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Thoughts On Inclusion/exclusion


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I would suggest that we need to modify point 4 at some point. Although I agree with and support the obvious intent of point 4, I do not think that point 4 reflects what happens in the attempt to be inclusive.

 

I think there are two ways that we can attempt to include. One way is to include everyone even those that want to be very exclusive and the other way is to recognize that the attempt to include will be destroyed by those that want to be very exclusive so the first rule of inclusion is to actually exclude those that want to be exclusive. It is very hard to practically participate in a community that on the one hand wants to include believers and agnostics and at the same time include those that can not accept agnostics. Similarly it is hard to include those of all sexual orientations while at the same time including those that want to exclude those of different sexual orientations.

 

One way can be called “inclusiveness” which would mean that we will include those that exclude with the hope that they will eventually become more inclusive. We will just try to “live with” their exclusiveness-- sometimes ignoring it and other times confronting it -- while all the time trying to stay “in communion” with them. Basically, this approach is based upon the assumption that those of us that include know we are right and know that those that exclude are wrong---we will just hope and pray for the day when those that exclude will see the light.

 

The other way to include is to start with some basic assumption such as the UU Principle that “We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people” but then at the same time openly and honestly exclude those that are exclusivists from our community. This recognizes that community is fragile and can not survive fundamental differences in whether one is inclusive or exclusive. I support this approach.

 

I think this approach is related to pluralism. Pluralism is not based upon the desire to include everyone, even those that reject pluralism. Pluralism demands a basic acceptance of pluralistic thinking.

 

With this approach we need to change the wording that says we invite all people to participate in our community without insisting that they become like us. I think that it is important to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all persons, but I think that our community must be based upon pluralism. I think that pluralism necessarily excludes those that want to exclude based upon all of the things lifted up in point 4 as examples of inclusiveness.

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I would suggest that we need to modify point 4 at some point. Although I agree with and support the obvious intent of point 4, I do not think that point 4 reflects what happens in the attempt to be inclusive.

 

I think there are two ways that we can attempt to include. One way is to include everyone even those that want to be very exclusive and the other way is to recognize that the attempt to include will be destroyed by those that want to be very exclusive so the first rule of inclusion is to actually exclude those that want to be exclusive. It is very hard to practically participate in a community that on the one hand wants to include believers and agnostics and at the same time include those that can not accept agnostics. Similarly it is hard to include those of all sexual orientations while at the same time including those that want to exclude those of different sexual orientations.

 

One way can be called “inclusiveness” which would mean that we will include those that exclude with the hope that they will eventually become more inclusive. We will just try to “live with” their exclusiveness-- sometimes ignoring it and other times confronting it -- while all the time trying to stay “in communion” with them. Basically, this approach is based upon the assumption that those of us that include know we are right and know that those that exclude are wrong---we will just hope and pray for the day when those that exclude will see the light.

 

The other way to include is to start with some basic assumption such as the UU Principle that “We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people” but then at the same time openly and honestly exclude those that are exclusivists from our community. This recognizes that community is fragile and can not survive fundamental differences in whether one is inclusive or exclusive. I support this approach.

 

I think this approach is related to pluralism. Pluralism is not based upon the desire to include everyone, even those that reject pluralism. Pluralism demands a basic acceptance of pluralistic thinking.

 

With this approach we need to change the wording that says we invite all people to participate in our community without insisting that they become like us. I think that it is important to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all persons, but I think that our community must be based upon pluralism. I think that pluralism necessarily excludes those that want to exclude based upon all of the things lifted up in point 4 as examples of inclusiveness.

 

I agree with what you're saying, although actually practicing the approach you suggest tends, in my experience, to be harder than it seems. People who are included can build up prejudices against those who are perceived to be exclusive, and therefore become exclusive across the board to certain "exclusive" groups as well. For example, I remember hearing a story about one of the women at my UU church screaming at a man - on church property - just for having a Republican bumper sticker on his car! Of course that violates the very tenants of UUism and inclusivity, but that kind of prejudice is what worries me.

 

At the same time, I do think it's the better choice of the two forms of inclusivity you proposed. I often hear the criticism from fundamentalists that progressives are hypocrites because they preach inclusivity while excluding those they consider exclusive. I can see this argument, but at the same time, I disagree. It's just not constructive to have someone in a group who's exclusive of others in the group. However, it must be ensured that blanket statements/assumptions are not made (i.e. "I know a Republican who's exclusive, therefore they all are! Therefore none of them may be allowed in our community!").

 

I think the best way to fix Point 4 would simply be to add a statement that we accept outside viewpoints, but expect respectful discussion; insults and other non-constructive comments won't be tolerated. That allows for the inclusion of people with exclusive viewpoints provided they treat all members of the community with respect, even if they disagree with them. That also forces the members of the community who hold more inclusive viewpoints to be respectful as well (which they should be anyway!).

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Thank you for this response. I think that with our UU backgrounds we are familiar with this “problem”. I certainly agree with you to the extent that we are talking about this message board and even perhaps the educational program. The process of "sharing" can lift up the “process” of communication as being most important. However, point 4 talks about inviting “all people” to participate in worship life. I know how difficult it is to serve on a worship committee to begin with. The idea of creating worship that would satisfy the total spectrum from fundamentalist to agnostic makes me want to curl up in bed and not come out for a while. So how can we invite “all people” to worship with us without the implication that they are not welcome because our worship service does not invite their fundamentalism? I think the heart of any form of Christianity will be the worship service. I think that progressives deserve a worship service designed for progressives. We can politely tell the fundamentalists that there is a Southern Baptist church on most every corner.

Edited by David
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I think that inclusivity is like peace. You can't get there through the opposite - even when it seems practical. I don't think that inclusivity can ever be achieved by excluding even though dealing with people is always difficult. For one, people seem hard-wired to exclude. Many experiments have been done where random groups of people can be separated by eye color, t-shirt color, etc. in a setting like a HS gymnasium. Within an hour or two, it is easy to have strong emotions about the superiority of your group.

 

Notice all the church splits... in any denomination... people will exclude and form groups, even if it's about the color of the awning over the door. :rolleyes: It's just how we are.

 

Soooooooooooooo. To me, that's the thing about Christianity. It's easy to talk about loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all your strength..... it's hard (extremely hard :P ) when real, imperfect people are added to the equation.

 

Loving people that I agree with is easy. Loving people that I don't agree with or especially like - - - ahhhhh that's where my commitment to God shows. THAT is worship. ;)

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Great thoughts Cynthia. Reminds me of the great UU Principle that we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. As you say you can’t “get there” by responding to the “opposite” and it is very, very hard. Thinking of the most “evil” acts one wonders where that inherent worth and dignity may be and how it can be affirmed. Yet we still attempt to do that, often failing, but always with this Principle before us. Having said this, I am still looking for that worship service that can invite “all people” to worship together and affirm the beliefs of those that can not imagine that all people have inherent worth and dignity and believe that many people do not deserve to sit in a pew next to them. Like your example of peace we can consciously choose non violence and peace. However, that does not mean that we support violence. I think there is a line there somewhere that divides. I think that it is important to be honest and public about that line.

Edited by David
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Thank you for this response. I think that with our UU backgrounds we are familiar with this “problem”. I certainly agree with you to the extent that we are talking about this message board and even perhaps the educational program. The process of "sharing" can lift up the “process” of communication as being most important. However, point 4 talks about inviting “all people” to participate in worship life. I know how difficult it is to serve on a worship committee to begin with. The idea of creating worship that would satisfy the total spectrum from fundamentalist to agnostic makes me want to curl up in bed and not come out for a while. So how can we invite “all people” to worship with us without the implication that they are not welcome because our worship service does not invite their fundamentalism? I think the heart of any form of Christianity will be the worship service. I think that progressives deserve a worship service designed for progressives. We can politely tell the fundamentalists that there is a Southern Baptist church on most every corner.

 

I don't have an issue with the idea of inviting "all people" provided there is insistence on respectful discourse; in other words I have no problem with a fundamentalist coming to worship in a progressive community, as long as they're respectful and aren't purposefully there to disrupt. I'm not sure why a fundamentalist would want to do so, as it would most likely make them very uncomfortable, but I wouldn't have any problem with them being there. And I'd expect the progressive community to also respect the views of the fundamentalists, no matter how strongly we may disagree.

 

I think you and I are saying pretty much the same thing here, so I'm not really disagreeing with you; I guess I just read point 4 a bit differently :)

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I agree David. It's very complicated and very simple..... all we can do is control ourselves. Finding a group of people willing to control themselves in the same way as we are trying to at any given phase...... LOL..... good luck!!! I think it is possible to find groups that respect the inherent value of all people. You may have to tolerate more literalistic viewpoints, etc, but the acceptance, to me, is more important. Realizing that we're (as completely enlightened as we all are :lol: ) part of the problem too is a start!

 

Can I, in the spirit of inclusiveness, exclude someone for being excluding????????? Kind of like a koan!!!

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Maybe many fundamentalists are just confused or unaware progressives. They seem to want many of the same things we do, like a world without problems, but they just see different ways of achieving it. They don’t understand how symbiotic we all are; how hoarding and selfishness actually ends up hurting us more than helping us. There is enough food grown in the world for everyone, yet people still starve. Some are so desperate for money, power, and things. Some live their lives as if it’s a win-lose game instead of a win-win situation. Sometimes I think it would be easier to cut off fundamentalists’ voices or other privileges. But I know in the long run too much exclusion would not help our cause. I have to believe that there is hope, that some day humanity will gain enough courage to realize the dignity and worth of all people without feeling threatened by it. If we see all fundamentalists as a threat to progressive Christianity, and therefore exclude them, they will continue to find more ways to exclude us, which does nothing for the cause of peace. If we continue to embrace unity, educate people, and use our God-given brains to work together to find solutions, that is where the most hope lies, in my humble opinion.

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I don't have an issue with the idea of inviting "all people" provided there is insistence on respectful discourse; in other words I have no problem with a fundamentalist coming to worship in a progressive community, as long as they're respectful and aren't purposefully there to disrupt. I'm not sure why a fundamentalist would want to do so, as it would most likely make them very uncomfortable, but I wouldn't have any problem with them being there. And I'd expect the progressive community to also respect the views of the fundamentalists, no matter how strongly we may disagree.

 

I think you and I are saying pretty much the same thing here, so I'm not really disagreeing with you; I guess I just read point 4 a bit differently :)

 

I do think that we agree (?). I try to imagine how it actually would work. A person walks into a UU Church and says that I see that you are unitarians (do not believe in the trinity) and that you are universalists (believe in universal salvation). When and where is your next Bible study? The pastor of that UU Church tries to explain that the person is a generation too late. We don't do Bible studies anymore. So even though that UU church "invites all people" and does "insist on respectful discourse" the potential member does not feel comfortable there and walks away. When we actually try to "do Church" we inevitably will have people not feel comfortable with us. Is that excluding? Well yes and no. We do not "intend" to exclude but we do. (Note this example talks about one of our "friends", think about how uncomfortable a fundamentalist would feel).

 

My point is that we need to raise to our consciousness how we exclude and whether it is appropriate to exclude. I think that in order to make "agnostics, conventional Christians, skeptics, women/men, all sexual orientations/gender identities, all races/cultures, all classes/abilities, etc "comfortable" in our church we will need to exclude those that exclude. But more than that we need to think about how we make this inclusiveness "comfortable" for the most people. We will not satisfy everyone. I think we need to choose who we are attempting to satisfy.

 

I'm just saying that "practical theology" attempts to bring theology to a practical level of how you do Church. We will never translate our ideal totally into reality. We have to make some choices. I think it best that we do that out in the open with honesty and publicity. When we "exclude" those that "exclude" we need to do so in a way that affirms their inherent worth and dignity. I think there are ways to do that.

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I do think that we agree (?). I try to imagine how it actually would work. A person walks into a UU Church and says that I see that you are unitarians (do not believe in the trinity) and that you are universalists (believe in universal salvation). When and where is your next Bible study? The pastor of that UU Church tries to explain that the person is a generation too late. We don't do Bible studies anymore. So even though that UU church "invites all people" and does "insist on respectful discourse" the potential member does not feel comfortable there and walks away. When we actually try to "do Church" we inevitably will have people not feel comfortable with us. Is that excluding? Well yes and no. We do not "intend" to exclude but we do. (Note this example talks about one of our "friends", think about how uncomfortable a fundamentalist would feel).

 

My point is that we need to raise to our consciousness how we exclude and whether it is appropriate to exclude. I think that in order to make "agnostics, conventional Christians, skeptics, women/men, all sexual orientations/gender identities, all races/cultures, all classes/abilities, etc "comfortable" in our church we will need to exclude those that exclude. But more than that we need to think about how we make this inclusiveness "comfortable" for the most people. We will not satisfy everyone. I think we need to choose who we are attempting to satisfy.

 

I'm just saying that "practical theology" attempts to bring theology to a practical level of how you do Church. We will never translate our ideal totally into reality. We have to make some choices. I think it best that we do that out in the open with honesty and publicity. When we "exclude" those that "exclude" we need to do so in a way that affirms their inherent worth and dignity. I think there are ways to do that.

 

Question - In your first paragraph, you mention an example in which a potential member is not actively excluded but rather chooses not the be included. Is this the kind of exclusion you're talking about in your other two paragraphs? Because in that case, I agree completely - of course some people will be excluded, because someone will always be unhappy and leave! Like you said, it's impossible to satisfy everyone - and I think to try to do so would leave you with a church that really doesn't stand for anything (which is, of course, a major criticism of UUism).

 

My problem is with active exclusion. I don't like the idea of forcibly removing someone from a community (either physically or by telling them they can't come back or otherwise indicating that they're unwelcome) unless they're causing major problems for the rest of the community, i.e. purposefully disrupting services/meetings/etc., or posing a threat to someone in the community. I don't like the idea of "kicking people out of the club" that is sometimes used in more conservative communities (i.e. excommunication). That's what I'm opposed to and I think the spirit of Point 4 is to challenge such ideas by speaking of inclusion. That's why all I'd do to edit Point 4 is to put in a qualification for respect. And of course people can leave if they're uncomfortable. That seems to me to solve the problem; if a fundamentalist comes to a progressive community, they can either 1) stay and be respectful and (hopefully) be welcomed with open arms; 2) leave on their own after discovering that the progressive approach makes them uncomfortable; or 3) be there solely to disrupt the community (as sometimes happens on online forums - it happened all the time on the uua.org forum, when it was still up) and be asked to leave.

 

:)

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Although I liked a lot about what you said, I don’t want to put the whole responsibility of inclusion/exclusion on the person who chooses not to be included. The group must raise to their consciousness those persons who are likely to “not want to be included”. By “taking a stand” as you say, like on the gay/lesbian ordination issue, there will be a natural inclusion/exclusion process. A group that does this (either for or against gay/lesbian ordination) needs to feel responsible for the inclusion/exclusion process even though those that are “excluded” actually may make their own decision not to be included. Maybe we agree to this point (?).

 

I would suggest that we go one step farther which may be the “active” exclusion that you do not like. That step has to do with “the invitation to participate in our community and worship life” that point 4 talks about. To me that means not just coming and being respectful of others in the group. That means inviting active participation in worship, like serving on the worship committee, and even being the pastor of the community. If we are going to ask people to participate then we need to be able to affirm their active contribution to the making of and sustaining community. To fail to do so is like those religious groups that “invite” gays/lesbians to their community without giving them any leadership or responsible role in that community.

 

I like the point that Jen brought up elsewhere. I think that a religious group has to have a “mission”. The inclusion/exclusion is done by the “mission”. That inclusion is both passive and active. It is active when a potential member comes along who obviously has a different “mission” in mind. That person maybe the most respectful person in the world but they are on a different “mission”. One danger is that the person becomes a group of people and soon you have a basic conflict in mission. I have seen this happen several times and it comes to the surface many times when a Church looks for a new pastor. I have seen Churches split. I think denominations are feeling similar pressure now. This does not mean that people are not respectful. It is not a "process" issue.

 

I do not think the “mission” can be as broad as “our mission is to be respectful” because, like you said, you tend towards the UU group that does not stand for anything. I would obviously like the “mission” to include the inclusive spirit of point 4 along with the “active” exclusion of those that want to change the spirit of point 4. I think point 4 needs to be worded more clearly if that is what we want to do.

Edited by David
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Although I liked a lot about what you said, I don’t want to put the whole responsibility of inclusion/exclusion on the person who chooses not to be included. The group must raise to their consciousness those persons who are likely to “not want to be included”. By “taking a stand” as you say, like on the gay/lesbian ordination issue, there will be a natural inclusion/exclusion process. A group that does this (either for or against gay/lesbian ordination) needs to feel responsible for the inclusion/exclusion process even though those that are “excluded” actually may make their own decision not to be included. Maybe we agree to this point (?).

 

Absolutely, I agree. The community definitely should take stands on issues - though I do think they should be left open to discussion and not fixed in stone - but there must be a way for a community to take some middle ground between having rules set in stone and not standing for anything! That form of inclusion/exclusion I have no problem with, because I don't see a problem with standing up for what you believe in (as long as you don't do it with your fingers stuffed in your ears screaming "LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU I KNOW I'M RIGHT"). :lol:

 

I would suggest that we go one step farther which may be the “active” exclusion that you do not like. That step has to do with “the invitation to participate in our community and worship life” that point 4 talks about. To me that means not just coming and being respectful of others in the group. That means inviting active participation in worship, like serving on the worship committee, and even being the pastor of the community. If we are going to ask people to participate then we need to be able to affirm their active contribution to the making of and sustaining community. To fail to do so is like those religious groups that “invite” gays/lesbians to their community without giving them any leadership or responsible role in that community.

 

I do agree that participation in the community should be encouraged and expected; but if someone decides not to do so, I don't think they should be kicked out (which is what I meant by "active exclusion"). Maybe the person's a shy progressive, or a fundamentalist questioning their conservative faith by trying out a more progressive approach. I say give them time. I don't think it's really the same as some communities who, as you say, invite gays/lesbians to worship with them but refuse to allow them to be leaders. Everyone in the community should be given the choice of participation/leadership, and should be encouraged to participate/lead, but they shouldn't be forced to. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you?

 

I like the point that Jen brought up elsewhere. I think that a religious group has to have a “mission”. The inclusion/exclusion is done by the “mission”. That inclusion is both passive and active. It is active when a potential member comes along who obviously has a different “mission” in mind. That person maybe the most respectful person in the world but they are on a different “mission”. One danger is that the person becomes a group of people and soon you have a basic conflict in mission. I have seen this happen several times and it comes to the surface many times when a Church looks for a new pastor. I have seen Churches split. I think denominations are feeling similar pressure now. This does not mean that people are not respectful. It is not a "process" issue.

 

I do not think the “mission” can be as broad as “our mission is to be respectful” because, like you said, you tend towards the UU group that does not stand for anything. I would obviously like the “mission” to include the inclusive spirit of point 4 along with the “active” exclusion of those that want to change the spirit of point 4. I think point 4 needs to be worded more clearly if that is what we want to do.

 

Okay, I see what you mean. Maybe "respect" was the wrong word for me to use. I think I sort of meant what you're saying as well. If someone comes along wanting to, for example, "change the spirit of point 4," then they're not really respecting the community, because they're coming to it with the specific purpose of changing it, which to me suggests ulterior motives. Maybe? Or maybe my word choice is just poor. Whatever. I think we pretty much agree on this. I like the word "mission" in this context also, and would not be opposed to editing Point 4 to reflect the idea of our community having a mission.

 

You are very respectful and articulate - thanks for a great discussion! :)

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  • 2 years later...

I do think that we agree (?). I try to imagine how it actually would work. A person walks into a UU Church and says that I see that you are unitarians (do not believe in the trinity) and that you are universalists (believe in universal salvation). When and where is your next Bible study? The pastor of that UU Church tries to explain that the person is a generation too late. We don't do Bible studies anymore. So even though that UU church "invites all people" and does "insist on respectful discourse" the potential member does not feel comfortable there and walks away. When we actually try to "do Church" we inevitably will have people not feel comfortable with us. Is that excluding? Well yes and no. We do not "intend" to exclude but we do. (Note this example talks about one of our "friends", think about how uncomfortable a fundamentalist would feel).

 

My point is that we need to raise to our consciousness how we exclude and whether it is appropriate to exclude. I think that in order to make "agnostics, conventional Christians, skeptics, women/men, all sexual orientations/gender identities, all races/cultures, all classes/abilities, etc "comfortable" in our church we will need to exclude those that exclude. But more than that we need to think about how we make this inclusiveness "comfortable" for the most people. We will not satisfy everyone. I think we need to choose who we are attempting to satisfy.

 

I'm just saying that "practical theology" attempts to bring theology to a practical level of how you do Church. We will never translate our ideal totally into reality. We have to make some choices. I think it best that we do that out in the open with honesty and publicity. When we "exclude" those that "exclude" we need to do so in a way that affirms their inherent worth and dignity. I think there are ways to do that.

 

At my UU church, we formed a covenant group (small group) to do "bible study". We've read books by Marcus Borg and John Crossan in the past year. The UUCF website was a great help in getting it started.

 

Though this counterexample refutes your hypothetical, it does not refute your claim. Personally, I reject your premise that the church should attempt to "satisfy" its members. I believe that the church should challenge its members and leave them unsettled. A social club attempts to satisfy all its members. Though I realize that the consumer-based church model is extremely fashionable and successful, I think its wrong to assume that all churches should operate under this model.

Edited by nihil42
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(snip)

 

I believe that the church should challenge its members and leave them unsettled. A social club attempts to satisfy all its members. Though I realize that the consumer-based church model is extremely fashionable and successful, I think its wrong to assume that all churches should operate under this model.

 

Good point nihil42. It seems to me very little personal progress is made spiritually in a social club. smile.gif

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi everyone - Ive been following this very interesting discussion! I probably dont have anything wise to contribute, but just thought Id express a few thoughts. I kinda feel that we should "be" the changes we want to see in the Christian world...so that means accepting people even with fundamentalist views, who are exclusivist in their thinking/being....if they see "us" excluding others, then that makes us not that different from them in a way - you know what I mean?....I think the rule should be "respectful discourse" - rude comments will not be accepted - but all opinions (even exclusivist ones) will be read and considered - and then politely disagreed with! As long as someone comes with the right intent - interesting respectful conversation and learning from each other - they should be welcomed on this board. I think Im afraid of what I see in some of my liberal friends (and I am very liberal, politically and socially) - but I do have some friends who use their liberalism to exclude others - and I wouldnt want us going down that road. At the end of the day, many of us have very strong views/feelings about what it means to be a Christian, and who we are....and we want to be able to share that with others who maybe dont have our view....we want to share the oy we have found in being progressive christians!

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Zaidagal,

 

I think these conversations must be grounded in friendship, or at least a willingness to be friends: sharing meals, activities, tasks,and worship. I had a pastor who chose to have lunch with a pastor at the other end of the spectrum. My pastor had no expectation about the outcome. He just wanted to develop a relationship. My wife's best friend (BFF even) - my wife grew more liberal as her friend's family grew more conservative, but they continued in conversation. In this case the friend's position grew closer to my wife's over a decade and a half.

 

Such struggles will always be with us. Among the early church denominations there were conservative Jewish Law keeping Christians who would not sit down at the same table as the extreme Gentile liberals. Part of that conversation by those denominations who would at least talk to each other is in the first half of Acts 15.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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