WITHINGTON in Manchester has declared itself the first ‘Inclusive’ deanery.
All 12 Anglican parishes in the deanery have designated themselves Inclusive Churches, thought to be a first in the Church of England.
“We believe in Inclusive Church – church that does not discriminate on any level, including economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality,” said Area Dean, the Rev Stephen Edwards, who said he sees this as an important opportunity to challenge discrimination.
“We believe in Church that welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ,” he added.
He said that each of the churches in the deanery worked together, challenging one another to imagine how each could become inclusive and now each of the 12 churches in Withington deanery has signed up to an Inclusive Church statement.
“People often think Inclusive Church is predominantly about sexuality and gender identity, but we’re looking at the full breadth of issues that can contribute to making people feel excluded. We are noticing more ways in which being inclusive is at the heart of the Church’s mission and there is still much to learn and do,” he said.
One such example of inclusivity is in the Wythenshawe Team at their churches William Temple, St Richard of Chichester, and St Martin with St Francis, where they have made all events affordable by asking people to pay what they can afford. So far it has managed to cover its costs.
The churches are looking at ways of being dementia-friendly, providing large-print service sheets as standard, and St Paul’s is open to all through its support of the L’Arche community.
Other ways the deanery has practiced inclusivity include the William Temple church joining a Mothers’ Union campaign to support a local women’s refuge, and creating a safe space for members to talk about issues that affected them.
The churches also support Black History month and are ‘challenging themselves to look beyond the colour of people’s skin’.
St James and Emmanuel, Didsbury, has created two videos that tell their own story of working to become an inclusive church. The church also challenged its members by inviting a number of speakers to share their stories.
The church has also produced two short films for use with PCCs and church groups as a starting point for discussing inclusion.
Taking part in Wythenshawe Pride has resulted in prayer requests from members of the LGBT community and attracted new members who said they didn’t previously feel welcome.
“Looking to the future we aim to develop a programme of teaching, learning and discovering where God is calling us to witness to the love of Christ. This is central to our deanery Mission Action Plan,” Mr Edwards added.