jumped out at me was the reference to her church’s docctrinal statement. A doctrinal statement is that church’s set of norms. Whether we agree with them or not, those are the norms that that particular group agreed on at some time in the past, and that is what decides membership to that group.

    I just wish people would only join groups they agree with, and ignore the ones that they don’t. Where did anyone get the idea that it is there job to change anyone else? Or that the rules do not apply to them? Because I seriously disagree with their beliefs, I severed my relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. I became an Episcopalian – no turning back! Real conviction says do just that.

    For me, the spectrum of belief is pretty broad and I try to get along with everyone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have norms of my own! My norms are just that – my own – and I don’t use them as a disqualifier for making friendships. Inclusiveness does not mean chaos, and openness requires a certain amount of maturity.

  • http://adsensus.wordpress.com/ Johnfom

    In the example given above, there are 2 forms of exclusivist. Those who are looking to leave because of Judy’s belief are certainly exclusivist. They have drawn a line which says they won’t be in a community which she is in. They would exclude either her or themselves.

    I don’t know what should be done there. I’d personally like to see some sort of offer from someone to help them both to remain, if there is anyone who can help. But if anyone goes it should be by their own decision, and I think it should be clear that any decision is allowed to be reversed by the decision maker.

    Even in that I’m uncomfortable. There is something about ‘should’ which I find distasteful. When something is compelled, an element of personal responsibility is lost. There are ‘better ways’, often even ‘best ways’, but once they become ‘obliged ways’ they become less worthy somehow.

  • http://adsensus.wordpress.com/ Johnfom

    ‘Social groups will always jell and create their own set of norms.’ – Jon

    I suppose a question here is whether it is possible, and if possible then whether it is desirable, to have ‘abnormals’ in a group and be a part of of the group?

  • http://brianmetzger.blogspot.com/ Brianmpei

    But isn’t this exactly what the Church is called to be, a community of the broken hearted who are finding their brokeness healed by their brokeness?

  • fishon

    nakedpastor
    September 2, 2011 | 7:00 pm
    thanks fishon for your honesty. and for providing more illustration to the dynamic at work. good to hear from you.
    —–But David, the question is, do you really not see the exclusivity in that particular scripture? Or is it one of those that you believe can be interpretate another way? If so, I would be interested in hearing your interpretation.

    I give you more of that scripture: “Not everyone who says to me…will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only….” [Matt. 7:21].

    Now I admit to being pretty thick headed, but that seems pretty darn plain to me. Please tell me your interpretation of Matt. 7:21, too.

    I won’t argue with you. I will just read your reply without comment.

  • fishon

    Jon F. Dewey
    September 2, 2011 | 7:30 pm

    This is all well and good in theory, but it goes both ways. In my experience, no where is truly inclusive. They weed out in some way shape or form. It is commonly used as an illustration of fundamentalist-types against any form of liberalism, but for the liberalist-type the exclusion is of the fundamentalist-types! Its pretty crazy.
    ——–You are right on, Jon. And I wait for that inclusionist to justify his/her particular reason for excluding the excuding.

    By the way–practicing homosexuals are totally welcome in the church I pastor.

  • fishon

    Johnfom
    September 2, 2011 | 7:44 pm

    ‘Social groups will always jell and create their own set of norms.’ – Jon

    I suppose a question here is whether it is possible, and if possible then whether it is desirable, to have ‘abnormals’ in a group and be a part of of the group?
    ___Well, it didn’t work out with a Mormon or a JW trying to be a part of the church I pastor. No kidding. They tried it.

    ___A vocal Republican won’t do well at the Democratic convention in the rules committee.

    ___The Crips and the Bloods don’t seem to make it either.

    ___The Masons wouldn’t let me hang around their meetings.

    ___I promise you the Teachers Union would not tolerate me.

    ___A hippy commune would not be much into the ‘abnormals.’

    ___The local ladies Bunco group really do exclude men. Terrible.

    and on and on.

  • fishon

    Brianmpei
    September 2, 2011 | 8:11 pm

    But isn’t this exactly what the Church is called to be, a community of the broken hearted who are finding their brokeness healed by their brokeness?
    _____But heaven forbid I dare point out biblical reasons for some of the brokenhearted.

  • David Waters

    EVERYBODY is welcome at the Lord’s table, period. If you can’t handle that, go pray about it.

  • Ed

    Well, I think I’m more blown away by a church that holds membership interviews – good grief and srsly? Church is a voluntary organization. Go or not go. I seriously would not join a church where they had membership interviews or six months worth of new members class or some such requirement. Maybe an orientation to let me know what groups are around and when they meet, but nothing more! I’ve never, nonotonce attended a church were I believe EVERYTHING that is in the doctrinal statement. Perhaps my brand of religion is well, personal. For me, church is for corporate worship and prayer, and the opportunity to do outreach with more than just myself, and that’s about it. The rest I do on my own in and through my life. As far as I’m concerned, membership is only for voting rights for things like property purchases, etc., and being in leadership. Not for how I carry out my faith. Not for what I believe politically or socially. Not for who I marry or what job I hold or how I vote.

    When organized religion tries to push me into something that tries to ‘trump’ my personal relationship with Jesus, I pretty much ignore it and do what I know I’m supposed to do or what I have the liberty in Christ to do. However, if I want to be in leadership in a particular church, then I’m committed to do it their way and I have to decide if I can live with what they practice.

    I think too many churches (and pastors) way overstep the boundaries of what they’re supposed to be in the life of a Christian! And membership interviews…why??

  • fishon

    David Waters
    September 2, 2011 | 9:38 pm

    EVERYBODY is welcome at the Lord’s table, period. If you can’t handle that, go pray about it.
    —-Oh, I don’t think so, and I don’t need to pray about it. 1 Cor. 11:27 and following makes it clear, there are issues to be dealt with in taking the Lord’s supper. If everyone was welcome by the Lord, then I don’t believe “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [dead],” would be in the Bible.

    And Paul writes, “For anyone who eats and drinks WITHOUT RECOGNIZING [caps mine]the body of the Lord eats and drinks JUDGMENT ON HIMSELF [caps mine].” I would say that if you have brought judgment on yourself by eating and drinking wrongly, you were NOT WELCOME at the table.

    It sounds nice and it is politically correct to say the Lord invites everyone, but it is not correct, according to scriptures.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Sheeps on the one hand; Goats on the other hand.
    And can they Just Get Along,or is it always the sound of one hand slapping? Be hot, or be cold then. Otherwise I spit you out. (Nobody loves an either/or)

  • http://www.themessiahspurpose.com/ learn to read the bible effectively

    Interesting take, the messiahs was apposed tot the scribes and pharisees because they put traditions and personal feelings above the Law of God. Today this is common practice, we have many traditions over the Law, Sunday worship, Christmas, Easter

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    The conundrum of inclusive/inclusive is built into human perception and values: this, not that. We divide and conquer in accord with our aims, goals, purposes. Attention Efficienty generates massive ongoing Attention Deficieny, yes? Who stumpble over these “conundrums”. Our life as a “ONE” (individual) is an ongoing damaged-if-we-do-and-don’t. Hosanna: save now ! we cry. Always caught in-between devils and deep blue sees, rocks and hard paces. What good is “salvation” if it doesn’t address our always precarious condition? Help! (Give us the WORD, Fishon: some will hear (obedient), others not so much (disobedient: deaf) And the rest: “flip flop, I was taking a bath.”

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    I cant’ help but comment on the RED STORE that now hangs over the right corner of my screen. Another conundrum of include/exclude–sacred and secular and can they Just Get Along?

  • Pat Pope

    @Ed, yeah I thought the interviews were a bit much too. When I first joined this church, everyone on the committee was part of the process which was about 10 people or so. Can you imagine walking into a room with that many people? It was intimidating and one reason that some people didn’t join because they found the process intimidating. But like most things, that’s the way it had been done for years. When I became an elder, one of the things I did was scale it back to just a few people. If everyone on the committee is charged with this task, then that means a few people representing the group should be sufficient. Also during my tenure, we (a couple of pastors and myself) tried to come up with a new approach to membership–one that would make it much more open and only requiring more out of those who sought to teach or hold an office. Again, met with much resistance. When something is all that some people know, it can be a hard sell convincing them that there’s a better way. The most common argument for not changing was, “Why don’t more people want to become members?” People could not get their minds around that. In their mind membership reflected a commitment. This group definitely has a hard time accepting where the culture is and tends to lag behind. But when more people aren’t joining your church even after they take the membership class (which thankfully was scaled back to an afternoon), you need to take a serious look at your process, but it seems they had a difficult time looking within and saying how should WE change rather than saying how others need to change.

  • Connie

    Division seems to come on the heels of setting up standards coming from law keeping. This is where sin abides. Christ came to take away sin. He DID that! Sin, however you define it, is not an issue with him. We’re the ones who make sin an issue, and in the process set up the laws, standards etc. that divide.
    The Lord doesn’t have a problem with sin. We do.
    When are we going to get it?

  • Christine

    We had this situation happen in our group. A guy came who was much more conservative then the rest of the group.

    He made his views clear. Which generally prompted everyone else to do the same. He left. And not happily.

    Part of it seemed like his own paranoia – he viewed it as everyone ganging up on him, But I think he only felt that way because his perspective was that he was going to change the way all of us thought. That even though he was saying things we’d all learned many times before, he thought that if we just listened to him, it would be such a revelation to us, that we’d know he was right. He had no respect for the fact that we viewed things differently. he concluded instead that no one was willing to listen to him, He brought a me-them mentality, and so was miserable.

    But I think everyone was eager to jump to the defense of the one gay couple (half of which was me), because they saw us as, well, the vulnerable group. That was because the denomination wasn’t very accepting of gay people and they were determine to make our group “inclusive”. But for my wife and I, who had little contact with the denomination and live in a accepting environment, we didn’t feel vulnerable.

    In our case, he was the minority, the outsider. And although he certainly wasn’t persecuted by our group (far from it), a little more sensitivity, in hindsight, to his sense of vulnerability might have helped.

  • http://adsensus.wordpress.com/ Johnfom

    Of course Christine, there are only ever 3 reasons someone can be so wrong, as you guys obviously are (pls note the sarcasm there).

    People who are wrong are either:

    Ignorant – they just need to be told the truth and they’ll instantly change their stance.

    Deceived – again, just need to be told the truth and they’ll instantly change.

    or Deceptive: they know the truth, but they want to keep it from people, so just tell their cronies the truth and they’ll have to change to remain a part of the group.

    How frustrating it is when one comes up against a whole coven of deceivers. Nothing left to do in that situation but shake the dust off the boots and go elsewhere.

  • http://www.fusionchurchatlanta.com chris b.

    @Christine – I love your perspective on this…. as the gay “outsider” you actually saw yourself as an “insider” and would have rather had compassion for others (different than yourself) to be given from the group that was now your own.

    Good for you!

    For a group to truly be inclusive, they cannot decide only certain groups/types of people will be included and then pretend like other groups/types of people do not exist. Haha.

    It seems that most people who say, “We’re inclusive” only mean to certain & specific groups. It’s like a casual church that says they accept anyone no matter what they wear… but yet they don’t accept those with suits and ties. In our casual church we say we welcome and accept any and all, even those who choose to wear a suit and tie.

    Jesus was a man with integrity. Certainly He knew how to integrate people into the experience and story. I’d like to be more like Jesus.

  • Pat Pope

    @Chris B., too often I think evangelicals and probably all people, get hung up on defining terms. But if we’re going to walk this walk with Christ, it’s all or nothing. We can’t decide to only accept certain people if we’re truly going to emulate Him.

  • LouiseM

    Snippets

    Each one
    Living in and revealing
    Small pieces
    Of Grace and Truth

    None but One
    Filled with, revealing and living
    The perfect balance
    Between the two

  • fishon

    Pat Pope
    September 4, 2011 | 1:38 pm

    But if we’re going to walk this walk with Christ, it’s all or nothing. We can’t decide to only accept certain people if we’re truly going to emulate Him.
    ——Guess I’ll have to repeat myself;;;;
    “Not everyone who says to me…will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only….” [Matt. 7:21]. Heck, Jesus goes on to even say: “Then I will tell you plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.’” Huh, I wonder, does “Away from me you evildoers” really sound inclusive?

    Still waiting for someone to take that scripture on—ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

  • Pat Pope

    Hi Fishon. For me, inclusivity does not mean the absence of standards. For me, it involves accepting one’s humanity and that’s what I see in Jesus. We are all created in God’s image and at least deserve to be treated like human beings. However, that does not mean I accept everything a person does or says or that there aren’t consequences for bad behavior. I don’t see anywhere in the Gospel where Jesus said, “Away from Me, you prostitute, tax collector, etc.” Rather, he engaged people, healed them and sometimes said, “Go and sin no more”. Too often, I think we exclude people on the basis of who they are and what they do. We don’t engage, we recoil. And worse, we don’t have anything life-giving or life-changing to offer them. People ought to leave our presence better off than when they met us.

  • Pat Pope

    And to address that scripture directly Fishon, it really should be a sobering scripture for believers encouraging them to do some self-evaluation rather than taking for granted that they’re okay and in like Flynn.

  • fishon

    Pat Pope
    September 4, 2011 | 7:51 pm

    Hi Fishon. For me, inclusivity does not mean the absence of standards. For me, it involves accepting one’s humanity and that’s what I see in Jesus. We are all created in God’s image and at least deserve to be treated like human beings. However, that does not mean I accept everything a person does or says or that there aren’t consequences for bad behavior.
    ___Could not agree with you more. You are right on there.

    I don’t see anywhere in the Gospel where Jesus said, “Away from Me, you prostitute, tax collector, etc.”
    —But Pat, he did tell some people that very thing, “Away from Me….” And that is the point. He did not tell mass child killers, pedophiles “Away from Me” either. But he most certainly told some folks that.

    Rather, he engaged people, healed them and sometimes said, “Go and sin no more”.

    Too often, I think we exclude people on the basis of who they are and what they do. We don’t engage, we recoil. And worse, we don’t have anything life-giving or life-changing to offer them. People ought to leave our presence better off than when they met us.
    ___I agree with everything you say there, and you are right. Believe it or not I had a beshoveled, smelly, unlovely guy come into the service today. After the service, he thanked me for letting him stay. I said to him, “Why would I not let you stay? You are welcome here any time.” His next words were “Really!” He does not live in the town I am in. He lives in a town a little bigger that here. His home has about 600 people in it. I am guessing here, I think he is not welcome in the few churches in his town. Just a guess because of his shock that I welcomed him back. I don’t know if he is a good guy or bad guy; I don’t care. I just hope he comes back.

  • fishon

    Pat Pope
    September 4, 2011 | 7:53 pm

    And to address that scripture directly Fishon, it really should be a sobering scripture for believers encouraging them to do some self-evaluation rather than taking for granted that they’re okay and in like Flynn.
    —That is very true. There is more than one lesson it that scripture.

  • Pat Pope

    @Fishon, yes Jesus did tell some people, “Away from Me”, but I think because of His character that’s illustrated all throughout scripture, I do not see Him saying it in a way that degrades the person, but rather their behavior and unbelief. I think we have a hard time reconciling doing this because we don’t do it well. Too often, that’s all we want to tell people.

  • fishon

    Pat Pope
    September 4, 2011 | 9:53 pm

    @Fishon, yes Jesus did tell some people, “Away from Me”, but I think because of His character that’s illustrated all throughout scripture, I do not see Him saying it in a way that degrades the person, but rather their behavior and unbelief.
    ____To that I agree. But the trouble begins in this blog if we go very far into the debate about just those very things: “behavior and unbelief.” As to behavioral matters there is great disagreement as to what specifically constitutes bad, sinful, evil behavior. We can’t even get past what that is.

    I think we have a hard time reconciling doing this because we don’t do it well.
    __True. But that does not negate the need to stand for and encourage biblical behavior and belief. But at the same time, those who receive, if you will, reproach for sinful behavior scream “intolerance and who are you to judge?” They may well receive reproof in a gentle fashion, but holler to high heaven how unfair they have been treated. When in fact, they were approached and corrected and instructed in love. But they refuse to even consider that they may be behaving sinfully.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    I may have gone thru this litany before: I am damaged and damaging (if I do or don’t do), a moving violator, rip-off reduction artist, criminal discriminator: my given ongoing condition and original spin. My fundamentalist student friend years ago described it as a Conviction of Sin and told me I was lucky to experience it. Damned (damaged, damaging) if I do and damned (damaged, damaging) if I don’t. You may prefer talk of “wounded” and “vulnerability” and “abuse” and “victimization” and “healing,” (wholeness, wellness) which seems less excruciating and can “pass” popular jargon. But I fully appreciate the damnation description: makes so much make good sense. I accept the Goodies I am surrounded by, but in my heart I exclude them, I confess. See: damned, damnit–and powerless to prevent it.

  • Pat Pope

    Fishon, it’s probably because several different theological views are represented here among the readers so that’s why I believe there’s difference of opinion on bad behavior. The first thing any group has to do is come to some sort of agreement on terms. However, I also appreciate diversity of thought and opinion.

    I also agree that though reproach is hard doesn’t mean it’s to be avoided. And I know well enough about reproach and then being beat up for it. I’ve been beat up by people’s supporters when they didn’t agree with a decision I made. When it comes to our family, friends or pet issues, all objectivity goes out the window. It’s actually ironic that when people disagree with your approach to an issue, they actually become guilty of bring what they accuse you of, which is abusive.

  • Christine

    So, to whom do you think Jesus is saying “away from me”?

    What is the criteria for exclusion?

    I think Pat has an excellent point that “prostitutes and tax collectors” don’t seem to be on that list. People who are sinning (to whom he says “go and sin no more”) don’t seem to be on that list. Those who were born not male or not Jewish, despite the times, don’t seem to have been on that list.

    So what’s the list?

    Maybe some people are just excluding for all the wrong reasons.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Christine: If I were Jesus the Away From ME folks would be the Goodies–them good-wanna-be who wannabe good so bad they can’t afford or abide the bad-it-takes to get good. Hatem. Bring on the baddies who know it, damnit and can’t cover it up even if they tried. My kind of people. My criteria for exclusion. (I don’t like bottle-water drinkers too much either, but can get along.)

  • Christine

    sam: lol on the bottled-water

    This is what I had in mind. Something sermon-on-the-mount-ish. I assume Jesus is pointing the finger at the religious establishment, here, the ones who manage to look like they’re doing everything right, look like they’re doing the law, and getting everything wrong.

    Interestingly, the English word “iniquities” has two common meanings. It can be “wrongdoing” generally or mean only “injustices” specifically. I always viewed that word as the latter (might be a Catholic influence, not sure). But fishon seems to be referencing that verse based on the former definition.

    I’m going on assumed context here, but some insight into the Greek word might not go astray.

  • http://www.wordsout.co.uk Godfrey Rust

    This is an enlightening thread. Fishon, I don’t agree with you on some things, but I think I’d be happy to come to your church because you seem to recognise that final judgement isn’t your job. You also seem to recognise that any group will have dominant opinions and rules, and that because of that some people will choose not to want to be included, and that’s their choice. I agree with that: tolerance and inclusiveness doesn’t mean allowing anyone to do anything. My church in London has lots of smelly people in it – it’s a rag-bag collection of all sorts and misfits, some homeless, addicted, with serious behavioural problems, just a bunch of sinners liked Jesus enjoyed eating with. After 30 years in evangelical churches its by a long way the most honest and uplifting environment I’ve been in. People there have all kinds of beliefs, but as long as they want to come and are willing to hear Jesus being talked about and worshipped they are a part of our community. Sometimes people are drunk and abusive: we try and calm them and if they won’t they have to leave: they have to respect one another. The community is self-selecting: we have no set of propositions that anyone has to sign up to, and we don’t try to look into their minds and second-guess what any of us really believes or does. Thank God for that: it would be terrifying if we really could, and I’m quite sure that would be true of any church community in the world.


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