In defense of the consensus model

In defense of the consensus model

Review: The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together

In an Easter article former UCA President Jill Tabart ruefully observed: “The consensus model is not being used to its best effect across the entire church.”

Jill helped produce “The Manual for Meetings” as a guide for all groups to use as a replacement for Robert’s Rules of debate, and then introduced the consensus decision making process to the 1994 Assembly. I agree with her.

What a pity not to use, dare I say to waste, the primary means of discernment that groups of people have available to them.

Discernment is a community process of listening to each other and the Spirit, whereas the traditional western rules of meetings are there to facilitate arguments.

In a world which is now more divided, and decisions more difficult, our former General Secretary of the Assembly Terence Corkin was so convinced we needed to revisit consensus decision making processes that he, with an American Methodist Julia Wallace, has written this helpful how-to book, “The Church Guide for Making Decisions Together”.  The book is a timely opportunity for leaders to re-visit the importance of the way we make decisions.

The Introduction asks, “So what’s wrong with the way we make decisions?”  In eight chapters the book first charts the way from Conflict to Consensus: Supporting Transformative Decision-Making, then moves to A Step-by-Step Process to Successfully Engage Church Groups in Contemporary Discernment, before sharing Lessons from around the World, and finishing with Putting It All Together: Building Your Discernment Process.

As is important for books that point to different ways to do things, there is a Making Church Decisions website with the heading. “Working together to discern God’s leading.”  The site provides additional resources to help leaders as well as regular posts such as ‘Six things I wish they taught me about church meetings.’

The book is a great way to re-examine and re-appropriate this gift that the Uniting Church was given in 1994.

Rev. Prof Dean Drayton


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