When it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion, we can take our cues from the Word of God. Let’s consider the Epistle to the Ephesians and I Corinthians 12:1-13 as clarion calls to diversity and inclusion. The entire Letter to the Ephesians centers on Christian unity while I Corinthians 12 draws our attention to one body, one spirit.
Christian unity means that we work together to build a common culture that is not divided along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status or physical ability.
God uses each of us regardless of circumstances such as the color of our skin or our means of mobility. I’m glad that God looks upon each of us and says, “I can use that.” God uses us to fulfill his plan. Indeed, Ephesians 1:10 reminds us that God plans to bring all of creation together under Christ.
We are all in this Christian journey together. Everyone is responsible for increasing diversity in our annual conference. No one person or type of congregation can singlehandedly add diversity to the WVUMC. Not only are the ethnic congregations responsible for bringing diversity to the table, but all congregations in our conference must also work to ensure diversity and inclusiveness in our conference. It is time for a grassroots effort to increase diversity in our membership and leadership. It is time for us to make room at the table for all.
We are to work together for the common good of humankind in a manner that glorifies and honors God. Each person has something to do for the Lord. Just as Jesus gave his all for all of humankind, we should all use our gifts for the common good of society. Think in terms of Civitas because we are all citizens of God’s kingdom bound together by the blood of the everlasting covenant through Jesus Christ our Lord. Despite our outward differences, we are in Christian fellowship working towards a common cause.
Our ministries cannot be selective or exclusive. Recognize that everyone has something to do for the Lord. Even those of us who aren’t the sharpest saws in the shed, we too have work to do for the Lord.
Respect and affirm others in their calling. He has blessed us with the ability to help someone else along the way… to offer hope to the hopeless, love for the unlovable, compassion, love, mercy, grace… offer the goodness of the Lord to all people always and everywhere. We are one in Christ Jesus. We are united through the work of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of our differences, we are all baptized into the body of Christ, The Church, the Ecclesia. We believe that every person is a beloved child of God. God seeks to make everyone holy and whole through the presence of the Holy Spirit, transforming us into Christlikeness (p. 4, Let’s Go Fishing, UM Handbook).
As we continue to meditate on these matters of Christian unity, we invite you to join us for Bishop’s Summit on Diversity and Inclusion on October 22 through 24, 2015 at Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center in Huttonsville, WV. Our guest preacher will be Bishop Jonathan Holston from the South Carolina Annual Conference. Watch the conference website for a call for papers and presentations.
Dr. Felica Wooten-Williams is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist. An ordained elder and Ph.D, she is the pastor of Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church and St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church. Both churches are located in Charleston.