As the Beyond400 conversation and others continue, I’ve been wondering about listening to ‘voices’ and how we might process what we hear. Then in the last 48 hours two friends have blogged thoughts on the process that are at odds with each other; which perhaps illustrates the challenge.
In various ways people are being heard, and comments offered. But like a church meeting the voices are those who turn up and speak up; which rather slants the dialogue. Some of the voices have wide knowledge and experience giving them an ability to grapple with some of the complexities of the current situation whilst others may bring fresh insight from looking at things from a new perspective or drawing on other expertise. But we need to listen hard enough to have an understanding of where people are coming from, the things which persuade them to hold the views they do.
At some point we need to move on from listening. But how?
1. We need to give particular attention to those voices which might be drowned out; perhaps because they are not well known or don’t naturally play the system.
2. We need to push some of the arguments further and test them out. When people urge a change in culture what do they envisage a changed culture will look like?
3. We need to consider several possible options and show how they respond to the key questions. This is particularly important for those who find it hard to discern a way forward when what is before them is a set of propositions. It is also healthy because it ensures a plurality of solutions emerges from a plurality of sources.
4. We need reminders of our values and why we have done things in the past to avoid short-term functional decisions that get reversed. For example, since the earliest days Baptists have co-operated together to enhance and develop ministry. This doesn’t mean we need to keep doing it the same way, but does suggest that stopping all forms of support for ministers might be unwise. These conversations will be contested but this is part of the hard work required.
5. We need to have a mindset that skews us towards risk and change, prioritising mission, enabling networking. If we get it wrong let’s at least get it wrong for the right reasons!
6. At some point, those entrusted with roles of leadership in the denomination need to put their head on the line and say “I believe this is where God is leading us” and see if that resonates with the denomination.