Toward a Refuge Difference: Constructions of ‘Radical Inclusivity’ in Sacred Spaces

Mario Castillo
UC Berkeley

In recent decades, researchers and scholars in the West have begun looking more critically at the uneasy at the relationship between religion/spirituality and practitioners that embody social difference based on race/ethnicity, sex/gender and sexuality. While much of the literature has focused on religious/spiritual communities that are disapproving, unwelcoming, and/or intolerant of traditionally marginalized groups, very little attention has been paid to religious/spiritual communities that practice “radical inclusivity.” With more religious/spiritual communities espousing an inclusive ethos, critical research is needed to investigate and ultimately understand the organizational, theological, political, social, and interpersonal constructions of these communities.

Drawing on ethnographic methods, this project researched two radically inclusive religious/spiritual communities in the San Francisco Bay Area: SOAR United, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and FIRST United, a self-proclaimed progressive Christian congregation.