Q & R: Inclusion? Exclusion?

This email reminds me of the struggle we all face in leading communities of faith. How do we decide who should be included/excluded?

I just wanted to say that I really appreciated how you handled the [pluralism] question from this most recent writer. I think you did so gracefully and lovingly, and in a way that encourages a way of being rather than a mere acceptance of where he is currently in his feelings and thinking.
I find myself in a similar tension, having started an intentional spiritual community in [the Pacific Northwest] where not all of us are Christians. Originally the intention was for the community to be made entirely of Christians, but a friend of ours who is a [post-Christian] lesbian was moving to Portland and really wanted to live with us and be a part of our community.
My wife and I spent a long time sitting with this, even though up front we both wanted her to come and live with us. We didn’t want to compromise on our house being intentionally communal and spiritual. And, it was challenging to consider how to lovingly encourage her to participate with the vision and mission we were started on, without having her feel pressure to convert back to a religion that had hurt her terribly.
Eventually we settled on some thoughts that we hoped would frame what living in an intentional spiritual community would look like, and we put them out to everyone who wanted to live with us, not just her:
1. Being a part of the spiritual community meant that we would all be moving in the direction of God as we currently understood Him/Her to be.
2. There were certain things, mainly sexuality and drugs, that we wanted to be absent from our house out of a desire to make the community a place of health and healing for anyone and everyone who passed through our doors. Of course if anyone wanted to engage in any of the above, they didn’t have to feel compulsion to live by these outside of the home, it is simply meant to be a way of living within the house.
Our hope was that these would help everyone be able to engage in our mission – to partner with God in bringing about the kingdom within our house and outside in our neighborhood as we felt invited.
But even then it has been a challenge – for our friend who is a lesbian, it is hard for her to feel our acceptance without us declaring anything and everything okay. I feel like there must be a third way, and I’m worried we might have missed it in how we went about it. What are your thoughts?

Here’s the R:

First, I commend you for struggling with this issue. I was just telling my wife the other day the struggle I feel … knowing that in many Christian communities, I would not be welcome because I have expressed some nonconventional views in my writings. I don’t begrudge any community their prerogative in deciding whom to exclude – but my own experience over these last few years since leaving the pastorate has sensitized me to how it feels to know the number of churches where one could be both honest and welcome is significantly reduced.
Second, I wrote on this subject a bit in The Secret Message of Jesus. I talk about purposeful inclusion there … which might be helpful to your thinking.
Third, I think this is exactly the kind of issue Paul dealt with in the early church. It’s what 1 Corinthians 9-14 and Romans 12-13 are dealing with. This would be a good time to prayerfully re-read those chapters.
Finally, I hope that others will offer their insights. How do various Christian communities deal with this issue of whom to exclude and how to include difference? This would be a good topic of conversation over at my facebook page.
Thanks again for writing. What you learn through your experimentation will help us all.