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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Virtuous Dialogue



I, with many of you have reflected greatly and daily upon our recent experience of discord within the CEM. What have we learned from this experience? Please bear with me as I attempt to describe a profound, positive, collective, coming of age in our midst.

Even as the Community of Christ has transitioned over the years in our understandings and openness towards our heritage, theology and inclusiveness; our journey has other dimensions we are still encountering. At World Conference we implemented new processes for Common Consent and consensus building. This is not just a change in the mechanics of discussing legislation; it evidences deep-rooted participatory engagement in our church life and decision making. This reflects the expectation of our membership to be informed, to research, to dialogue, to express diverse opinions, to be heard, to listen, to challenge, to collaborate. In a sense the phrase “prophetic people” has taken on greater meaning in a deliberatory sense. Our present “Words of Counsel”, are before the church for a period of 3 years for prayerful and participatory deliberation. We as a community are presently internalizing the meaning of the counsel to us. This extended period of literally “dwelling in the word” engages our collective prophetic prowess, so that in unison in 2016, having lived out these words, fleshed out these words, we can joyfully proclaim them as scripture. 

What does this mean to us in CEM? Outside of conferences, we do not turn off our participatory spirit and our resolve to engage in self-determination in our home congregations or church related activities. We continue to express…… Indeed, our use of social media as a forum for expression is also a mysterious organism that typically reflects polite public exchanges, until group dynamics are challenged and then emotional waves rally support with accelerated intensity that complicates communication and eventual reconciliation.

Again, what does this mean to us in CEM? I think it means, we expect and feel we have a right to engage in dialogue and that out of that collective dialogue, decisions are made. Our experience with nurturing and facilitating dialogue in decision making is quite rudimentary. We have much to learn. It is much easier in all organizations to operate within a mode of top down decision making. That traditionally is the way it has been. Transitioning away from this protocol is another dimension of our faith journey I made reference to above. It happens by way of natural grass roots processes rather than a conscious decision to push a dialogue button. We find ourselves today in a new model of decision making involving dialogue linked with an unpredictable and relentless social media backbone.

But we are also a sacred community. How does that govern our exchanges? Dialogue can be an eruptive force of contention without internalized virtues guiding our discussions. Dialogue can be secular in nature or sacred. We see the secular modeled in our houses of parliament. Sacred dialogue is mindful, prayerful; exhibiting grace and vulnerability to allow compromise and consensus to emerge out of divergent viewpoints. This mode of dialogue takes practice and intentional self-awareness by all to truly happen.

Our church has recently introduced spiritual formation moments within our conference sessions. I participated in these short reflective moments last week in our Canadian staff meetings. These moments nurture the sacred within. Perhaps we should also practice dialogue moments to teach us virtuous exchanges of discussion. Let us not mistake virtues for weakness. They are on the contrary, strong, persistent, even-spirited, mindful exchanges not based upon black and white outcomes but negotiated consensus.  We need advanced tools for dialogue. Temple School does encourage in the new Instructor course creative dialogue techniques. We practiced group dialogue sessions last week. Dialogue is something you just don’t read about. It is participatory and learned in dynamic exchanges. It is more than debating. The virtuous element governs our person to person awareness. How needed also is this self-regulating, virtuous sharing in social media.

Ultimately, dialogue is sacred if we allow it to be. That to me is what we have learned. That is the pathway forward. We have an incredible opportunity now to participate in virtuous dialogue, stumbling at first as we have, but worth the effort to continue and nurture collaborative outcomes through our collective dialogue. I am hopeful. I look forward to engaging in the next step together.

Submitted by Kerry

2 comments:

  1. Excellent, Kerry – you have a gift for writing and expressing yourself... the Spirit is very present in your writing.
    Judi

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  2. Wise and important reflections, Kerry. Kris Judd shared these with me today. We're across the border in Lansing, MI piloting a new TS course for evangelists. Some of your countrymen are accompanying us and contributing well!! Good ministry here.

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