Someone recently asked, “When a church says that it welcomes ‘all’ people to worship and to serve, who exactly are ‘all?’”
“All.” Perhaps the only time this simple word is ever ambiguous is when it is used in a sentence with the word “church.” For some very bad reasons, the most inclusive and encompassing word in the dictionary becomes exclusive when religion enters the syntax.
“All.” Ever since the Apostle Paul used the word when he said “And Christ died for ‘all,’ that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15), the word has been thoroughly questioned by those who are offended by such grace.
However, when a church says that it welcomes “all,” I believe that church is saying…
If you are the wealthiest business owner in town, we welcome you. If you have sold your food stamps to purchase alcohol and pot, we welcome you. You are welcome here if you consider yourself “a church person,” “religious” or “spiritual,” or if you are one of those who believe organized religion is a crock. The color of your skin, your gender identity and your sexual orientation does not matter as you are welcome here with open arms. If you grew up in the church, you are welcome. You are welcome if you have never attended church and have serious doubts that God even exists. If you believe in a literal Hell, and you can name people who are going there, you are welcome. If you hope to God there is no Hell, you are welcome. If you believe in God only because you want to go to heaven, you are welcome. If living forever really does not interest you, you are welcome. We especially welcome you if you are Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Jewish, atheist or agnostic. If you are married you are welcome. If you have never been married, been married many times or don’t even believe in marriage, you are welcome. Pro-life, pro-choice, pacifist, soldier, documented, undocumented, illegal, legal, you are welcome here with us because we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
When a church says that it welcomes “all” people to worship and to serve, I believe “all” means “all.”
–Inspired by Rev. Dr. Kyle Bennett, St. Mark’s Episcopal, Marco Island, FL