One of the key flashpoints over the identity of the Church has been the notion of inclusivity. When my church-related school redid its mission statement a couple of years ago, those who wanted an expansive statement that moved the school well beyond providing students with training in knowledge and truth usually did so under the banner of “inclusiveness.” All are welcome, none are judged. To make the absence of discriminating judgments the basis for education was, for some of us, a bitter pill. Neither were we comfortable with the suggestion that Christian churches ought to welcome all into their midst. After all, the message of the Gospel separates even as it unites. To emphasize one to the exclusion of the other more than distorts the message: it fundamentally alters it.
I’m fighting this battle on separate fronts at the moment, but one I had not anticipated was recently reported in the Toronto Star. Serving a dog communion likely won’t be as far as the Anglican church will go in its desire for inclusiveness, but the story indicates what happens when that desire is coupled with an utterly impoverished notion of the nature and purpose of the sacraments. The combination creates indifference. If colleges or churches are going to be at all relevant, interesting, and formative of individual’s identities, it will be because they self-consciously operate as communities set apart and treat their own practices – in all their particularity and unacceptability to others – as if they matter. Otherwise, there’s no point.