Being the Church (80296-FO-R32)
Replace current Resolution #32 - Being the Church Amid Disagreement with the following:
Being the Church Amid Disagreement
To the people called United Methodist, with the hope that through prayer and holy conferencing, we will engage each other in love and grace as we deal with issues upon which we disagree:
As a church in a new millennium we continue to disagree, sometimes bitterly. Important biblical, theological and scientific questions remain in dispute among persons of good will. Called as United Methodists to be vigilant on issues of inclusiveness, we reflect on the process of disagreement. When we engage in deeply felt struggles for the truth, emotions run high. Our human nature moves us to yearn for “victory”—for winning the debate, making judgment in hopes it will settle the controversy that causes us discomfort and pain as a community. In prolonged disagreement, we may find ourselves stepping on the feelings of others in our urgency to find the true, winning position. We remind ourselves as a community of faith to remember who we are, how we are perceived by both civil and religious communities when we disagree, and what we have called ourselves to be as a church.
In “The Ministry of all Christians,” (¶ 138), we hold ourselves accountable to this call: “We recognize that God made all creation and saw that it was good. As a diverse people of God who bring special gifts and evidences of God's grace to the unity of the church and to society, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons.”
We can heed this call to value all of God’s creation as good, and all of God’s children as capable of bringing special gifts to our church and to society: gifts of engaged listening, careful feedback during disagreement, and suspension of judgment and retribution. The diverse people of God do not always agree. But if we heed this call to value all of God’s creation, we show our world how to disagree in remarkable and loving ways.
How Shall We Disagree?
How we disagree, more so than which position prevails, has a powerful impact on many audiences: young people and children, local congregations, community and national leaders, and those targeted by our disagreements. As caring Christians, we carry responsibility for this impact whether or not we are aware of it.
Power of a Discerning Question
In the midst of engaged debate, our ability to listen to one another can weaken. True listening, hearing feelings as well as ideas, can be enhanced when we focus on discerning
one another’s positions on matters of importance. Questions that might help us do this are:
1. How can we show hospitality to one another while we disagree?
2. What hopes and interests do we have in common?
3. Can we temporarily suspend decision-making in order, through prayer, silence and study, to discern and deepen our understanding of all positions on the issue?
4. Until we can agree on a resolution, can we agree to suspend motions, decisions, policy development that will assert one position over the other?
5. What are the positive and negative effects of our disagreement on our congregations, our members, our clergy and laity, and on the communities where we serve?
6. What action as a community of faith should we take in light of these effects?
7. What would we like the nature of our church or community to be when this issue that divides us is finally resolved?
Ministry of Mindfulness
Local congregations, study groups, cabinets, clusters and districts, annual, central and General Conferences can be holy and hopeful places of discord. Regardless of our positions on controversial issues, we can practice a ministry of mindfulness of the impact of our discord. These strategies may be helpful in these settings:
1. Begin by sharing and studying relevant Scripture, our primary authority, and the additional aspects of the Wesleyan quadrilateral—tradition, reason, and experience.
2. Share where we agree.
3. Remember to honor our relationships to each other as children of God.
4. Practice the art of "feedback,” true feedback in which positions are heard and repeated back.
5. Emphasize the "spiritual discipline of true listening"—attending and listening for the feelings of others as well as their ideas.
6. Use facilitators or mediators to maintain safe spaces for difficult feelings and ideas to be shared.
7. Be mindful not to attack the messenger when discussing the message.
8. Use principles of mediation, focusing on interests (what we would like to happen, how we would envision things to be) rather than the positions we take to get there.
9. Practice “holy conferencing”—infusing debate and dialogue with prayer, silence, and more prayer. Pray for each other, for our church, for future possibilities, for hope and reconciliation, and for guidance of the Holy Spirit as we move through discord.
10. Pray for and practice the discipline of patience. Forging new understandings and agreements will take intentional effort.
See Social Principles, ¶ 161.
This is an abbreviated and updated version of the current Resolution No. 32. It is being used extensively by congregations, conferences, response teams, and church agencies. The edits for brevity and updated information make it easier to use.