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Disagreeing With Both Passion and Openness: Is It Possible? AMBS Forum– 12/4/09 “Talking about Homosexuality and the Church” Carolyn Schrock-Shenk. Is it possible to be both passionately and openly committed to a perspective or belief; and to be equally committed

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With Both Passion and Openness:

Is It Possible?

AMBS Forum– 12/4/09

“Talking about Homosexuality and the Church”

Carolyn Schrock-Shenk

Is it possible

to be both passionately and openly committed to a perspective or belief;

and to be equally committed

to maintaining or building a relationship

with someone just as passionately committed to an opposite view?

C. Schrock-Shenk


Goal of forum
Goal of Forum….

  • To share ideas about how to have safe, honest and open conversations regarding homosexuality in faith-based communities

  • To consider possible next steps in facilitating such conversations as leaders

Language matters
Language Matters….

  • How much it matters partially depends on the intensity of the conflict

    • Labels

    • Definitions

    • Descriptions

  • The more intense the conflict….the more it seems to matter.

  • This calls for carefulness with language and grace with each other.

For our purposes today given our faith based context
For our purposes today….(Given our faith-based context)

  • When we hear/use words like homosexuals, gays and lesbians, GLBT’s, etc., we are referring to those who have a non-heterosexual orientation.

  • When we hear/use words like non-celibate, practicing, gay lifestyle, etc., we are referring to same-sex, committed, monogamous relationships, not promiscuity.


1. We are all created in the image of God and we worship and follow the same God

2. We have different – and sometimes conflicting views/beliefs about homosexuality

3. Our differences about the meaning of scripture – and vigorous debate about these differences – is good

4. We are committed to maintaining strong relationships with each other in the midst of these differences

Assumptions cont
Assumptions, cont….

5. In our history there have been issues about which our beliefs have stayed much the same, or have strengthened (violence/war; service; Jesus) as well as issues about which we have revised our beliefs (coverings, women leaders, bishops)

6. All of us have some of the Truth. None of us has all the Truth.

C. Schrock-Shenk

Key listening principles
Key Listening Principles….

  • 1. Attitude is more important than skills

  • 2. Understanding is about respect, not agreement

  • 3. Listen loosely to the words, tightly to the meaning

  • 4. Stay curious; inquiring - not judging

  • 5. The “other” is generally willing to listen after (sometimes only after) being heard/understood


Conversation commitments
Conversation Commitments….

  • 1. Listening with a goal to understand

  • 2. Speaking with a goal of being understood

  • 3. Committing to curiosity / new learning

    • Spirit of “inquiry”

    • Remembering that I have only part of the truth

  • 4. Respecting- not judging - the views of another

    • Especially important around homosexuality

  • 5. Holding each other in a positive lightoutside this place

  • C.Schrock-Shenk

Zones of safety take a risk out of comfort but not into danger
Zones of Safety…….Take a risk - out of comfort but not into danger.




Proximity group conversation with 4 5 others around you
Proximity Group Conversation….(With 4-5 others around you)

In your past discussions about homosexuality:

1.  What you seen/experienced that absolutely does not work?

2.  What have you seen/experienced that has been successful (at least at some level)?

Possible Next Steps….

For actually talking about homosexuality

Affinity groups
Affinity Groups….

  • With others close to you in perspective

    or belief

    • Asks participants to “define” themselves

    • Assures participants they are not alone

    • Helps clarify one’s thinking by engaging with those of similar viewpoint

Possible affinity grouping methods
Possible Affinity Grouping Methods….

  • Two possible methods follow (you may tailor the groups to your unique participants)

  • Both intend to provide several options rather than the duality of a spectrum

  • Participants self-select using their own definitions

First option
First Option….

  • Fairly traditional (around homosexuality specifically)

  • Fairly progressive

  • In the middle

  • Still discerning / not my focus

Second option adapted from 8 th street mennonite descriptions
Second Option….(Adapted from 8th Street Mennonite descriptions)

  • Calling for repentance

  • Loving the sinner

  • Uncertain  

  • Accepting orientation

  • Blessing of committed unions

Possible affinity group questions
Possible Affinity Group Questions….

1. What has been the most painful to you personally about homosexuality discussions in the past? (What are the negative things that the “other” side(s) thinks/says about you?)

2. What can you say to the other group(s) that could help move the discussion in a positive direction? (A commitment you’re making; an apology for something that remains unhealed, a request for enlightenment ; etc.)

Mixed diverse small group dialogue
Mixed (Diverse) Small Group Dialogue…..

  • Groups of 4-6 are ideal

  • A relatively easy way to form diverse groups is to number off participants while still in their affinity groups (Number off by the number of total participants divided by 4-6)

  • A very structured process is helpful for this conversation (Generally, the more intense the conflict, the more structure is needed.)

  • The following series of three questions provides an excellent focus and structure.

    • Each successive question requires more vulnerability to deepen the conversation.

    • Each group member answers one question in turn before moving on to the next question

Mixed Small Group Dialogue Questions…..

  • 1. What is your experience around this topic?

    • Personal history, current involvement, etc.

  • 2. What’s at stake for you?

    • Why does it matter? Values, beliefs, etc.

  • 3. What doubts do you have about your own perspective?

    • Uncertainties, dilemmas, ambiguities, value conflicts within your own viewpoint/position

  • (Adapted from the Public Conversations Project)

Possible debriefing questions back in full group
Possible Debriefing Questions….(Back in Full Group)

  • What was different about this from other (difficult) conversations you’ve had?

  • What worked well? What could make it better?

  • What parts of this are applicable to other settings in your life?

  • What did you learn?

    • About how to talk/listen to each other

    • About homosexuality

Questions comments contact carolyn schrock shenk email carolynss@goshen edu cell 574 538 8470
Questions / Comments?Contact:Carolyn Schrock-Shenkemail: [email protected]: 574-538-8470