How ‘inclusive’ is the New Jerusalem?

Aug 13, 2019 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

Sam Wells, vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, wrote an interesting and significant piece in last week’s Church Times, calling for a change in focus in the way that the call is made for the Church to be ‘more inclusive’. The article was a shortened version of his address to the annual meeting of the organisation Inclusive Church, and the full version can be read on their website. The change he calls for is a shift from looking back to creation principles and arguing for an inclusive understanding of God’s intentions in creation, and instead looking forward to an inclusion vision of eschatology and the new creation. Wells is a very popular write and commentator, though I have previously found some surprising omissions in his thought, so I was intrigued to read what he had to say.

Wells begins by noting the range of current strategies deployed in the call for an ‘inclusive’ church, and wants to set them aside by moving the debate to a new question.

My counsel to those who are glad to bear the epithet ‘inclusive’ is not to shout their answer louder or longer than the opposition, or give examples of the pain and suffering the opposing answer has caused, or suggest that the arc of history bends towards their position, and thereby win the argument; it’s instead to ask a different question.

He notes the problems with questions around ‘where do you come from?’ from practical experience and within the current differences in response to Brexit (drawing on the research of David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere) between ‘Anywheres’ and ‘Somewheres’. This observation shifts the debate from one of location to one of identity:

The great debates of our day aren’t fundamentally about human rights or economic benefits or legitimate migration or coarsening public discourse: they’re about profound identity…

Into this question Wells then brings the shift of identity that we find effected by faith in Jesus in the New Testament. He rightly picks up on Paul’s language in Philippians (a letter written to people living in a Roman colony), where this change of identity is explicitly expressed in terms of citizenship.

Read here


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