Christianity has a root of being radically inclusive (IN Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.). Jesus of Nazareth ate with sinners and touched the unclean. THe challenge for the church ever since has been what to do about that inclusivity.
The denomination which I call home prides itself on being inclusive. WE talk about our strength in our diversity. We are proud that we were the first major denomination in Canada to ordain women, that we made a statement that sexual orientation was not a bar to ordination, that we are willing to face our culpability in the mis-treatment of First Nations people. We try to portray ourselves as being open to conservative and liberal and radical versions of Christian theology. It sounds great doesn't it?
BUt I am not so sure. I have a fear that such inclusivity can be a problem. If we try to be open to all, to be "all things to all people" don't we run the risk of becomong nothing? Is there the chance that we will so lose track of who we are, in an attempt to find a definition that appeals to all, that we will literally not be able to describe, and sell, ourselves? I think there is. I think it is alright to realize that we are not, can not, and will not be home for everybody.
WIthin the United Church of Canada we have issues that we call "denomination shaping". I think this is one of them. I think that it is time we found a way to define ourselves. I think we do this not to shut people out but to be truly welcoming. It seems more honest to me to be able to say "this is who we are. It is up to you to decide if this is a place you can call home". My hunch is that the definition we come up with would lead people on both ends of the theological spectrum to ask "is this the place for me?" and that can be a good thing.
15 years ago, as I was starting the process towards ordination, I met with the chair and vice-chair of our local Ministry & Personnel committee. In that meeting the chair asked "are you sure this is the church for you?". He said he had talked to clergy who, after many years in the pastorate, suddenly realized they were in the wrong church. To be honest I thought it was an incredibly odd question at the time. Now I see the wisdom in it. And still I can say unreservedly YES to it. I just wish we had a way of knowing who we actually are--which may not be who we think we are.