Inclusion is not just a North American idea
The headline of this post should not be remarkable. Indeed, as any number of people have pointed out, Jesus himself reached out to the most marginalized people in his time to draw them closer to himself and to God’s presence. These days, it’s commonplace in some quarters to describe the idea of inclusion as a North American or Western innovation.
The National Council of Churches in India have recently met. For those of you who are geographically challenged, India is neither in the West nor in North America. The NCCI, whose membership includes both Anglican provinces there (The Church of North India and The Church of South India), held a conversation called “Theological Roundtable on Churches’ response to Human Sexuality”.
Go read the whole document, but here’s a flavor of what they said:
We believe that our negative attitudes towards sexuality and our body-denying spirituality stem from our distorted understanding of God’s purpose for us. The embodied God who embraced flesh in Jesus Christ is the ground for us to love our bodies and to celebrate life and sexuality without abuse and misuse. So God invites us to experience sexual fulfillment in our committed relationships of justice-love with the commitment to be vulnerable, compassionate, and responsible.
We recognize that there are people with different sexual orientations. The very faith affirmation that the whole human community is created in the image of God irrespective of our sexual orientations makes it imperative on us to reject systemic and personal attitudes of homophobia and discrimination against sexual minorities. We consider the Delhi High Court verdict to “decriminalize consensual sexual acts of adults in private” upholding the fundamental constitutional and human rights to privacy and the life of dignity and non-discrimination of all citizens as a positive step.
A few things are worth noting here. In the simple recognition that there are varied sexual orientations, they are opening themselves to see others as people made in God’s image, receiving the goodness of God’s creation. In their quest to create a church that is a “community without walls” they are truly living into the fullness of the Gospel. And yet, they do not attempt to force everyone into agreement on any point. There seems to be space in this statement for those who might not share the same views.
This is another sign that fear is succumbing to the power of God’s hope. I long for the day when the Anglican Communion itself will be able to publish such a statement. I yearn for our spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to speak similar words of welcome to all, while condemning irrational fear of lesbian and gay persons.
Today, in reading this statement, I am again grateful for the fellowship of the Anglican Communion and its witness in the world. I also hope our leaders will live up to this spirit of grace.