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Displaying all posts tagged "Conversation".
The Dying Art of Disagreement
October 25, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Dying Art of Disagreement
This is the text of a lecture from New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Award dinner in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday, Sept. 23. The award recognizes excellence in Australian foreign affairs journalism.  To say the words, “I agree” — whether it’s agreeing to join an organization, or submit to a political authority, or subscribe to a religious faith — may be the basis of every community. But to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong; etiam si omnes — ego non — these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky — such are the ranks of those who disagree. And the problem, as I see it, is that we’re failing at the task. This is a puzzle. At least as far as far as the United States is concerned, Americans have rarely disagreed more in recent decades. We disagree about racial issues, bathroom policies, health care laws, and, of course, the 45th president. We express our disagreements in radio and cable TV rants in ways that are increasingly virulent; street and campus protests that are increasingly violent; and personal conversations that are increasingly embittering. This is yet another age in which we judge one another morally depending on where we stand politically. Nor is this just an impression of the moment. Extensive survey data show that Republicans are much more right-leaning than they were twenty years ago, Democrats much more left-leaning, and both sides much more likely to see the other as a mortal threat to the nation’s welfare. The polarization is geographic, as more people live in states and communities where their neighbors are much likelier to share their politics. The polarization is personal: Fully 50 percent of Republicans would not want their child to marry a Democrat, and nearly a third of Democrats return the sentiment. Interparty marriage has taken the place of interracial marriage as a family taboo. Finally the polarization is electronic and digital, as Americans increasingly inhabit the filter bubbles of news and social media that correspond to their ideological affinities. We no longer just have our own opinions. We also have our separate “facts,” often the result of what different media outlets consider newsworthy. In the last election, fully 40 percent of Trump voters named Fox News as their chief source of news. It’s usually the case that the more we do something, the better we are at it. Instead, we’re like Casanovas in reverse: the more we do it, the worse we’re at it. Our disagreements may frequently hoarsen our voices, but they rarely sharpen our thinking, much less change our minds. It behooves us to wonder why. Read the rest of this lecture on The New York Times' website. 
Second Colossian Way Cohort Kicks Off
September 27, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Second Colossian Way Cohort Kicks Off
Last week, we hosted 22 leaders, 7 coaches, and 4 observers at our second Colossian Way leader training. This was the first training held in our Grand Rapids office, and we enjoyed hosting these leaders from across the country as they were trained to lead the Colossian Way experience in their local churches and schools. The cohort delved into the mission and vision of The Colossian Forum, unpacked what it means to tackle conflict as an opportunity for deeper discipleship, and got hands-on tips and experience leading a small group. This cohort will lead their local small groups through both the sexuality and origins experience. Leaders came to this training from Alaska, California, Colorado, Tennessee, and Michigan. Please join us in praying for these brothers and sisters in Christ as they gather their small groups to run The Colossian Way in early 2018. We look forward to hearing and sharing more about their journey through The Colossian Way! How you can get involved If you're interested in leading a Colossian Way small group in your church or school, please visit our Colossian Way page to find out more information about upcoming cohorts, training, and details. Our next leader training is in May 2018. We hope to see you there! Scenes from Colossian Way leader training [gallery size="medium" ids="8340,8350,8341,8342,8343,8344,8354,8346,8347,8348,8349,8352"]
Reforming Political Discourse: A Respectful Conversation
September 20, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Reforming Political Discourse: A Respectful Conversation
The political climate surrounding both the Obama and Trump presidencies is marked by hyper-partisan attitudes. Much of the rhetoric centers around “we’ll do this without you” from the majority party and “if you’re for it, we’re against it” from the minority party. Every available political tool is wielded to defeat what the other side wants to do. The news from the right and left often seems to be covering different planets. Many people appear to be listening only to an echo of themselves. Policy discussion is marked by talking points that inflame one side and caricature the other. This melee teaches us how not to communicate with each other. Families and communities are so divided that political discussion and life together becomes uncomfortable and sometimes impossible. Do Christians have resources for working together across political differences? Can we offer an alternative to the current appalling state of political discourse? We think so. Our senior fellow at TCF, Harold Heie, is hosting a new digital conversation on Reforming our Political Discourse on his website, Respectful Conversation. This digital conversation will feature: Proposing a Christian perspective on political discourse Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed Christian perspective Modeling the proposed Christian perspective by discussing the nature of politics and selected contentious public policy issues Discussing a possible way forward for Christians Each topic in this 10-month dialog features two conversation partners with significant disagreements in the subject matter. The hope for this project is to show how people on opposite sides of conflict demonstrate respect for one another and discover common ground that fosters ongoing conversation. We hope you'll join us for this enlightening and thought-provoking conversation!
From Conflict to Unity and a New Way Forward
August 16, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
From Conflict to Unity and a New Way Forward
We're honored that Pillar Church asked TCF president Michael Gulker to present on Conflict as Opportunity: Learning to Fight Like Jesus, as part of their Christ in the City series in Holland, Michigan. Christ in the City is focusing on how Christians can make peace with duality in the world. Topics covered include creation, gender, politics, the church body, and human sexuality. Pillar was the site of a denominational split in the 1850s. Like many tough conflicts, tensions were high, both sides entrenched in the truth as they believed it, and answers simply pointed to the growing divide. It came to a head when some members of Pillar Church locked other members out, went on to start a new church, which soon led to a new denomination. It's a familiar story of conflict and separation, even over 150 years later. Pillar's history is defined by division and conflict, and today they are the first church that is dually affiliated with the denominations involved in the split.  It's not an easy path, but a remarkable one that truly shows that "all things hold together in Christ" (Colossians 1:17). In our watchful, divided, and polarized world, we're thrilled to be partners with churches like Pillar who engage in deep discipleship and are proof of what it looks like when you turn conflict into opportunity. Here's the audio of Michael Gulker's presentation on learning to fight like Jesus. [audio mp3="https://colossianforum.org/site.2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Pillar_20170809_CITC.mp3"][/audio] Curious how we're helping make a more beautiful church? Our mission here at The Colossian Forum is to equip leaders to transform cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. We want to see a more beautiful church, one that acts Christian, especially in the face of conflict. Check out our series of three short videos that introduces The Colossian Way. The first covers wicked problems. [embed]https://vimeo.com/180640688[/embed] The second tackles Christian virtues: [embed]https://vimeo.com/187857994[/embed] And the third outlines how we see conflict as opportunity here at TCF. [embed]https://vimeo.com/180188904[/embed] We have a short video discussion guide that accompanies this video series. To access it, email us at info@colossianforum.org. Simply mention videos in the subject line. When you email us, we'll also send you our Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions to help guide your discipleship journey. One Last Thing The Colossian Forum shot a video at Pillar Church a few years ago that highlights our foundation in faith, science, and culture, and how that important conversation is a stepping stone to deeper discipleship and Christian witness. Enjoy! [embed]https://vimeo.com/32912914[/embed]
Lessons in Transparency
July 12, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Lessons in Transparency
Dear Friends, Recently, I’ve been reading Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life, by Rowan Williams. I was immediately struck by Williams’ introductory remarks that pursuing deeper Christian commitment isn’t done by reading books. Rather, it is accomplished “by the daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives; we are caught up in the task of showing that what we say is credible.” We serve as effective disciples when we are “transparent to Christ” in our thoughts, speech, and actions. According to Williams, our task is to live in a way that dispels the murkiness obscuring Christ’s presence; thus, empowering us to grow in love of God and neighbor. By being transparent to Christ across time, we slowly become people who live as “credible” disciples—literally giving credence to our words. Our sidesteps and missteps as much as our successes give us daily opportunities to display Christ as his forgiveness and humility permeate our life together. Dave Odom, executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, visited us a few weeks ago to facilitate a discussion on TCF’s work and culture. One of our big “a-ha” moments of painful transparency came when he observed that some of our staff (myself included) work as if our mission is a sprint instead of a marathon; this is despite the fact that we know our vision of a Christian community that acts like Christ, especially in the face of conflict, will not be accomplished in a life time. Although we are encouraged daily by stories of transformation, ours is a marathon vision that requires a measured and disciplined pace. When we view our work as a sprint, failing to take time to care for one another and for our partners, we shortcut the “daily effort to live in a way that allows Jesus Christ to come through in our lives.” By failing to care for and appreciate each other in our daily tasks, our mission loses its credibility as our tasks become crass transactions and we lose sight of our longing for God-empowered transformation. Dave challenged us to live into our own mission, to add a few life-giving rhythms to help us sustain our marathon mission of equipping leaders to transform polarizing cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. He’s absolutely right. In this way, we model the honesty and consistency we’re calling our Colossian Way group leaders to embody. Our words gain credibility when we practice the rhythm of Godly thinking, speech, and action—including confession and forgiveness—all within a context of worship. Through this manner of living together, trust grows and the opportunity of engaging one another across our differences is made possible in increasingly beautiful ways. Through your faithful prayers and participation with us in this work, you are a vital member of this community of practice—a community that is, according to Williams, “growing in the life that Jesus shares with us, so that we can become signs of life and hope in our world.” I am deeply grateful for your partnership, and I pray that you receive this letter as an act of transparency and a credible gift of Christ’s grace. This post is excerpted from our July prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
The Unpredictable Practice of Showing Up
May 31, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Unpredictable Practice of Showing Up
Today we welcome Jeremy Bork to The Colossian Blog. Jeremy is a 2017 graduate of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Living into his call to youth ministry and love of creation, he will serve this summer as the Assistant Chaplain at Camp Fowler, an RCA wilderness camp in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. He recently accepted a call to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, and will transition into that role in the fall. He participated in a Colossian Way pilot group earlier this year. Last spring I was asked to participate in a small group at Fellowship Reformed Church to test out and offer feedback for a curriculum that sought to engage church conflict around human sexuality. Without much consideration of what they were asking and what I’d be getting into, I said yes. I would later learn that small yes was a greater yes to The Colossian Way, and that yes would come with a cost. For the next ten weeks I gathered every Thursday with members of Fellowship to listen, wrestle, pray, play, apologize, testify, and give thanks. Resisting the world’s seduction toward division, we showed up, sat around one table, read the same sacred texts, prayed to the One we all follow, told our stories, and shared our visions for the future and present of the church. We chose community over tribe, hospitality over hostility, empathy over judgment, and compassion over fear. The Colossian Way insists that participants speak their truth in love. Both words matter. First, truth: say what you need to say. Don’t water it down to get everyone in the room to agree with you. At best that leads to a superficial, integrity-lacking illusion of unity. Instead speak fully and boldly the truth you need to say. Second, love: speak kindly and compassionately. Never say something to intentionally hurt another person. Be aware of the effects your words might have on another, and be ready to receive how someone else experiences your truth. During these ten weeks, we tried our best to speak our truths in love, but too often our gentle, West-Michigan-nice fronts walled us from faithfully speaking our convictions. During our last meeting, Brian broke the barrier. He turned to me and shared about how badly he wants to love me but how his traditional convictions about biblical texts that address same-sex behavior haven’t changed. He genuinely wanted to know how his beliefs affected me and what he could tangibly do to make me feel loved. I thanked him for his honesty and responded transparently. I shared about my sincere thankfulness for our friendship and that he loves me best when he listens to my story to understand and not to respond. I also shared that while I would perhaps worship at Fellowship sometime, I would never bring my boyfriend. Our vulnerability opened others in the room to share what they had wanted to for nine weeks. It was sloppy and beautiful. Let’s Talk LGBTQ With current denominational and institutional divisions around beliefs about LGBTQ people, the student counsel at Western Theological Seminary (my very recent alma mater) felt like this was a needed topic to address. Considering I had been at Western for three years without a single public conversation about something that affected me so directly, I felt like this was long overdue. Together we pitched a community conversation to the seminary leadership. Once the event was approved, it only made sense that it would be facilitated by representatives from The Colossian Way, considering they are what we hope to be: a community that creates space for people to willingly, bravely, and hopefully enter into conflict trusting that Christ holds all things together. Their vision is honorable but uncommon: Christian communities that behave like Christ. On Tuesday, April 25, the Student Counsel of Western Theological Seminary hosted a community conversation titled Staying in the Dialogue in the Midst of Difference: Let’s Talk LGBTQ. As a result of student counsel’s organization, Stacey Duensing’s tenacity, and my pestering, the seminary took an important first step: breaking the silence. I was a panelist for the discussion, along with Brian, the pastor of Fellowship and fellow participant of the TCW group the year before. While on the panel, Brian asked if I felt like “The Token Gay” during last year’s pilot. I grinned and spoke my truth: “Absolutely! But it didn’t bother me, because I knew going in that that’s what I would be. It was important enough to me that an actual LGBTQ person was part of the pilot that I was willing to be that person. It also didn’t bother me, because it was only for 90 minutes a week. At the end of our meeting, I could walk away. That has not been true during my three years at Western. I don’t get to walk away. I am the token gay always. As much as I wear my pain-avoidant smile, being me here is exhausting. I hadn’t realized just how depleting seminary has been for me, and I don’t think I’ve completed grasped how long it will take to heal, to be restored, to return to being just Jeremy.” For a moment I was heard, I was seen, I was known. Unlike the countless walks through the halls wondering who affirms my presence and who wishes I wasn’t around, I sat grateful for the chance to name what is true and hopeful that in opening myself others might do likewise. The conversation continued. Rob asked more questions. Brian and I stayed in the dialogue. We listened curiously, shared truthfully, and questioned genuinely. Our words were unscripted yet deeply formed by our love of God our love for one another. Some who attended the community conversation were upset that Brian and I hugged after we shared such blatantly opposing beliefs on the panel. Noticing the power difference between the two of us, they were uncomfortable that our gesture implied all LGBTQ people should be reconciled to their non-affirming elders to the point of physical embrace. While I understand where they are coming from, Brian and I didn’t fabricate a friendship on April 25. We are actually, authentically friends. We drink coffee and talk about church leadership. When we run into each other at the gym, we sacrifice a squat to catch up with one another. We hugged after the panel, because we have a past, we will have a future, and we are grateful for one other in the present, despite all the ways our friendship is complex. I believe in The Colossian Way, because I believe in the way of Jesus. The ideas of The Colossian Way are not new, but they are radical. It is the simple and unpredictable practice of showing up. It is a foretaste – not a glimpse but a first taste – of the life to come where there’s enough, where everyone belongs, where all of life is connected. It’s an invitation to a way of peace, unity, and empathy rooted in the disciplines of Jesus, and saying yes to this lifestyle will come at a cost. For me, it has required bravery, vulnerability, fierce truth telling, and active listening. At times it has been tiring, irritating, and lonely. But it has been worth it. I have felt the Spirit move in surprising ways. I have seen God’s image revealed in unexpected people. I have heard a fuller telling of the good news of God’s love. I have tasted and seen that Christ truly does hold all things together.

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