My last post (about exclusivity, inclusivity and pluralism) was more apposite than I had realised. As some of you already know, I am minister of the Banbury Unitarian Fellowship. Our local paper, the Banbury Guardian, includes a half-page on Church Services every week, giving details of places and times of services, and also a short "Thought for the Day" type column called "Cross Talk". So I submitted a short piece on 'Spring - the season of renewal', which they duly published.
A few days later, I got an apologetic phonecall from a very nice Quaker, who explained that the Cross Talk columns are parcelled out between member churches of Banbury Christians Together, which he coordinates, and that I had inadvertently 'jumped the queue' by submitting a piece independently. Of course I apologised for my blunder, and asked to be added to the list of contributors. He said that so far as he was concerned, he would be happy to add me to the rota, and would consult some other folk about it, and get back to me.
Well, the weeks went by, and I didn't hear anything, so today I gave him a ring. And apparently, there has been a strong adverse reaction to my piece appearing by certain Evangelical Christian members. The inclusion of a piece by a Unitarian is apparently "the thin end of the wedge". Before they know where they are, they'll be letting Just Anyone write a Cross Talk column - Jews, Hindus, Muslims - where would it end? He was very apologetic about it, and agreed with me that this sort of reaction is very un-Christian, to say the least.
It makes me so very sad that Unitarians are regarded as "the thin end of the wedge" because we do not believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God who was crucified to bring humankind back into right relationship with God. And it also makes me sad that no contributions from other faith traditions are permitted, let alone welcomed. Surely we are all human beings, who should be free to follow our own religious hearts, so long as we are not harming anyone else. In the year of the 200th anniversary of the Unitarian Toleration Act, I find it very sad that, in at least one corner of the United Kingdom, Unitarians are very definitely still beyond the pale. I'm not angry, just sad. And in a week when the new Pope is reaching out to atheists, surely these particular Evangelical Christians could learn to be more inclusive. (I am not saying for one moment that all Evangelical Christians would respond like this, just noting that these particular folk have done so).