imageThe next value we’re going to explore for a few posts is:

Living inclusively – we aren’t particularly worried about what you believe, it’s about sharing life together. Living and learning how to celebrate difference of views and opinions is central to what we are. There’s no ‘membership’, just community. In fact, there’s loads of communities you can be part of…just join in and see what happens.

Starting where I left off, I want to share a song that speaks deeply to me about what ‘church’ should be. Oh, and it’s a complete classic.

Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me
Love, in fear, in hate, in tears



10 thoughts on “inclusive…

  1. Hello,

    Another reflective posting from you which makes me think about my own ideas on community.

    A classic song indeed.

    If, by being created in the image of God means we are by nature social beings created for community then communal living is by nature good. All communities reveal something of the nature of The Trinitarian and social God of Christianity. Perhaps some communities real God’s nature more than others, if true I wonder what the implications are?

    An interesting thought is why do people gather together, what lies at the centre of a community which causes people to want to spend time together? Do all communities have certain values or beliefs which help maintain the community? Can a community exist if every member has different interests or values?

    I wonder how inclusive we all are? Could I unconditionally accept someone in my community who agrees with IS that the beheading of a journalist is good. Could I have meaningful community with an active adulterer or Jimmy Saville?

    As usual I want you to unpack what you mean by community. Is it a description of a geographical situation. We meet up regularly, we interact in the pub, we say hello while buying a newspaper or standing outside of the school gates, how intentional does the community need to be? And if so what is it intentional about.

    Are you calling a community to be welcoming and affirming or can it includewelcoming and not affirming over a range of issues?

    I wonder if there can be community without some form of membership (explicit or implicit) perhaps commitment to the community is the obvious one, with a desire to support or improve the rest of the community.

    How many communities do you think we can effectively participate in?

    Have you read anything on closed set, centred set and fuzzy set thinking in this area?

    Right off to a BBQ, need a jumper in August.


    1. I think a starting point might be for you to have a look at my posts on community as part of my beliefs series I did a year or so ago.

      They might help a bit, along with what I’m about to start writing his evening!

      Briefly, however…
      We need community because diversity reflects God. With as many different voices as possible we stand a good chance of hearing what God might be up to.
      Yes – I believe profoundly that a community can exist even when members have different interests and values. They do already in many churches, but don’t always get a public airing (think of the diversity of ENC).
      My thoughts on inclusivity are that we must include all, whilst seeking to model something that reflects what we know of God. So yes, we will necessarily have members of a community with views we may abhor – however, we can be part of the process that helps to reshape them to a worldview that is more in keeping with what we know of God. I don’t mean silly things like different political views – but certainly challenging those who are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, violent etc. simply because they do not reflect what God seems to show us he expects of us (challenging, I know!).

      I haven’t read much of the sets – will have a quick google…after I’ve written the next post. Did you see the love poster I sent via Facebook?

      1. I’ll dip into the two links ASAP but for now a couple of reflections on your comments. Sorry if you explain them in the links.

        Diversity reflects God – not sure what you mean here. God is three in one and one in three but…. How does this relate to human diversity in all its fullness?

        I sound very negative tonight but secondly I disagree that community exists when people have diff interests. The example of church does not work well because there are things which everyone agrees with, Jesus, worship etc. if what you say is true then why did you leave and why did I leave. Because we did not feel part of the community, we did not have enough in common with others, the glue was not strong enough.

        I do agree that communities with a focus on god should be redemptive communities full of grace reflecting the hope we all have in god as a restorer of life. No one is too far away from god. These certainly have to involve an act of the will since it is intentional I am part of a community with the hope of transforming others more and more into the likeness of Christ as I hope to be transformed through my encounters with others.

      2. I think the links and the new post will help!

        Diversity – what I’m getting at here is the idea that if we’re all image bearers, then al of us are needed to faithfully reflect the image of God. Thus diversity is vital in understanding God. Yes, it is also reflective of a trinitarian approach too, so could be interesting exploring that further,

        What I’m arguing (or attempting to argue!) is that I see a core set of values as being more important than a core set of beliefs. Those values are those I’m exploring at the moment. So I do think you can share community with people who hold very different opinions, as long as you share the values of together/inclusive/hope/generosity/creativity, well that’s what will hold us together. So a space to explore and challenge and shape and encounter others. That’s a community I want to be a part of.

        Going back to your other comment – I think we are part of multiple communities all of the time: online/work/geographical/professional etc. What makes these communities and how they contribute to our understanding of self and others is also interesting to explore.

  2. Back from GCSE results so once more available to think through what you are saying.

    Diversity – I get the direction of your thinking and I agree that if we are all image bearers then potentially we can learn from others. Remember there can be a distinction between quanity and quality so it is not automatic that more will improve quality of the community in revealing the image of God but perhaps it is more likely. I agree that a diverse community may exhibit a wider range of qualities associated with image bearing because new naturally gravitate to people who are the same as us so communities including. Church’s can often be very mono cultural and thus may only reveal certain aspects/values of god’s image.

    Goodness me I agree again about value and belief (don’t tell anyone or I will lose my reputation of being a grumpy old man). While I would argue that all values must have their source in a set of beliefs clearly the save value may be arrived at by people from a range of beliefs. Clearly if people agree on values they can dialogue on hoe they arrived at that value and the implications of the underlying beliefs on other values they may hold which are not agreed on by the rest of the community.

    I think there are qualitative differences between associations and communities. I would propose that not all groups of people’s are communities some are associations. The difference is perhaps the level of commitment I have to the group compared to other groups I also belong to. Some relationships are more surface than others. Perhaps the nodding acquaintance or even working community compared to a group you meet up with regularly over a pint to share life experiences and chat through issues and problems individuals have.

    What I really appreciate through what you are doing is that you are not willing to put up with superficial relationships which claim to be communities such as we can find in churches where people hold back and do not place themselves in situations of Vulnerability by being honest about life.

    I also think real communities allow people to be themselves and are interested in dialogue rather than only wanting to convert others to their own belief structure. The danger of the aforementioned approach is that it treats people as objects, as things rather than as human beings. Dialogue values all members of the group.

    Keep writing and thinking Martin, very stimulating.

    1. You’ve got the point I was making about diversity being required for us to be effective image bearers as a community. I agree about quality over quantity, but something in our brokenness and vulnerability is definitely necessary. A good friend (Andy) argues that this reflects the real God…an interesting area to explore over a pint!

      I think ultimately there will be underlying beliefs – all of the values I’m exploring could be found in the scriptures in one way or another. The most basic, of course, being ‘love’.

      Commitment to a community is vital – something I’m pushing myself hard on in wanting to make this ‘stuff’ happen and stick.

      Thanks Richard…it has been fun so far!

  3. Wow, we agree on so much.

    I think you would be interested in Grenz’s ‘created for community’. You won’t agree with all of it but it is a summary of his larger systematic theology. It explores the same issues that you are exploring and might give you further avenues to explore. It is partially written to challenge conservative American evangelical thinking.

    Commitment linked with intentionality are two concepts which many of us struggle with in an individualistic western worldview. We have been brought up to focus on ourselves. We use instrumental reason to assess what we get out of an activity in order to see if it is worth doing. While self gratification is natural, perhaps communities will only fully flourish when we deny ourselves and place others first.

    Just over a week to go before work drags me away and I. Lose the time and mental space to think about all this. A beer, or in my case a G&T is calling us before it is too late.

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