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

  1. 318@NICE says:

    What do you think of the SSPX Latin Rite Churches? Do they still have Apostolic Succession in their Bishops?


  2. Schütz says:

    The Bishops of SSPX are in schism from the bishops of the Catholic Church. I don’t know if one would call them heretical (the discussion of Heresy on the First Things blogsite between Stephen Barr, Edward Oats and Anne Pistick treats that question a little). As far as I know, their episcopal orders are regarded as valid, even though they were carried out contrary to the canons, because (I think) the right form was used and Levebre had the power to ordain. Which is interesting, because apparently the ordinations of married “bishops” by Archbishop Malingo just recently were not recognised. See Jimmy Akin’s blog at:

  3. Schütz says:

    The Bishops of SSPX are in schism from the bishops of the Catholic Church. I don’t know if one would call them heretical (the discussion of Heresy on the First Things blogsite between Stephen Barr, Edward Oats and Anne Pistick treats that question a little). As far as I know, their episcopal orders are regarded as valid, even though they were carried out contrary to the canons, because (I think) the right form was used and Levebre had the power to ordain. Which is interesting, because apparently the ordinations of married “bishops” by Archbishop Malingo just recently were not recognised. See Jimmy Akin’s blog at:

  4. Schütz says:

    I should add that the door is definitely open for the SSPX guys. A lot of hard work is being put into inviting them to the table. But apparently there is some problem with the language in which the menu is written, and in the fact that we are inviting others (like Protestants and Orthodox and even people who belong to other religions) to come in and sit at the table too.

  5. Peregrinus says:

    I like the analogy – particularly the kettle – but (like most analogies) it breaks down if you push it too far.

    What exactly does someone have to do to enter through the open door? Is it enough to be baptised? Is it necessary to be baptised, and have a belief in the Real Presence? Do you need to be baptised and have a specifically Catholic understanding of the Real Presence? Do you have to submit yourself to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome? What, exactly, does that involve? What’s your position if you find it hard to accept, say, the Pope’s views on the ordination of women, or on married clergy? How do you answer the person standing conspicuously in front of the fire, telling you that if you feel like that, wouldn’t you be happier in the Anglican house next door, and why don’t you go there?

    In an actual house, we can see immediately whether someone is inside, outside or just hanging around the door in a tentative and uncertain fashion. This is not something we decide, but something we recognise. With a metaphorical house, we build the walls in our minds, and we decide where they will be located. To a significant extent, therefore, we decide whether someone is inside or outside just as much as he himself does, because we can build a wall between where he is and where the fire is.

    Of course, what we are actually called to do is not to construct our own church to our own design, but to recognise the church constituted by Christ and call people into that church. But this is a calling in which it is all too easy to fail.

    In this regard, the metaphor of the church as a space defined by barriers, and a binary possibility in which we are either in that space or not in it, is I think an unhelpful over-simplification. I don’t think it reflects Catholic ecclesiology, in which the church is constittued by communion – a rather more nuanced concept than a brick wall.

    It’s unfortunate, perhaps, that we use the same word, ‘church’, to refer both to the worshipping community and to the building in which it formally assembles, because it encourages and facilitates this simplistic, binary thinking. I’m no Greek scholar, but I’m willing to bet that the NT Greek word “ekklesia” means a community, a gathering or an assembly, but definitely does not refer to any kind of building or physical structure. The church, the people of God, is constituted by God, but the church, the building with walls, a spire and some nice gothic tracery, is constructed by us.

    So the church is a community, not a building, and while you are either inside or outside a building, varying degrees of adherence to or participation in a community are possible, and indeed normal.

    I agree with you that the inclusive community becomes inclusive not by treating everyone as a fully participating member regardless of their actual degree of participation, but by inviting everyone to an ever fuller participation. But this invitation cannot consist only of pointing to the deficiencies in their participation; it must also recognise and celebrate the extent of the participation that they already have. And I don’t think that’s helped by conceiving of the church as a building that you are either inside or outside.

  6. Schütz says:

    I knew you would say all this, Peregrinus. (I’m psychic too). I thought: someone somewhere (probably Peregrinus) is going to push the analogy too far!

    Actually in the back of my mind, I also had C.S.Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” metaphor of the house, where he speaks of “rooms” within the house, and needing to choose a “room” when we come into the house–“mere Christianity” is only the porch. So yes, there is a recognition of that reality–although I am not entirely comfortable with Lewis’s suggestion that God’s house is divided into “rooms”…

    But let’s not mix metaphors. As you say, ekklesia means “called out”, and refers to a public assembly. It comes from “ex” (out of) and “kaleo” (to call). It has the idea of being called out of your daily tasks into a public assembly for some civic purpose. But there, you see, already the “in” and “out” idea is essential to the word “ecclesia” (my metaphor is more of an “inclesia” rather than an “ecclesia”). To enter into the people of God, you need to be called out of where you now are. So my metaphor is not that foreign to the concept of “ecclesia” after all.

    Also, Scripture does refer to the Church as a household/family, so that image is right too. Don’t confuse my “house” image with the concrete building in which we worship, that wasn’t the intention at all. I was using “house” in terms of “family home”, as does the NT.

    Add that to the fact that Jesus definitely called himself “the Door” (or the Gate) of the Sheepfold (John 10:7-10). In this metaphor he is definitely talking about his “sheep” and the “sheepfold”, images he uses only for the Church, rather than the less defined “Kingdom of God”. There is an in and there is an out, and the only valid way of entering in is the Door.

    Of course, then, you have your answer to what the door is: Jesus Christ. That is paramount. But then there is the very very strong connection between the Church and the Body of Christ. If you wish to enter into the Body of Christ (ie. come into the fold through Jesus the Door), yes, you need baptism.

    But I guess there is more to it than that. To use Elliott’s picture of the table rather than mine of the fire, the invitation is come and sit at the table. That is definitely a Eucharistic image. To sit the table of the Lord means to accept the Lord’s hospitality and fellowship, and through him fellowship with the others sitting at the table. If you are invited to dinner, and sit at the table, you are accepting the traditions and customs of the host and his family. In fact, in this house, you are not just invited to be a guest, you are invited to join the family. You can keep pushing this analogy, but let’s leave it there.

    Lets take a different tack. When I invite someone to share my table or to sit at the fire in my home, I am not saying to them: “But you might be more comfortable visiting my neighbour, so perhaps you might like to try there first.” I am saying: “I want you to come into my home and share my food and wine and be a part of my household.” There really is only two answers to that: “Thank you, yes, I will” OR “Thank you, no, I won’t.”

    When it comes to what Christ was calling people to, then we see in his parables a very clear “in” and “out”. Think of the parable of the Ten Virgins, when the door is closed on the foolish five. Think of the parable of the Wedding Feast, where those who refused the invitation are left outside while all and sundry are included. Think of the guy who is thrown out because he refused to put on the wedding gown.

    Now as to whether or not the Catholic Church is being arrogant in thinking of itself as “The Church” to the exclusion of others, well, get over it, that’s Church teaching. The faith of the Church is is that there is one Church and one Church only (Vat II), and that Church subsists in the Catholic Church. It is not divided up into parts, but is one and united. It is a visible society of all those local Churches in communion with the See of Peter.

    To be sure, elements of the Church are found outside these visible boundaries (just as elements of my household are found outside the walls–like the garden, the garage, the rubbish bin), but you can’t enjoy the fullness of the household unless you come inside. You can camp in the garden if you want to, and have some share in the household that way, but why do that when you come right in and sit by the fire, and eat at the table and use the shower?

    My point is that the door is open. We are not excluding people. The “walls” were not built by us, but established by Christ himself. As with the sheep pen, there is a right way to come in (through the Gate) and a wrong way (through the window perhaps–but that would make you a robber and theif).

    My other point was that no matter how you broadly you invisage “inclusiveness”, unless you are going to “include” every member of the “Universally Inclusive Club”, someone will be excluded. Most who are excluded exclude themselves because, when it really comes down to it, they don’t want to sit by this fire and eat at this table. They would rather sit at someone else’s fire and eat at someone else’s table. That’s fine. That’s freedom of religion. Just don’t say that the Church excluded you. You excluded yourself.

  7. Peregrinus says:

    I had a briiliant reply composed, and I lost it all. It was the last word in wisdom and scholarship. No, really, it was. What a shame it is lost to posterity.

    Basically, it was this:

    We agree, David, that (a) unity matters, and so must be sought, but (b) unity means something substantial, from which it follws that we can’t pretend unity exists where in reality it doesn’t. (Apart from anything else, pretending that we have already achieved unity is a neat way of sidestepping our calling to seek unity.)

    But I’m not comfortable with a simple, binary you’re-either-united-in-the-Catholic-Church-or you’re-not-and-if-you’re-not-come-and-join-us view of the world. I don’t think it accurately reflects Catholic ecclesiology.

    Lumen Gentium tell us that Christ establshed, and continually sustains, his Church. But pointedly (and I think to the dismay of some) it does not equate the “Church of Christ”, professed in the Creed, and the “Catholic Church”, governed by the Bishop of Rome and the bishops in communion with him. It says that the Church of Christ “subsists in” the Catholic church, but it does not say that it subsists only in the Catholic church. In fact it points to “elements of sanctification and truth” which are found outside the Catholic church, which it describes as “gifts belonging to the Church of Christ”.

    People with better qualifications than me have written reams on exacly what “subsists in” means, but in my simplistic way I understand it this way:

    – The Church of Christ and the Catholic Chruch are both realiites – or, better, they are both expressions of the same complex (and mystical) reality.

    – The Church of Christ is called to unity in the Catholic Church, but that unity has not yet been achieved.

    – The call to unity is addressed to the entire Church of Christ, not just to those parts of it which are outside the Catholic Church.

    – Such barriers to unity as may exist are not made and maintained exclusively by non-Catholic Christians (or, of course, exclusively by Catholic Christians).

    – The call to unity requires us to identify barriers to unity, and to work for their removal.

    – This does not necessarily mean changing things. It may mean coming to a better shared understanding of things (e.g. with the Lutherans on justification, with the Anglicans on authority, with the Orthodox on primacy). Or it may mean accepting diversity within the Catholic church, as was done when various Eastern rites were reconciled to Rome. But it may mean changing things, if they are (a) not essential to the faith, and (b) a barrier to unity. And at a bare minimum it means being open to that possiblity.

    I think where I’m uncomfortable with the house metaphor is that it doesn’t do justice to this. If the ‘house’ is the Catholic church, where in this image is the Church of Christ? And the immutability of the ‘house’ image suggests that all the movement must be on the side of non-Catholic Christians; we just talk, inviting them through the door and pointing to the fire and the kettle, but they have to act, moving through the door. In a more useful image, Catholics and non-Catholics would have a shared responsibility to work for unity, requiring a similar commitment from each.

    Lumen Gentium tell us that the church “coalesces from a divine and a human element”. How do we know that were we perceive the location of the door and the walls of the Catholic ‘house’ isn’t part of the human element, and therefore fallible?

    Perhaps a better metaphor would be one in which the Church of Christ – a community – is called to adapt, build or rebuild a house – the Catholic Church – so that it can accommodate them all, while retaining the foundations and structure of Christ’s truth.

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