Archives: Inclusion Via Exclusion


Having spent some time years ago in a UCC church, I was curious to learn of their new campaign ‘God is still Speaking’ in which they boast of their ‘inclusion’ of all. Part of their campaign includes a commercial which shows bouncers at a cathedral type church chasing away various folks (minorities, gays, etc.)and only allowing others (squeaky whites, etc.).

Then the UCCers come in and show how ‘inclusive’ their churches look, with gals holding hands and such, because ‘God is still speaking.’

I contrast that with the description of Hippolytus, bishop of Rome around 225 A.D. He gives a manual on the training of Catechumens who want to join the church. A key phrase that is repeated is ‘let them cease (meaning their pagan occupations and practices) or be rejected.’ In other words, he describes a community that rehabilitates pagans in a three year process, complete with exclusion from the table during that time and even exorcism if necessary. If the potential convert refused to be a part of the rehab program, well, they were ‘excluded’ from the community.

Now pieces of what Hippolytus says is anachronistic but interestingly the church of his time grew like wildfire. The pagan rehab stuff seemed to work both in terms of evangelism and in terms of disciple-making. Is there something to learn here?

(PS, I’m not picking on the UCC, my experience with my own denomination is pretty much the same, witness the ‘Via Media’ evangelism curriculum.)

17 thoughts on “Archives: Inclusion Via Exclusion

  1. Well Fr. Neo, aren’t you a brave soul… do you really want to open up that can of worms again? The bruises are barely healed from that last go round… Ha ha.

    But pulling up the archives is an idea…especially for those of us who are techinically challenged at the moment…

  2. It is my observation that raising the bar for membership is good. It adds value to the perceived achievement of membership. Lowering the bar is bad. It cheapens membership. Now it is possibly true that raising the bar is a men’s thing, not a women’s thing, and so inclusivity is really more a feminine value than a male one. Isn’t it Mark Twain who said that he would never become a member of a club whose members would allow him in. Or maybe that was Woody Allen?

    John Wesley’s Methodist societies spread like wildfire in the Great Awakening and were very exclusive and demanding. You had to be a class member, you had to demonstrate regular attendance, graduate through the curriculum, etc. Now, if the mirror fogs you’re in, even if your image, upon close inspection, doesn’t show up in it.

    You guys refer here to posts that I have not read. Can you be more revealing about the worms to which you refer?

  3. Morphy,

    Marx is the author of the quote you reference (Groucho).

    For me, I’ll just say that it is less about attracting or not attracting others, but being faithful to our call. And, at least at our church, part of our call is to be inclusive of all who wish to follow Jesus.

    That’s all I’ll say about that…

  4. To be sure, the good Samaritan didn’t get to bind the Jew’s wounds without passing the theology exam first. And then he had to go a few rounds with the morality squad. Don’t forget RCIA and the orthodoxy police. Only then did the Samaritan earn the right to minister to the broken (but right and righteous!) man in the ditch. Truly, then he was the GOOD Samaritan.

    That’s how it went, right? I’m glad I know who the neighbours are – I wouldn’t want to see the property values drop.

  5. Interestingly, the church of the early centuries (that grew despite their message of ‘cease or be rejected’), was full of the ‘common folk,’ Samaritans, if you will. It seems the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ made up the majority of the communities that Hippolytus’ describes! That’s the irony that prompts us to take pause. Is it possible to be loving, merciful AND strive to be morally virtuous as well as orthodox? Or is it one or the other? Listen again to this qoute from Hans von Balthasar: “…there is nothing true or good, in the long term, without the light of grace of that which is freely bestowed. And a Christianity which went along with modernity and subscribed merely to the true (faith as a system of correct propositions) or merely to the good (faith as that which is most useful and healthy for the subject) would be a Christianity knocked down from its own heights. When the saints interpreted their existence in the light of God’s greater glory, they were always the guardians of the beautiful.”

  6. “…(that grew despite their message of ‘cease or be rejected’)”

    Are you saying that growth is an outward sign of “right-ness”?

  7. Great Q madcap. What drove the early Christians was not ‘right-ness,’ but ‘transformed-ness.’ It seemed like it was a kind of ‘pagan rehabilitation’ program, similar to the kind of work AA is doing. Someone who joins AA knows s/he is screwed up and is looking to change. I think this kind of approach to the Faith is what made it so powerful in the beginning and what we ought to strive for now.

    Just being ‘right’ doesn’t change us or our behavior (in fact it might make us more arrogant than before). Meeting Christ in a powerful way and seeking to follow him with all our heart, mind and strength is what is transforming. Those who just want to be right are not transformed because they think being ‘right’ is all they need. Those who don’t admit their broken-ness are not transformed either, because they have a ‘live and let live’ attitude…

  8. But what I was asking was:

    Do you think that the growth of the Christian Church under those circumstances was evidence of them being on the right track?

  9. “What drove the early Christians was not ‘right-ness,’ but ‘transformed-ness.’ It seemed like it was a kind of ‘pagan rehabilitation’ program, similar to the kind of work AA is doing. Someone who joins AA knows s/he is screwed up and is looking to change. I think this kind of approach to the Faith is what made it so powerful in the beginning and what we ought to strive for now. “

    I love this response.

  10. “Interestingly, the church of the early centuries (that grew despite their message of ‘cease or be rejected’), was full of the ‘common folk,’ Samaritans, if you will.”

    I’m afraid I won’t. The shock of the story lay in the fact that he was, and remained, a Samaritan, an outsider, a non-Jew.

  11. I feel there is a subtle and much ignored message to the fact that he was a Samaritian. I feel that if you read between the lines you find that it illustrates the idea that those who have known oppression, rejection, alienation, etc… are moved to compassionate ACTION, rather than jugement when confronted with the misfortunes of others. In other words, he wasn’t just a compassionate man who “happened” to be a Samaritan, but it was his experience as a Samaritan that made him compassionate.

  12. Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

    “Belongs” to the Eastern Orthodox? He gets top billing on August 13, Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Catholic Edition. I suspect he belongs to anyone who cares to pray for his intercession.

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