It occurs to me that inclusiveness is just not enough.

As I look at the denomination of which I am a part and the culture of which I am a part, I can’t help but notice that reality and rhetoric just don’t match up.

Not too long ago The United Methodist Church proudly proclaimed the slogan “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.” We don’t use that slogan as much as we did a decade ago. We have not lived up to its promise. The slogan is almost embarrassing to many. It is a great statement of inclusiveness; but it has been lived out only to a point.

I know of congregations and pastors who want to maintain the current Disciplinary restrictions on full equality and inclusion of LGBTQ persons and yet still state that they are “inclusive.”

“We welcome LGBTQ persons to our congregations and worship,” they say. And, to them, that is enough. To them that is being open and inclusive. Inclusiveness, as they understand it, does not have to involve real equality. Our culture still struggles with full equality for people of color and for women. We do not treat the stranger and “alien in our midst” as either the dominant culture’s scripture or the beautiful words on the Statue of Liberty affirm as a value.

When our founding documents spoke of equality and rights for all, it seems that those words promised an inclusive society. But, the struggle for justice for all has been with us from the beginning. Women were left out of that equality, as were persons of color, religious minorities, many, many immigrant groups, and the indigenous populations whose land this was when the colonists arrived.

The problem with inclusiveness has always been that it is administered by the dominant culture.

Those who are “included” by those who see themselves as the includers are dependent upon how those who do the including decide to allow others to participate. The persons included are included on the terms of the ones doing the including.

We are about to enter the season of our annual chaos over the “war on Christmas.” The dominant culture, which is heir to a decision to celebrate the birth of Jesus at the winter solstice, not because there was any evidence that it was the actual season of the actual birth, but in order to dominate pagan solstice celebrations, gets very upset if the greeting “Happy Holidays” is used in our diverse society.

Often, Christmas falls when others are celebrating their cultural and religious holidays. “Happy Holidays” embraces a number of observances. It is a way of rejoicing in everyone’s experience. The yearly insistence that there is only one appropriate greeting to acknowledge the season and the other silliness that often takes place, like the hysteria over Starbuck’s choice for its holiday cups, illustrates how hollow the concept of inclusiveness can become when the ideal is vulnerable to the betrayal of its values that occurs when it is dominated by competitiveness, hierarchical assumptions, and assertion of privilege.

Our vision needs to go beyond inclusiveness.

We need to understand that inclusiveness is not enough if it isn’t characterized by full equality, by justice, by respect and mutuality, as well as by appreciation of the gifts, dreams, hopes, and lives of all.

Rev. Ginny Hathaway

Rev. Ginny Hathaway is a clergy member of the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church. She moved to Round Rock, TXfollowing her retirement. Ginny has an undergraduate degree from Univ. of Texas Pan American and graduate degrees from Incarnate Word College and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

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