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Discernment: revisited

Discernment: revisited

Alban Institute is re-issuing Charles M. Olsen’s and Danny Morris’ Discerning God’s Will Together “with a new introduction and updating of the text. The cover is changed from a mosaic of three attentive sheep in the presence of the shepherd to three loping gazelles, indicating community and graceful, forward motion. But why? What have we learned over the fifteen years of attempting to practice discernment in leadership circles of congregations and assemblies? And why now? What still needs to be engaged and instilled?” Olsen writes:

So with the reissue of this book, where are we now with discernment? A doctoral candidate working on the subject of the fifteen year experience with the ten spiritual discernment movements that we had presented in the book asked, “What advice do you have to offer?” I impulsively said, “Stay with it. It is worth the effort.”

The transformation in the way we meet and decide is a continuing one and not a short term fix. It may take decades and even centuries. Folks continue to apply the ten movements and find connections to their own traditions and life situations.

Discernmentarians are finding ways to integrate them within the parliamentary culture we have inherited. Practicing discernment also opens our sight to the gifts that come from decision making practices of other cultures and religious traditions. In increasingly pluralistic cultures, Acts 15 continues to offer a way.

Stay with it in the midst of multiple cultures and world views.

Stay with it when personal preferences and personality styles operate together.

Stay with it, even when the biblical and doctrinal sources seem to lead in divergent paths.

Engaging in the practice of patient, prayerful discernment may seem at times messy, sometimes contradictory, and often conflicting. We will experience both delight and the disillusion with it. The Spirit will often turn us on our heads. But the practice is worth it. Stay with it.

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