David Stevens, former leader of the Corrymeela Community, makes a fascinating point about how we see the church in his book “The Land of Unlikeness” when he comments: "Churches bring 'their' community before God. They are places where the 'specialness' and stories of communities and nations can be celebrated ...... but ..... Churches can be places where we are told - implicitly and explicitly - who does not belong to our community: by who is prayed for and who is not, by the contents of sermons, and by the symbols displayed or not displayed." I find that interesting, and I think he is absolutely right. We are so good at talking about the need for being an inclusive church, and we are so good at being an exclusive church. We put the little barriers up, and so we fail to disagree well. Let me just gather up three other things that Steven says. He points out that: "The gospel invites us into the space created by Christ and to find there those who were previously our enemies."
He further comments: "In conflict situations theologies of enmity, superiority and distorted recognition of others can easily gain prominence ..." And one last comment from Stevens: "If we fail to forgive, we will hand on our bitterness to the next generation. And, if the politics of grievance is not given up, the past keeps everyone in its grip. Either we find ways to forgive or else we separate from, or seek to destroy, each other. Thus, forgiveness is a practical necessity for continuing to live together."