Many various denominations across the country are asking similar questions over the last few weeks: How do we become more inclusive. Almost every major denomination has had ministries or organizations and missions over the last several years specifically around trying to become more multicultural and becoming more inclusive. As we at Church Women United continue to ask ourselves how we might better transform ourselves, we turn to one of our Quadrennial priorities: Diversity and Inclusiveness, focused on racial equality, ethnic equality and cultural Inclusion.
As ecumenical Christian women we turn to the Bible as our source of inspiration.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
And 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
The Corinthians and Galatians text reminds us of both our universal embrace and love within the body of Christ. The Corinthians text, also reminds us, that while we are all one as humanity in Christ, it is our differences that make the body of Christ work. It is from this understanding, both of our universal embraces as family in God, and of the value of our differences to the work of God’s vision, that calls our organization to be what it is. As Church Women United, we embrace each other as sibling in spirit, across our denomination, racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. And it is because of these differences that we believe we can make a lasting impact for women everywhere and towards the vision of the beloved community.
Looking historically through our social policies, we can see the solid foundation of inclusive action and our fight against discrimination of all kinds. Starting in 1943, CWU stood against all forms of hotel segregation and discrimination. A policy against segregation was made in 1946, urging groups to fight against segregation everywhere they saw it, even to “break the pattern of segregation in the nation’s capital”. You can see a new policy every year in regards to advocating for racial justice, from the reallocation of Japanese-Americans after World War II (1945) to stances against the discriminatory treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union (1971).
In 1952, United Church Women wrote a statement on the next steps in Race Relations, that I believe stands out as true today as it did then:
“Because of the current emphasis on human rights both in the Church and in the world community, we reaffirm the historic stand of United Church Women on the inclusiveness of our Christian fellowship across denominational and racial lines, and we determine to take next steps toward fulfillment of our Christian purpose. This constitutes a joint responsibility one the part of all racial groups. We recognize that “next steps” will not be identical for every council or person; we begin where we are and go forward from there.
As local and state councils of church women we will reexamine the interracial practices of our organization and our program. We will appraise all meeting sponsored by United Church Women, local, state, and national, in regard to representative attendance, program participation, planning, choice of speakers, and rotation of churches. We will examine personnel of boards and committees, choice of officers, delegations to conferences and choice of community projects.
As individual members of councils we pledge ourselves prayerfully to undertakes the following disciplines:
I will be guided in my everyday attitudes and actions by my belief that all persons are children of God.
I will work against all forms of discrimination.
I will act when another’s rights are threatened.
I will endeavor to interpret to my own church the implications of human rights, especially as they apply to the inclusion of all Christians in its life and program.
I will strive for the integration of all Christian women, irrespective of race, in all phases of the work of my local council.”
(Adopted by the Executive Committee of the Department of United Church Women of the National Council of Churches of Christ, Omaha 1952).
Our National office is committed to carrying the legacy of radical inclusion given to us by our founders. As we continue to imagine our own transformation towards a more inclusive future, we will continue to examine ourselves to see what the best practices are for inclusive and promoting racial justice. We invite you on this journey, as members of the body of Christ, to examine how we all might better honor each other’s differences and become for inclusive. May we all commit to ways of examining how we might be more welcoming, so that everyone can “drink of one Spirit.”