No Marshmallows, Just Term Papers
Discernment and Decision-Making
Copyright © 2005 The Reverend Victoria Grace Curtiss
Grappling with the Scriptures convicts our hearts. Singing hymns lifts our hope. Stories of our ancestors of faith engender strength. Respect grows as voice is given to the unspoken. Scales fall from our eyes with fresh understanding. Praying evokes repentance. Listening makes space for one another. Dialogue generates new possibilities. Gratitude sighs as nods are shared. Strangers are kin around Christ’s table. We discover ourselves standing humbly on common, sacred ground. The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church1 is one of many groups that has experienced such gifts of God’s grace: the Holy Spirit worked in our midst, transforming us to love one another with all our differences. Who can say how this happens? You can hear the Spirit’s sound, “but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8). The movement of God’s Spirit cannot be predicted or packaged. Nor can any systematic method guarantee group unanimity at the deepest level. However, there are spiritual practices that can enable us to be more receptive and attentive to God and one another and help us discern the mind of Christ. One of the basic principles of Presbyterian polity is that “Presbyters are not simply to reflect the will of the people, but rather to seek together to find and represent the will of Christ.”2 This paper describes processes of communal spiritual discernment, which the task force and other bodies have found helpful, to assist the church as it seeks to be led by the Holy Spirit and to live into its call to embody the peace, unity, and purity that are God’s gifts to us in Jesus Christ. Discernment Discernment seeks to cultivate sensitivity to the presence of God and a desire for the things of God.3 It involves a humble yielding of control, as we grow in sensing God’s gracious, freeing presence. Discernment may be described as a means to: •...