Our third core value at Spirit & Truth Publishing is inclusivity. Essential to God’s unconditional love is the inclusion of all people, especially those who have been traditionally excluded.
Why We’re Here
At Spirit & Truth Publishing, our purpose is to provide easy-to-use, theologically sound, and effective resources that help you do the faith formation ministry God has called you to do, whether as an occasional volunteer to a full-time church professional. And we seek to provide these resources to as broad an audience as is reasonable.
But what does it mean to be “theologically sound,” especially when we are trying to serve a wide audience? We go about this by avoiding some of the more theologically heavy subjects and focusing on our essential values:
These three overlapping values are the topics of this new series of blog posts. So read on to get to know us a little better!
Inclusion Is Essential
As I wrote about in my last blog post, love is the bare-bones theological lens we use as we write our faith formation resources. It all starts with God’s love. Unlike us fallible and broken human beings, God’s love is perfect: God loves us without condition, without bias, without prerequisite, without end.
And, as the writer of the letter of 1 John explains, you cannot truly love God if you are not also loving the people made in God’s image. And if our goal is to love like Jesus does, then we also must work to love without condition, without bias, without prerequisite, without end. Just as God’s love is radically inclusive, so must our own, even if we inevitably fail to reach our goal.
Loving on the Margins
It’s all well and good to say that we love our neighbors. But God’s love is not a feeling, it is intention and action. Our love must reach out and make changes in people’s lives. And even if we are to love everyone equally, this doesn’t mean that we should treat everyone equally. Just as in a larger discussion about justice, some groups of people have greater needs than others. Using the example of healthcare, it doesn’t make sense to give everyone the same medical treatment (or even the same amount of money for treatment). People have different needs and severity of needs (illnesses and injuries in the case of healthcare). Justice is when everyone has all that they need to thrive (not just survive).
Inclusivity is inextricably linked with justice. Inclusive work must be focused on those people who have been traditionally (and currently) excluded.
Inclusivity in Curricula
How does our work in producing faith formation connect with inclusivity? Exclusion and inclusion in writing resources comes down to a few things.
- The assumptions made.
- The language used (and not used).
- The material covered (and not covered).
Some of the biggest assumptions in a curriculum of any kind are about who will be using it and what their lives are like. Who is our “default” participant and leader? In our society, the “default” is often cisgender male, white, able-bodied, middle-class with both a father and a mother living in a house with a yard (though the default teacher is often assumed to be cisgender female). Going against that, we try to emphasize:
- Participants and leaders can be any gender, so we must use gender-neutral pronouns and other gender-neutral language (sibling, parent, etc.).
- Families come in all shapes, sizes, configurations, and functionality. In addition to not assuming that participants have two parents, we try to include reminders for leaders that sensitivity should be used when talking about families, as not all families are permanent, blood-related, or healthy and functional.
- People come from different economic statuses. We talk about homes, not houses, and acknowledge that not all families have disposable income, full-time careers, or even housing stability.
- Not everyone has the same physical, mental, and emotional capabilities, and not everyone has the same comfort with physical touch. We try to be aware and sensitive to these, however, I feel it’s important to point out that our resources are not optimized for neurodiversity or disability at this point.
- Not everyone is white, a citizen (of the US, Canada, Australia, the UK), or has English as their first language. As with the point above, this is a working edge of ours and something we are hoping to be better at in the future.
Language Used: God
The biggest point in language outside of what I mentioned above would be about the language we use to refer to God. It is our assertion that God is infinitely beyond anything we can possibly conceive of, including our understanding of gender. Therefore, we avoid using gendered pronouns for God. All the names the Bible (and we) use for God are only metaphors that give us a glimpse of some of God’s attributes, pointing us toward God. They are not intended to limit or define God. We do use masculine pronouns for the incarnate Jesus and images like Father when that is present and important in the text.
Language Use: Person-first
The other main point where language use is important to us is in using “person-first language.” Primarily used in terms of disability, this replaces the common usage of defining a person based on their disability or illness (e.g., the blind, the deaf, the disabled) with literally putting the person first (e.g., the man who was blind, the woman who was deaf, the people with disabilities). The purpose here is to emphasize the complete dignity and personhood of the people we write about. We have also extended this beyond disability to include economic status and other negative conditions (e.g., people in need vs. the poor, those who have been oppressed vs. the oppressed).
Out of our 21 products, ten are designed to follow a worship lectionary (Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary), so we don’t get to choose the Bible passages we cover in these. But in the products where we can choose the Bible stories and characters we cover (primarily our two Living the Word: Classroom products and six Learning Together units), we try to lift up female Bible characters as much as we can (including a Learning Together unit on “Women of the Old Testament”).
Continuing to Learn, Continuing to Revise
You may or may not be aware, but Spirit & Truth Publishing is a small business. I (Gregory) am the only full-time worker, and I have been immensely blessed with unbelievably experienced and talented editors, writers, designers, and other contractors.
I, especially, am learning and growing in my sensitivity to issues of inclusion and exclusion in our work. As I gain more insight and understanding, we are making revisions and changes to how we write new material. But we appreciate your grace for the times we miss opportunities for inclusion. If you notice anything, please mention it to me so I (and we) can continue to grow and improve.
Peace and blessings,
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Order Faith Formation Resources
Looking for a resource for VBS, summer education, or events? Check out our Learning Together series! These five-lesson units are available on six different topics, one of which is FREE! The other five are much more affordable than standard VBS curricula with pricing starting at $25 for a program with 1-10 participants. Perfect for children’s and intergenerational ministries.
Are you looking for resources for the 2023-2024 program year? Order resources now for the Narrative Lectionary, Revised Common Lectionary, and even a new Classroom curriculum for PK-2nd and 3rd-6th (check our blog post for a special discount)!
At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:
- Resource for the Revised Common Lectionary (2023-2024) (intergenerational classroom)
- Resources for the Narrative Lectionary (2023-2024) (products for all ages)
- Classic Sunday School Curriculum (key Bible stories for PK-2nd and 3rd-6th)
- Learning Together: Five-lesson topical units for VBS, Sunday school, children, and intergenerational classes.
- Cross+Generational Confirmation
- Worship and Liturgy Education