Congratulations! Today you have become a member of the Universally Inclusive Club!

Yes, and its free too! The privileges are that you get to belong to the only club that includes everyone and everything in existence, animal, vegetable, or mineral, living or dead, real or imaginary, near or far, in this universe or somewhere/somewhen else in the multiverse. No one is excluded. To become a member you don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to apply for membership. You don’t even have to want to be a member. In fact, even if you don’t want to be a member, we will not exclude you. Everyone and everything is included in the Universally Inclusive Club (UIC).

Mmm. What a silly idea.

But the way some folk imagine “inclusiveness” this could be what they are talking about. Next to being judgmental, or intolerant, the greatest sin any social group can commit these days is to be “exclusive”.

[Reader: Unless you have to pay megabucks to be a member.
Schütz: Yes, unless that.]

So the Church should be “inclusive”, in the sense that it should not “exclude” anyone. After all, did Jesus exclude people? Isn’t the Church for everyone?

[Reader: This would be where you would say “WTFWJD”, isn’t it?
Schütz: Right again. I’m glad you follow me.]

I want to say right now that I do not believe the Church should be exclusive. I am a firm believer–perhaps firmer than you, dear Reader–in the inclusiveness of the Church. The very last thing I want for the Church is for the Church to exclude anyone. But perhaps I am just a little bit too inclusive for your tastes. You see, I believe that everyone should be a member of the Catholic Church.

[Reader: I’m going to tell on you. Your supposed to be an ecumenist.
Schütz: Will you please stop butting in. I am an ecumenist, and if you be quiet I will explain it to you.]

Let’s use the image of a door. Doors are good things generally for deliniating inside from outside. They can also be open or shut. Wherever a door exists, there will be an inside and an outside. Doors don’t exist except as gateways from outside to inside and vice versa. Doors never stand alone out in the paddock for instance.

[Reader: I saw one on the telly tubbies once that was just like that.
Schütz: I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.]

My idea of inclusiveness involves a door into a house where there is a fire burning, and the kettle is on the stove.* The door to this house is wide open and anyone who likes can come in and sit down by the fire and share warmth and mutual fellowship. I also believe that extending the invitation to all and sundry to come in from the highways and byways will involve going out the door and inviting people to come in. But in my understanding of inclusiveness, there will always be an inside and an outside. There room enough “inside” for everyone (all the members of the UIC). The only thing that exlcudes anyone is their own desire not to come in. The door will not be shut until the end of history.

Being exclusive (on the other hand) for me would mean shutting that door; saying, “Sorry, no room at the inn. Go away. You’re not welcome.” A closed door would be exclusive. An open door is inclusive. Contra the UIC, it is not inclusive to demolish the house and the door and call the outside “inside” so that everyone would be included.

So, in my ecumenical and interfaith work I am most certainly “inclusive”, even though it might seem to those who wish to promote the silly idea of the UIC as comparitively “exclusive”.

(* The image of the open door, fire, kettle etc. comes from the conclusion to Mons Peter Elliott’s talk to the Forward in Faith meeting here in Melbourne:

Let me conclude simply by welcoming you, by daring to welcome you, not with blaring triumphalism or earnest convert challenges, rather by quoting a wise Parish Priest I know. He is currently based in Birmingham. Like me, he worked for some years in the Roman Curia, but in a different department. This man of deep ecumenical commitment and experience put the realistic option in this human way and I address his words to you: “Brothers and Sisters, the door is open, the table is set and the kettle is on….”

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