Language and practice do things. They are performative. They have an impact on others. Think of words like “I love you!” or “I forgive you,” or “I don’t like you.” All such words, and accompanying actions change the people addressed.
Christians are called by God to see and hear the needs of our neighbors—the needs of all those we should treat as neighbors. One of our neighbors’ great needs is that we treat them as children of God, equally children of God with us. It is part of our Christian vocation to consider how our language and our practices will include or exclude those around us. Our calling is to seek to be sure that our words and actions have effects in accord with our belief that God’s community includes everyone.
My five colleagues will give us glimpses of how this concern is expressed in particular arenas of language and practice.
These five areas of life are important ones for attending to whether our language and practices follow God’s inclusive love or create exclusion. We should think and talk also about other equally important areas such as age, sexual orientation.
I invite you now to discussion around your table. As often in life, there is no assigned leader, so I ask you each of you to take responsibility for assuring that everyone at your table is included in this conversation about inclusion.