This quote from the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, The Book of Order, jumped out of the page when I read it — found in the September 18, 2017 issue of the church publication, The Presbyterian Outlook. Question: Are our churches living faithful to this command for inclusion?
From The Book of Order:
A congregation shall welcome all persons who trust in God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the fellowship and ministry of his Church. No person shall be denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith. The Gospel leads members to extend the fellowship of Christ to all persons. Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the Gospel.” (G-1.0302)
For my colleagues in ministry, I encourage you to read the entire article by Elder John Harkey, a professional in helping “organizations develop and implement inclusion and diversity strategies.”
This article, Reformed Inclusion, details the experience of an elder at the 3500 member Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Of particular interest are the intentional steps individual members of the faith community can do to “demonstrate more consciously inclusive behavior”.
Volunteer for an activity that makes you comfortably uncomfortable and creates an impact on others.
Sit someplace different in your sanctuary each Sunday for the next eight weeks.
Demonstrate active listening that shows empathy towards others who may be different than you.
Become more self-aware of the biases and assumptions that you possess, and do not let then interfere with your personal or business interactions.
When you see someone standing alone while you are in a group, invite them to join you.
If you are faced with an issue or challenge, ask three people who are different that you (generationally, culturally or in other ways) for input as you make your decisions. (Presbyterian Outlook, September 18, 2017, pg 32)
I would suggest that these simple steps of inclusion can open doors beyond the local church in the communities where we live.
A public thanks to John Harkey for his faithful work.