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Inclusive God

Reclaiming Theology for an Inclusive Church

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ISBN-13: 9781853117411
Published: 05/10/2006
Product description
The Church should be inclusive because God is inclusive. Christianity is inclusive to its core. These are the claims made by this groundbreaking, timely and important book. To its critics, inclusive theology is little more than a capitulation to secular pressures, but it has always been at the heart of all Christian service. Today it is rediscovering its radical, missionary voice and its roots in the biblical values of justice and the transformative power of the kingdom. Inclusivity is not simply about whom the church excludes from its life and ministry on the basis of cultural prejudices at any given point in history. It is about the world we share and the life we lead in common with all humanity. It is a joyful affirmation that we are all created and fulfilled by the love of God, and it challenges us to reject every limitation placed on what God has made. The Inclusive God explores what inclusive theology begins to look like when fleshed out by what matters most in Christianity: creation, revelation, Jesus' life, death and resurrection, the church and, above all, the nature of God. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus standing alongside the despised and rejected, eventually becoming the despised outsider himself. The Inclusive God asks are we on his side, or not?
Product Reviews

'Its Introduction begins with what to some could be a challenge, "The Church should be inclusive because God is inclusive." The remainder of the book is devoted to fleshing out what inclusion means, in relation to key aspects of Christian belief: creation, revelation, Jesus, and the Church. The ideas expressed in this challenging and inspiring short text have given rise to the praxis-oriented volume of inclusive prayers.' -- Pat Pinsent

Author Information

Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Steven Shakespeare

Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard is Area Dean of Kensington and author of Philosophies of History (Blackwell, 2000), Impossible God (Ashgate, 2003), The Myths of Time (DLT, 2004) and The Devil's Account (DLT, 2004). He is a regular columnist for The Church Times. Dr Steven Shakespeare is Anglican Chaplain at Liverpool Hope University and is involved with the Theology and Religious Studies Department. He wrote his PhD on Soren Kierkegaard and is author of Kierkegaard, Language and the Reality of God (Ashgate, 2001) and a number of scholarly articles.

Author Interview
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Web Questions for the inclusive God (Hugh Rayment-Pickard)

What inspired you to write this book?

The thing that impresses me about Jesus is his teaching about the importance of forgiveness and love, how he mixed with outcasts and made the unclean and unloved feel valuable. The bible doesn't call this 'inclusion' but that's what it is. Steve and I wanted to write a book that would remind the Churches that being 'inclusive' is not a modern secular fad, but basic Christian teaching.

Do you think that by publishing this book now it will have greater significance?

Yes, inclusion is a massive issue for the Churches at this juncture in history. The disagreements about inclusion are threatening schism on a scale that has not been seen since the Reformation. History will view the issue of inclusion as the major world theological question of the late 20th / early 21st centuries.

Do you think the goals of the inclusive church movement can be realised in the near future?

That depends which goals you mean. But homosexual clergy (to take only one inclusion issue) will I believe be accepted without question in mainstream Church of England life by 2030. The grain of historical progress is on the side of increasing liberalism and social acceptance. No one in this country now would suggest withdrawing the vote for women, reintroducing slavery or re-criminalising homosexuality. We would regard this as barbaric. It won't be long before the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the leadership of the Churches is regarded in the same light.

What do you hope people will get out of reading The Inclusive God?

I hope that this book will spark a different and more theological dimension to the debate about inclusion. Voices on both sides have concentrated on specific issues of Church membership, such as allowing women bishops. These issues are important, but the point that Steve and I have been making is that 'inclusion' isn't just about issues, it's about theological truth. So we've tried to argue why inclusion is basic to Christian theology.

Do you think that the Inclusive Church movement needs to address society as well as the church?

I guess so, but I'd like to see the Church change its attitudes ahead of the secular world and start to act as a prophetic and socially-transformative organisation. Normally the Church limps behind enlightened secular reform, only changing when others in society have fought the really difficult battles. This is particularly true of the recognition of the true value of women, which started to happen in secular organisations before the Church dared to make any reforms of its own.

What do you think of the arguments that are presented to women who want to become part of the clergy? eg its tradition to have male leaders

 Most arguments to exclude others from the Church or its power structures stem from fear and insecurity. We need to make people feel that an inclusive church is a much better, more truthful and healthier place to live.

Do you feel the Church has moved too far away from the early Christian ideals preached by Jesus and his disciples?

The Church has always struggled to live up to the ideals of Jesus and our age is no different from others in that respect. But I do worry that people in the Church are failing to see just how central inclusive theology is to authentic Christian identity. People speak of 'inclusion' as a fringe issue that is 'getting in the way' of the Church's work, as though the Church's mission had nothing to do with accepting those who are rejected, demonised and unloved. As our book argues, inclusion is at the centre of Jesus theology of the Kingdom.

Web Questions for the inclusive God (Steven Shakespeare)

What inspired you to write this book?

We write out of a passion for the genuinely inclusive heart of Christian theology and mission. We wanted to show that inclusion was not just an issue for an erudite liberal elite. It names a vibrant, gutsy, flesh and blood truth, which can and should make a difference to the real world.

Do you think that by publishing this book now it will have greater significance?

Yes, this is a very hot issue right now. For example, Archbishop Rowan Williams recently gave an interview to the Dutch press. The headline was 'The Church is not Inclusive'. I think that is a symptom of the churches' current insecurity in facing change - we're worried that we're opening the floodgates to something strange and frightening. I think that's sad, and misses the huge opportunity we now have to demonstrate the boundary-busting love that Jesus embodies. Hugh and I are inviting people to see this not as a threat, but as an opportunity to grow.

Do you think the goals of the inclusive church movement can be realised in the near future?

Some of those goals are already being realised. No-one can seriously stand up for racial bigotry in the churches any longer. The exclusion of women from positions of leadership is being challenged as never before. The movement away from such exclusive systems of abusive power is gathering momentum. As far as timetables and specific decisions go, there are no guarantees. But once the spirit of liberation has been released, it can't ever be locked up again. Homophobia cannot be left as the last acceptable prejudice.

What do you hope people will get out of reading the inclusive god?

 I hope they will feel excited, challenged, and connected to a compelling theological vision of Christianity. We write about the big themes of Christian faith, because we want people to see how inclusion is rooted in the nature of God and all that God creates. Too often appeals to authority are made as an excuse to stop thinking and refuse change. We want people to wrestle with the living, dynamic nature of the Bible and the church's tradition. The liberating pulse of the gospel shouldn't be trapped by our definitions.

Do you think that the inclusive Church movement needs to address society as well as the church? Yes, I think it needs that outward-facing stance. We can't talk about inclusion whilst ignoring the way that much of the world is devastated by economic imperialism; or how so many women's bodies are still subjected to arbitrary control and abuse; or the ways people are finding to live in creative harmony with the earth. But the inclusive church has to engage with these issues on the basis of a liberating vision of the world birthed and healed by the vulnerable humanity of God. We can't preach morality to the world while our own structures are distorted by unjust power-mongering.

What do you think of the arguments that are presented to women who want to become part of the clergy?eg its tradition to have male leaders

 I would say that men and women are made equal in God's image. In Christ, the made-up hierarchies we love to build are swept away. Women and men alike make up the body of Christ and can reveal the human face of God to others. So the only justification for an all-male priesthood is that men are 'naturally' holier and more like God than women. When all the clever arguments have come and gone, that's the real issue. And I think that's an outrageous example of where a cultural, human prejudice has been substituted for the living truth of revelation.

Do you feel the Church has moved too far away from the early Christian ideals preached by Jesus and his disciples?

No church is perfect: Jesus' own disciples messed things up pretty badly! So I don't think we should aim to restore a mythical golden age. The point is to re-discover the cutting edge of the gospel for our own day. Time and again, despite all the temptations of an institution like the church to mistake power for God, the Spirit has guided Christians into new expressions of faithfulness and love. I believe that's what is happening today. Our specific context and questions will be different from what has gone before. But we're learning again what it means to believe in an inclusive God.

Table of Contents

  • FOREWORD by Giles Fraser
  • CHAPTER ONE:Creation
  • CHAPTER TWO:Revelation
  • CHAPTER THREE:Jesus and the Kingdom
  • CHAPTER FOUR:Jesus and the Cross
  • CHAPTER FIVE:Jesus and the Resurrection
  • CHAPTER SIX:The Inclusive Church
  • CHAPTER SEVEN:The Inclusive God
  • CONCLUSION:Listening Theology