As a 2nd grader I remember being the last person picked for the spelling bee. The teacher divided the class into two teams. The best two spellers were named team captains. They took turns picking who would be on each team. I still remember sitting at my desk as everyone else was chosen. I was not going to be chosen; I was simply the last person left. I had to be picked.
In many ways this was a good life lesson – sometimes you don’t get picked first.
A number of weeks ago someone sent me an article, I can’t remember who wrote it or who sent it, but the theme has stuck with me. The article asks a question – does the church function like an institution or a city? According to the author, institutions exist to screen people out – an individual must qualify for a job or a program. Cities always expand to include everyone – there is space for the homeless, the renter, the homeowner, the uneducated, the educated, the poor, the rich.
It doesn’t take years of theological studies to figure out that Jesus was interested in making space for everyone. That’s the essential message of John 3:16. It also does not take many years of study to figure that the historical trajectory of the church has been one of finding ways to screen people out.
What would it mean for the church to renounce the path of exclusion and to become a place of inclusion? How do we become less white and less male? What does it mean to invite others into our community? Inclusion also includes folks who don’t get it – the racist and sexist. What does this look like?
And just how far do we take this diversity thing? It is one thing to talk about cultural and theological diversity, but quite another thing to talk about sexual orientation.
It is my hope that our future can be one of figuring out how to filter people in. This will not be easy or without controversy, but it does seem to be the Jesus thing to do.