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Agreeing to Disagree … without being Disagreeable. C.O.L.E. Markham Woods Presbyterian Church February 8, 2014. The Argument Culture. Much discourse is cast in an adversarial framework To accomplish anything, approach it as if it were a fight … or a war.

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agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable

Agreeing to Disagree… without being Disagreeable


Markham Woods Presbyterian Church

February 8, 2014

the argument culture
The Argument Culture
  • Much discourse is cast in an adversarial framework
  • To accomplish anything, approach it as if it were a fight … or a war.
  • Those in power ridicule, marginalize, and even demonize anyone who voices a different opinion than what is “correct” – and consider themselves “open minded”
  • We have few – if any – uniters
breaking the cycle
Breaking the Cycle
  • You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also ... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ... [Matthew 5:38,39,43,44 (NRSV)]
  • Jesus’ point: someone needs to break the cycle of violence that exists within the world
  • If the church is not going to model how to have civil discourse, who will?
the presbyterian cycle
The Presbyterian Cycle
  • Ever since Presbyterians have been in this part of the world, we have been disagreeing about something
  • Our sad legacy is one of disagreement and division, and sometimes, reunion
  • In the current season of disagreement, can we find a way to stay together despite our disagreements?
presbyterian disagreements in my lifetime
Presbyterian Disagreements… in my lifetime
  • Confession of 1967 (1965-1967)
  • Angela Davis (1972)
  • Ordination standards (1978 Definitive Guidance)
  • Trust Clause made specific in FOG (1980-1982)
  • WCC/NCCC issues, Reader’s Digest (1982) – per capita withholding (?)
  • Reimagining Conference (1993)
  • G-6.0106b and Amendment 10-A (1996-present)
  • Abortion, Israel-Palestine, Definition of marriage, Jesus and salvation, boycotts (Nestle, Taco Bell), etc.
  • No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:19 (NIV)
workshop title inspiration
Workshop Title Inspiration
  • College religion professor: “Perhaps it is time for us to agree to disagree, without being disagreeable”
g 2 0105 footnote 1758 end of old side new side split
G-2.0105, footnote1758 (End of Old Side/New Side split)
  • That when any matter is determined by a major vote, every member shall either actively concur with or passively submit to such determination; or if his conscience permit him to do neither, he shall, after sufficient liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceably withdraw from our communion without attempting to make any schism. Provided always that this shall be understood to extend only to such determination as the body shall judge indispensable in doctrine or Presbyterian government.
basic affirmations historic principles of church order 1788
Basic AffirmationsHistoric Principles of Church Order (1788)
  • God alone is Lord of the conscience (F-3.0101a)
  • Inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty (F-3.0104)
  • Truths and forms with respect to which [people] of good character and principles may differ – mutual forbearance (F-3.0105)
  • All Church power … is only ministerial and declarative – and all synods and councils may err (F-3.0107)
guidelines for presbyterians during times of disagreement
Guidelines for Presbyterians During Times of Disagreement
  • Adopted by the 204th GA (1992)
  • Address conflicts within congregations, as well as in presbyteries, GA
  • Guidelines only have “authority” at GA level – is a “ministerial and declarative statement” to the rest of the church
  • Sessions, congregations, and presbyteries are free to use them, or not
begins with a promise
Begins with a Promise
  • In a spirit of trust and love, we promise we will …
  • Echoes G-1.0102: “The polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presupposes the fellowship of women and men with their children united in covenant relationship with one another and with God. The organization rests on the fellowship and is not designed to work without trust and love.”
  • Add: accountability: for how we relate to one another, use our polity, etc.
ordination vows
+++++++++++Ordination Vows
  • Will you be governed by our church’s polity, and will you abide by its discipline?
  • Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?
three broad principles
Three Broad Principles
  • Give them a hearing … listen before we answer (John 7:51, Proverbs 18:13, James 1:19)
  • Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)
    • F-1.0301 – The Church is the Body of Christ
    • A community of faith, hope, love, and witness
  • Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)
  • Platform on which guidelines are built
1 respect
1. Respect
  • Respect builds trust
  • Remember that others desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ
  • Remain open for candid and forthright exchange of ideas
  • Do not intimidate or judge others
2 learn
2. Learn
  • Learn about the various positions on the topic of disagreement
  • Others feel like being heard, taken seriously
3 ask for clarification
3. Ask for Clarification
  • State what think heard
  • Ask for clarification
  • Make effort to understand (and be understood)
  • Reminder: guidelines are intended to be a two-way street (or multi-highway interchange)
4 direct communication
4. Direct Communication
  • Jesus’ teaching: Matthew 18:15f., Galatians 2:11f.
  • No “meetings” in the parking lot
  • Today, we have multiple ways of being indirect!

You’re still missing the cut-off …

5 focus on ideas not people
5. Focus on Ideas, not People
  • Do not question motives, intelligence, integrity
  • No name-calling or labelling
  • The reasons why people hold a certain position may be multiple and diverse
6 share personal experiences
6. Share personal experiences
  • Matthew 5:41 – go the second mile?
  • We do not make policy on the basis of anecdotal evidence
  • It does help build greater understanding
7 indicate agreement disagreement
7. Indicate agreement/disagreement
  • Keeps the focus on ideas, not personal matters (#5)
  • Silence all other voices other than those with which we agree?

Baseball season?

8 stay in community
8. Stay in community
  • If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. -- Romans 12:18 (NRSV)
  • We are all part of Christ’s body (even if we forget)
9 decision making
9. Decision-making
  • Listen to various points of view
  • Seek conclusions where agreement exists
  • Be sensitive to those who disagree with the majority
  • When disagree, follow the 1758 guidance, and these Guidelines
10 pray
10. Pray
  • Don’t have to wait to 10!
  • Modelled after Lord’s prayer: “your will be done …”
  • Presbyterian belief: we can hear God speaking through our deliberations
final thought
Final Thought
  • When facing disagreements …
  • Imagine self 5-10 years in future
  • Will you feel good – or not so good – about how you handled yourself in response to the conflict?

You made a time machine … out of a DeLorean?!?!

closing prayer
Closing Prayer

Gracious and Loving God, You have called us together to do the work of Your church. Be present with us … and guide us that we may make decisions that will reflect Your loving presence in this world. Create within us open minds and hearts, that we will not fear conflict or run from it, but embrace it, knowing that it is an opportunity for growing in faith and a fuller understanding of Your will for us. Help us to listen to each other, share our thoughts in loving, honest ways and do all we can to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.