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June 25, 2012 / Richard Bass

Resources and Comments in Response to “Discernment, Theology, and Prayer”

In “Discernment, Theology, and Prayer” (the June 25, 2012 Alban Weekly, adapted from Discerning Your Congregation’s Future: A Strategic and Spiritual Approach) Roy Oswald and Robert Friedrich explain how the longing to seek and do God’s will is “discernment.” This longing is grounded in a theology that understands God as one who is “willing to offer us direction and perspective if and when we are ready to surrender our willfulness and be open to receiving such direction.”

The authors point out that because it’s important to distinguish between God’s direction and messages that stem from our own confusion, a community of faith is essential for hearing and testing our options when we engage in discernment. As Oswald and Friedrich put it, “Through prayerful reflection and empathic listening, we can let the Spirit move within us and among us to build a consensus about what is the will of God.” Such listening—and the process it entails—is more faithful than “rational,” and ultimately more life-giving than “prudent.”

What resources might support you and your congregation in practicing discernment? In addition to the items listed at the end of the article, please consider Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations, and Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community.

What are your stories and thoughts on this topic? And what resources do you suggest? We look forward to hearing from you.



Leave a Comment
  1. Steve Swift / Jul 3 2012 11:49 am

    The elements of discernment identified here are in deed an apt description of the provess of discernment. However, an essential element, the historic place of the church and that of our own in ths process is easily overlooked. A generation to generation element of the discernment process would help clarify God’s will today in our lives and worship communities.

    On a personal level, a backward look over one’s shoulder at one’s personal history to see God’s hand in our life at those times we have sensed God’s presence and power is, I believe, is part and parcel of discerning God’s will in our larger worship community.

  2. Judith Gotwald / Jun 25 2012 7:31 am

    “Discernment” is the hottest buzz word out there in the Church today. Our experience is that when our denomination throws this word around, they have already independently pre-determined THEIR intent (which benefits them, oddly enough). They call it “discernment” but they are just waiting for everyone to come around to their point of view. The shorter the process, the better. (Does discernment require the presence of a lawyer and a locksmith?) A word meant to invoke thoughtful, community-based, God-driven decision-making becomes a euphemism for bullying. As well-intended as it sounds, it wastes the community’s time and betrays our trust.

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