Theological underpinning for EDI
- It is the Church's intention to value every human being as part of God's creation and the whole people of God. At the heart of the Methodist community is a deep sense of the place of welcome, hospitality and openness which demonstrates the nature of God's grace and love for all. Our church communities are called to be places where the transformational love of God is embodied and life in all its fullness is a gift which is offered to all people. There are no distinctions based on race, gender, disability, age, wealth or sexuality, or any discrimination associated with this gift. Yet, it is important to recognise that this does not mean there are no boundaries or limits to the Church's inclusivity and hospitality. The boundaries which exist in the Church enable it to remain faithful to its identity as the body of Christ and to seek to be a safe space for those who participate in its communal life. Ever open to the revelation of God, the Church, with prayerful discernment, continues to reflect on where these boundaries appropriately lie and how it embodies the love and grace of God. God loves all people unconditionally, and we seek to live out that unconditional love in every part of church life.
- Issues of equality, diversity and inclusion, though critical in both contemporary theological reflection and the witness of the Church, cannot be derived easily from the Bible. The Bible is the record of God's dealings with humankind, consisting of narratives through which we discern God's nature and purposes. This means that theological ideas emerge in particular cultural contexts, though they are not necessarily bound by them. One cannot easily extract principles from isolated incidents or sayings. The Bible is not specific on matters of equality, and contains stories of discrimination against people, of enslavement, sexual violence against women, and the equating of disability with sin. Yet we can also discern broader themes emerging from the narratives that issue a severe challenge to these stories. Recognition of the challenges involved in interpreting Scripture, alongside recognition of the rich resources it provides, leads not only to the need for continuing study and reflection regarding issues of equality, diversity and inclusion; but also for challenge where the inappropriate use of Scripture leads to discriminatory attitudes and practices. Nonetheless, themes emerge from the Biblical narratives that offer guidance for the Church's engagement with contemporary culture.
- The traditions and history of the Church reveal changing perspectives and consensuses over the inclusion or exclusion of particular peoples in different ways and for different reasons, and often the Church has not spoken with a single voice. There are biblical passages that deal with God's election of particular people, and the Church's views on slavery and the ordination of women, for example, have seen considerable change. Therefore, the Church's collective understanding of God's purpose and truth has changed over time. The Church is a pilgrim Church, and we expect that scripture, tradition, reason, and experience will continue to reveal truth as the Methodist people continue to reflect on these issues in all areas of Church life and as part of their discipleship. The following strands of biblical, Methodist, and the broader Christian thought offer some resources for further reflection.
This theological underpinning, complete with further resources is part of the EDI Toolkit, and can be downloaded here.