We’re excited to launch Radical Welcoming today, led by the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers. What is “radical welcoming”? Well, it’s more than just friendly greeters at the church doors, and easy-to-follow service bulletins. It’s more than serving the hungry from one side of a soup kitchen line. It’s more than “tolerance” of those we see as different.
It’s nothing less than the kind of love that Jesus offered to those on the margins of society: the unclean, the sick, the poor, the prostitute. It’s acknowledging that life has been different for those not in the traditional center of power and privilege, and that there is wisdom to be gained from listening to those we have so often pushed aside. It’s humble acceptance that those of us on “the inside” have a lot to learn from those on the outside.
God’s church cannot be all it is called to be if it only welcomes people who abide by our conventions, restrictions, caveats, and customs. We cannot be fully Christian without acknowledging the rights, the dignity, the gifts of everyone.
Radical welcome can be scary; it can induce feelings of guilt, when we finally acknowledge what we’ve so long pretended not to see. But Stephanie reminds us in this course that radical welcoming can be life-changing — that God is there waiting on the other side of our fear. God is calling us to reach out across the divides we’ve created, and work toward reconciliation and wholeness. It’s what Jesus lived and what Jesus commands. Church shouldn’t be always about comfort and safety — for growth and healing often require courage and daring.
The Reverend Canon Stephanie Spellers is a popular speaker and consultant on reimagining the mainline church and embracing new mission contexts. The author of numerous books — including Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Transforming Power of the Spirit and Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Traditions –Stephanie is an Episcopal priest and serves as Director of Mission and Reconciliation at General Theological Seminary in New York City and as Canon for Missional Vitality in the Diocese of Long Island. She is one of two Chaplains to the Episcopal House of Bishops and recently chaired the Episcopal Commission on Mission and Evangelism.