29th May 2024

‘Diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are much talked about today, and rightly so. If any group to which we belong is not, without good reason, really reflecting our wider society in terms of age, gender, colour and social background we need to ask why. This isn’t being ‘woke’. It’s a matter of integrity and justice, and not least for churches and their faithfulness to the gospel. Think of the diversity of Jesus’ first twelve apostles (yes, I know they were all male, yet still what an odd Palestinian mix!).

But diversity and inclusion easily become just a mathematical, box-ticking game – how many of this sort, or in that category, do we have? This ignores the deeper question of how, regardless of numbers, do those who are included actually accept and relate to one another? The Apostle Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ, with diverse members and roles united in a common life, actively helping each other, praying for one another, carrying one another’s burdens, rejoicing and suffering with one another as occasion requires, for ‘we are members of one another’.

Back in 1978, the annual BBC Reith Lectures were given by Professor A. H. Halsey, on ‘Change in British Society’. He began by commenting how the great watchword of the French Revolution, ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, had inspired much change for good in Western society, but that the third word, fraternity, seemed to have become downplayed. Nearly 50 years on, he might well be saying the same in our fragmenting scene. An agenda for Christians, surely, to exemplify and live out true community at every level.

Keith Clements