Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Inclusive" vs. "Expansive" Theology

Last week I attended the UCC National Musician's Network event in Denver, CO. Wonderful event that takes place every other year. I did a workshop on Progressive Christian Worship Music, and shared the chapter from my book which I've posted as my initial blog entry.

One pastor suggested that in my "6 marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music," I consider changing the second mark from "Inclusive Theology" to "Expansive theology." She shared that her experience has been that many folks who use the term "inclusive" are often just as rigid and narrow-minded and sometimes even mean-spirited in their insistence on being inclusive as those whom they consider to be exclusive in their approach to Christianity. She said that she's getting weary of the term "inclusive," and that it has taken on some negative connotations for her.

So I'm curious what others of you think about this. I actually like the term "expansive theology," and am considering changing that second mark as she suggested. I like the idea of theology that is always getting bigger; always opening the Circle of God's Love so that it is wider and so that it makes a place for everything that's life-giving. In fact this reminds me of the chorus of a solo song I wrote several years ago for a 17 year old young woman's confirmation service. The song is called "Saying Yes" (it hasn't been recorded yet), and the chorus goes like this;

Saying yes to Jesus is saying yes to Truth wherever it's found
Saying yes to Jesus does not mean I must put all other ways down
Because the Christ whom I say yes to is a Love that's so open and wide
That everything life-giving finds a place inside

Of course this "finding a place inside" is what I was pointing toward by using the word "inclusive" as well, but maybe "expansive" gives a sense of this Love of God growing and reaching out to welcome rather than being something more static into which someone is invited.

Actually they are both pretty wonderful words. Expansive might be better though because its a less used word these days, and therefore honors the 6th mark regarding fresh ideas, images, and language.

Any thoughts to share about this? I'd love to know what they are...


  1. Barbara Lundblad spoke about the use of "expansive" language/theology at this year's Festival of Homiletics in Nashville, TN. It was new to me then. I like how the term expansive can, and does, include all possibilities without limiting God's nature.

  2. Thanks for mentioning this David. I definitely need to get to one of those Festival of Homiletics events. I've heard great things about them. This term is also used in the new UCC Sing! Prayer and Praise songbook to describe the kind of theology their committee was looking for in the song texts they chose for this collection. The more I think about it the more I like it also.