Dear Sisters and Brothers,
All are welcome,
All are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.
Singing the Faith 409
It is hard to disagree with these words in the hymn written by Marty Haugen. For Methodists whose core conviction is that God’s love can reach out to and transform the lives of every human being without exception, the commitment to being an “Inclusive Church” is a part of our DNA. We believe that all are created in God’s image, and all are one in Jesus Christ.
We have a long history of advocating for social justice and challenging injustice. The first women presbyters were ordained in 1974, a year before the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) was passed. The Conference first passed resolutions on racial justice in 1962, long before the introduction of the Race Relations Act (1976).
As a Church we have made significant progress across all protected characteristics as stated under the Equalities Act 2010 and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. However, today the issue of race, sexuality, gender and disability discrimination is still a major challenge for the Church. In becoming an “Inclusive Church” where all are truly welcome there will need to be a significant transformation, which will include organisational, structural and cultural changes.
Another Methodist characteristic is that we want to do better because we know that we have got it wrong too often. We know that with the help of God’s Spirit we can become more Christ-like in our relationships. In working towards being an “Inclusive Church” that means recognising that issues of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion cannot be another optional item on a busy agenda but need to be an integral part of our life together.
What is an “Inclusive Church”? Here is a possible definition for the Methodist Church.
Welcomes in safety all who wish to be part of the life of the Church whether through worship, learning and caring, service or evangelism.
Upholds the discipline of the Methodist Church in the face of discrimination, rejecting and resisting all behaviours which are discriminatory or belittling.
Celebrates diversity in the variety of God’s creation.
Represents the diversity of the Methodist Church throughout its life and structures and affirms that there is no place for discrimination in our processes of selection, discernment and appointment.
I encourage all the churches in the Circuit to consider registering with the Inclusive Church network (Inclusive Church (inclusive-church.org)) as a way of expressing commitment to working towards being places “where love can dwell and all can safely live.” (StF 409).
With every blessing,
Revd John Hellyer