Those at the edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group. They always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group’s soul. You see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went to the edges, to the “least of the brothers and sisters,” and even to the enemy. Jesus was not just a theological genius, but he was also a psychological and sociological genius. When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.
Richard Rohr, from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations p.28
I make no apology for a second consecutive quote from Richard Rohr. I have felt the pain of this tendency within the church for as long as I can remember, whether or not I have (potentially) been among the excluded. There is a wrongness about any religious exclusion, on whatever ground, that brings with it the visceral shock and revulsion of sexual violence, or of any betrayal of intrinsic trust and vulnerability.
It is the inclusive nature of Quaker life and worship that is to me one of its most attractive qualities. There are no tests of orthodoxy, of catechesis, of “Biblical living”, but only an openheartedness that is at its best honest, accepting, and genuinely loving. Of course Quakers are not perfect, and there must be many times when individuals and groups don’t meet this best, but I don’t know of anyone who would consciously repudiate it.
Searching for words better than my own to express what I’m trying not altogether successfully to say, I found these from Kathleen Lonsdale, in 1967:
To me, being a Christian is a particular way of life, not the unquestioning acceptance of a particular system of theology, not belief in the literal truth of the Virgin birth, or the Resurrection and Ascension, but being the kind of person that Jesus wanted his followers to be and doing the things he told them to do…
Nor, it seems to me, can you live a Christian life unless, like Jesus, you believe in the power of goodness, of justice, of mercy and of love; unless you believe in these so strongly that you are prepared to put them to the acid test of experiment; unless these constitute the real meaning of life for you, more important than life itself, as they were for Jesus.