Amend ¶ 138:
¶ 138. We recognize that God made...to all persons.
Inclusiveness means openness acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community and the world.
Thus, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination. The mark of an inclusive society is one in which all members are open, welcoming, fully accepting, and supporting of all other persons. enabling this participation. them to participate fully in the life of the church, the community and the world. A further mark of this inclusiveness is the setting of church activities in facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. It is an important value, but it is not unconditional or controlling.
Throughout its history the Church has been inclusive in matters of race and ethnicity and exclusive in matters of belief and conduct. Genesis 1:27, John 3:16-17, Acts 10:34, Galatians 3:28, and 2 Peter 3:9 are just a few of the Scriptures highlighting this inclusiveness. But the same Lord Jesus Christ who said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32), also said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of the Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). People exclude themselves from God’s kingdom and the Church by willfully clinging to unbelief and evil deeds (cf. John 3:19-20, 1 John 2:18-19). Christ warned us to “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). We are given criteria for virtuous discrimination of the true child of God from the imposter (Deuteronomy 13:1-6, 18:20-22, Matthew 7:16-16-20, 1 Corinthians 12:2-3, and 1 John 2:18-29), and our proper response is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
In The United Methodist Church inclusiveness means the freedom for the total involvement of all persons who meet the requirements of The United Methodist Book of Discipline in the membership and leadership of the Church at any level and in every place. This means that, while we allow considerable diversity in “opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity” (Wesley, The Character of a Methodist), those engaging in practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be contrary to Christian teaching and those who spread teachings contrary to our established standards of doctrine exclude themselves and forfeit this freedom. With this in mind, we must consider five specific areas of inclusiveness or exclusion affecting our mission to make disciples.
1. Racism. Racism and the resultant evils of segregation (sometimes called apartheid) and slavery should have no place in the thinking or practice of any Christian. We celebrate the thousands of Methodists, Evangelicals, and United Brethren who protested these evils, preached against them, and worked tirelessly to end them. But, to our shame, many others practiced racism or tolerated it by silence or even misrepresented the Scriptures to justify it biblically. These things should never have happened. They must not happen again.
Our stand against racism has led us to oppose the naming of sports teams after the names of Native American peoples and other words associated with Native Americans. Many Native Americans are grieved by this sports practice and view it as perpetuating negative racial stereotypes. However, other Native Americans are not offended in every instance and have sometimes viewed the practice as a compliment. An inclusive Church will recognize and be sensitive to both views.
2. Burdening the disabled. A further mark of inclusiveness is setting church activities in facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.
In the spirit of this declaration, United Methodist seminaries will make all efforts to meet Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accessibility standards by the year 2011. Exemptions for historical or existing buildings are not allowed under this requirement.
3. Inclusive or gender-neutral language. Ironically, pursuit of inclusiveness here is sometimes exclusionary. For some in the Church, “Biblical faithfulness requires the use of inclusive language.” For others, gender-neutral expressions (especially those which suppress such biblical titles for God as “Father,” “King,” and “Lord,” for Christ as “Son of God,” and for the Church as “the Bride of Christ”) represent distortions of biblical teaching and Christian truth. So does calling God “Mother,” which echoes the theologies of Mormonism and Christian Science. Other expressions, such as “Godself,” are equally repugnant. With respect to both opinions, an inclusive Church will exercise great sensitivity and restraint. One has truly observed, “The trouble with inclusive language is no one’s agreed when’s enough.” When gender-neutral language alters the language of worship and Scripture, those who revere traditional phrases in Scripture, hymns, and liturgies feel excluded. Sadly, others who support limited uses of gender-neutral language have found themselves censured and belittled by those who demand more.
These things ought not to be. We call for tolerance, respect, and civility by those on all sides of the question and urge the thorough-going supporters of gender-neutral language to reconsider these thoughts by the late Georgia Harkness: “No understanding of God that leaves out his fatherly care for all his children, and with it the implied brotherhood of all men [sic] can be fully Christian”; and (spoken just days before her death), “I believe because Jesus spoke of God as Father, so should we. I am certainly not going to call God ‘she,’ and if you don’t say ‘he’ of ‘she,’ then the only alternative is ‘it.’ I am not going to say that”; and (spoken in the same interview), “It seems to me we had better accept the fact that our language uses the word man not only as male but in a generic sense of human.” From this, it follows that, if inclusiveness demands that we reduce Christian teaching to what is socially acceptable, a faithful Church must forgo this form of inclusiveness to hold to the truth.
4. Marginalization of conservative Christians. We must end the ridicule and marginalization of part of our membership and members of other churches through the disparaging use of terms like “Fundamentalists,” “Evangelicals,” “Bible Belt Christians,” “the Religious Right,” “biblical literalists,” “bibliolaters,” “biblical docetists,” and “Pietists.” Still worse labels, such as “Talibaptists,” identifying conservative Christians with the violently oppressive former Afghan rulers, highlight the unfairness of this practice. Many types of Fundamentalists co-exist. Fundamentalist Mormons are vastly different from Fundamentalist Baptists or Presbyterians. One has identified five varieties of Roman Catholic Fundamentalism. It is wrong to confound one group with another or to charge one group with the sins of others. Moreover, there are strong reasons to deny that Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu Fundamentalisms are legitimate categories. They represent, instead, terms of abuse to be condemned and avoided.
About seventy percent of United Methodists believe with Otterbein, Asbury, Albright, and Wesley that, “if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth” (Wesley, Journal, July 24, 1776). Belittling them and disparaging their belief is an affront to inclusivism and violates the Great Commandment. Yet it happens. Even worse is the labeling of evangelicals as “racists,” because some racists have fraudulently cited Scripture to justify their racism. We repudiate these practices and hold that those who would question the belief in a fully authoritative Bible have the burden of proof of demonstrating the truth of their claim. An inclusive Church will insist that discussions of these issues will be civil, even-handed, and focused on facts, not on doubtful inferences, personalities, or speculations about motive.
5. Proper use of the name, The United Methodist Church. A widespread, but largely overlooked hindrance to our inclusiveness is the omission of “United” from our church name and the name of our people. The Methodist Church ceased as an organization on April 23, 1968, as did The Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB). On that date, The United Methodist Church was born, a new church created by the marriage of the two former bodies. This was the intention of the Plan of Union. When the word United is omitted, it declares that the marriage was a pretense; that the union was, as some disillusioned former EUB’s have termed it, a hostile corporate takeover.
Since 1980, the General Conference has declared that omitting United from our church name is “unacceptable usage.” Yet the practice continues in conversation and in print. Former EUB’s are not being oversensitive about a few syllables. When Methodist is used in place of our proper name, it becomes, to them, a harsh reminder of more than a dozen serious betrayals of the spirit of union and inclusiveness:
1. Glorifying Wesley and Asbury, while ignoring or belittling the inheritances from Otterbein, Boehm, and Albright.
2. Abandoning beloved EUB institutions, including Westmar College, Otterbein Press, Kamp Koinonia, and the Church and Home magazine.
3. Cutting off EUB clergy widows from their only pension dividends with the sale of Otterbein Press.
4. Repeated attempts to close United Theological Seminary.
5. Identifying Heritage Sunday with Aldersgate Sunday in 1976 and 2004.
6. Removing the EUB Hymnal from circulation and canceling its status as an official United Methodist hymnal in 1972 .
7. Including only two EUB hymns in the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal.
8. Coerced replacement of “debts” or “sins” in the Lord’s Prayer with “trespasses.”
9. Exclusion of the EUB service of infant dedication from The Book of Worship.
10. Restoring the Lovely Lane Chapel while leaving the EUB birthplace, the Peter Kemp Farmhouse, just a few miles away, to the fickle mercies of a secular economy bent on commercial expansion.
11. Suppressing the fact that the twin flames in the cross-and-flame emblem represent the Methodist and EUB traditions and that, when depicted correctly, the two are equal in size.
12. Closing a disproportionate number of former EUB churches (28 percent of those closed between 1975 and 1985).
13. Representing an ash-less Ash Wednesday, the EUB practice and the universal Protestant practice before 1970, as “un-United Methodist.”
These are not petty acts to be ignored and forgotten. They exclude and offend part of our membership. An inclusive Church will confess their gravity and strive to halt their continuation. If we can respect the sensitivities of Native Americans regarding the names of sports teams, we must do the same for a portion of our members regarding our Church’s name. Christ’s words are a more than adequate incentive: “It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
This expanded version takes this statement outside the realm of high-sounding platitudes to address genuine issues affecting our church. Sins against former EUB’s are documented in Holsinger and Laycock, Awaken the Giant; Young, Companion to “The United Methodist Hymnal”; and the United Methodist Reporter.