In this series of posts, I am exploring aspects of the AJC that I believe contribute to making it a unique church. None of these posts are official church statements, they are my own views and observations as a member of the communion.
One of the distinctive things about the AJC is our inclusivity. This manifests in several ways.
Usually the first way that strikes people when meeting the church is the last statement in our statement of principles:
We recognize the Sacred Flame to be present in all Beings and therefore our Offices are open to all humanity without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, social status or sexual orientation.
This seemingly anodyne statement, nudged into the list right at the end, has a range of radical consequences which painlessly locate us as a church in the current era.
We ordain women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk as deacons, priests and bishops. This isn’t something we’ve struggled with and come to tolerate; it’s a natural, effortless consequence of our founding principles. No argument required.
We marry any two people who are prepared to commit to making a marriage together. Simple. (EDIT: That is, any two people who are of a legal age to marry, who aren’t already married to someone else, who the celebrant is convinced are making a genuine commitment – we simplify the gender stuff, not the rest of it)
We offer the Eucharist to any person prepared to receive it, baptised or not, Christian or not.
I believe there is a pattern underlying the way these norms arise that we see manifest in various ways in the AJC. My way of describing that pattern is: it’s more important to maintain clarity about the centre than it is to merely police the boundaries. We certainly do police boundaries from time to time, but clarity about the centre means that’s a lot less necessary.
In this case, the centre is the experience of the Sacred Flame present in all beings and an understanding that our role as a church is to point out the Flame, to foster an individual’s experience and awareness of it in their own being and to get out of the damn way.
Obviously, those three consequences (inclusive ordination, simplified marriage, open communion) are some of the advantages that arise from being an organisation founded in the third millennium. We get to choose what aspects of Being Church we draw out of history rather than being the captive of organisational norms and cultural prejudices stretching back to the feudal era in Europe.
While we are a young organisation, we also embed an ancient tradition. In the next post, I’d like to explore some consequences of inclusivity in our tradition and the way the Clear Centre pattern plays out in how we engage with theology and scripture.