Building an Inclusive Church

“Welcome, we are so glad you are here!”

These words of welcome and the accompanying atmosphere of support, understanding and love are what we all long for as we enter our churches, live as members, or experience important life-cycle events (falling in love, marrying, having children, baptism, confirmation, coming out, transitioning, etc.). This experience of God’s Extravagant Welcome and the justice and societal witness that go with it are the heart of what we hope to facilitate by Building an Inclusive Church. Embodying God’s Extravagant Welcome is both a critical goal of this process, for it calls upon the very core of the Christian gospel, and it is a goal that requires prayerful, conscious, faithful action.

A Welcoming Process is an officially recognized path that includes relational organizing, education, some kind of public vote and a public statement of Welcome for persons of ALL sexual orientations and gender identities. We seek to be “Welcoming” and “Open and Affirming.”

Thank you for joining with us. And may God bless and guide us in the endeavor.

The Welcoming Process: Graceful Engagement

The “spirit” with which a congregation does a Welcoming Process can make all the difference. It requires deep listening, seeking “that of God” in the people with whom you engage and finding the ways in which God is revealed to you through them. So must the Welcoming Process carry a similar spirit. We call this spirit “Graceful Engagement.”

Graceful Engagement is a way of practicing holy conversation, where each person is treated as a loved child of God. It is about listening, sharing one’s own story, hearing one another’s perspective, finding commonalities and shared experiences. It is about building relationships around values that bring us together as opposed to things that polarize us.

Through Graceful Engagement, we strive to reach out to others in Love and Grace, listening to their stories and telling our own so that we may come to a renewed understanding together as the Body of Christ, overcoming estrangement and discord no matter what their sources may be.

We are committed to accompanying others in respect and mutuality, walking alongside those who both agree and disagree with us as we discern future directions for shared mission. We avoid and do not value divisive rhetoric or actions. We begin and return to prayer for guidance and renewal.

As we read the Scripture, we see that Jesus engaged everyone with whom he ministered with a deep sense of God’s Grace. Each person is a beloved child of God. Every individual is God’s creation. Even those whom the world would call enemies, Jesus engaged with Grace-filled love and commands us to do likewise. Encouraged by Jesus’ example, prayer can lead us back again and again to an awareness of God’s Grace.

Such a posture is what discipleship is all about. And because we understand the Welcoming Process to be an opportunity to practice discipleship and help the Church to be the Church, the Welcoming Process is a perfect place to practice Graceful Engagement.

Sustainable Action: Planting the Seeds of Relational Organizing