My personal commitment to inclusiveness stems from early developmental influences. My extended family is diverse socially, economically, religiously, politically, and ethnically. We have always seen differences as desirable, adding interest and variety to family gatherings.
We investigated differences of opinion or lifestyle not to correct an errant member, but to understand that individual's unique perspective. Struggles and controversy were/are inevitable. The resolution of differing opinions or the understanding of differing lifestyles was/is viewed as a challenging exercise. We did not view them as an attack on erring members.
This basic understanding that it is "ok" to be different was supported and expanded during my undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa (1968-1972). I was a Theatre major during a major social upheaval. The Theatre department offered an excellent opportunity to observe widely differing opionions and lifestyles. These opinions or lifestyles may differ from my own or from the community norm. Yet the moral and ethical imperatives that motivate this diversity are not dependent upon primal drives. They are dependent on commitment to moral and ethical behavior.
When we apply that understanding to the Church, a person's lifestyle or orientation is secondary to commitment to the Christian life. As the psalmist writes (Psalm 130:3), no lifestyle or orientation can stand the complete scrutiny of our omniscient God. Our acceptability and salvation are not in our works, but in our faith in Christ. I am called to ministries that open the church to the diverse manifestations of the spirit.
Rev'd R. Craig Bennett, O.S.L., D.Min.
Western Pennsylvania Conference