Include Me Out! – Review
Include Me Out! Confessions of an Ecclesiastical Coward, by Colin Morris, 1969. Epworth Press
This is the book which has had the greatest influence on me, written by the Methodist Minister th Colin Morris, when he was a missionary in Zambia. I first read it when I was approaching my Ordination Selection Conference and had been sent several books to read, all of which I found to be boring and not at all relevant. I was in a local second-hand bookshop and fumbling around when this book seemed to fall into my hands. I read the first page, and then could not stop. When I had my interview with the educational advisor he asked me which of the books that were sent I had enjoyed. Without thinking I said, “None of them.” This was not the most diplomatic reply. But I then said, very much fighting a rearguard action, that I had found a book in a second-hand shop that had changed my way of thinking and that it was by the Rev Colin Morris and entitled Include Me Out. “Oh,” he said, his face softening into a smile, “I know Colin and went to hear him preach last week. Tell me about the book.”
Over twenty years later, I still read and re-read it often. It starts with the words, “The other day a Zambian dropped dead not a hundred yards from my front door. The pathologist said that he had died of hunger.” The book then examines the work of the Church then, and sadly most of the author’s denunciation of that work still applies; there is no doubt whatsoever from his writing that there is a total contradiction in being a rich Church in a poor world. The author wrote the book looking at the work of the Church through the eyes of the man who had starved to death, examining the Church’s structure, and finding it badly wanting.
One part had a profound effect upon me, it was regarding the communion service, and I quote the words here, as I remember them every time that I preside at a communion service. “I hear that at one debate on the Anglican-Methodist Union Scheme there was a long and anxious discussion about the disposal of bread after Communion. When a layman suggested feeding the birds with it, some bishop recoiled in horror, pointing out to the theological cretin that since the bread had been set apart forever, and must be disposed of in a very special way, the priest had to eat it. There must be a parable in that picture of a priest gorging himself on the Bread of Life in a hungry world.”
The most important thing this book emphasised at the very start of my journey was that my theology is what I am when the talking stops, the action starts, and I do costly things for Jesus’ sake. This book will be a challenging work for some, and a confirmation that they are right for others. It is long out of print, but used copies are often available.