This week, I sauntered into three very interesting perspectives on church decision making processes specifically around the debate of Robert’s Rules v. Consensus Building.  Each of these posts is worth reading.

  • Alban’s Martin Copenhover, Who is Robert?  And Why Do We Follow His Rules?
    He makes a case for a Friends styled decision-making process and challenges the spiritual relevance of Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • My friend, Jim Berkley’s, Alternative Forms of Disruption
    While I do not always agree with Jim, I have found him painfully honest and true to what he believes.  He gives his take on consensus gone bad.
  • Committee on the Office of General Assembly’s, Finding Time to Talk
    This story gives some insight into the direction GA may be headed.

I have had the opportunity to be part of two local congregation governing body meetings this week, one basically a consensus group and the other a more straight forward Robert’s Rules body.  Fascinating to say the least.

These posts and some of the movement to consensus building raises the question, "How do we best discern the will of God together?"   Is it Robert’s Rules?  Is it Consensus Building?  Could the answer be "it depends?"

Like so many things it seems like if we ever claim that one way of doing something is the be all and end all of anything we are doomed for disaster.  Those who want to sit in a place of absolute and immovable truth will not budge and those who skip from thing to thing without much thought will leave most folks who are in the middle damaged and hurt in the cross-fire of accusations and misplaced energies.

I think that so much more would/could be accomplished if both "sides" could fully admit and own the problems with each discernment process as well as lift up the positives of the other.  What can we give to and receive from one another in search of a broadly accepted process?   What, when it gets right down to it, are our non-negotiables when it comes to making decisions?  Will we be gracious when one side truly cannot live with the will of the body?  Can the process help build up a sense of trust that allows for us to hold one another accountable when we may not be helpful parts of the body?  How will we honor diverse personalities and ways of thinking?

I wish I had the answers.

One place to start is with healthy leadership.   Leadership must be able to assess the culture and will of the body as to help the body discern the best way to in fact discern the will of God.  Each process have great positives, but also each brings a series of problems.  While consensus may build widespread ownership, not every personality, worldview, perspective can jive with that more fluid style.  In the same way, while Robert’s Rules can be efficient it often sometimes feel like the best speakers/strategists always "win" and it can feel rigid to many.  The best leaders will be able to have the kind of relationships where folks would be willing to risk doing something a little differently while at the same time trust that their fears will be heard and respected.  Again, leadership must be able to help a community navigate the waters of chaos and yes, find peace, in the midst of it all.

No small task, but then neither is discerning the will of God.

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