In the following message, Gregg Kaufman describes an ongoing project to help people talk about gender-based violence using an issue guide titled Gender-based Violence: What Steps Should the Church Take? The issue guide was prepared for use during the project, but is available as a free download for anyone who would like to use it.
In a blog post this past September 12, 2015, Gregg Kaufman described an endeavor to introduce deliberative dialogue in faith communities with an issue entitled Gender-based Violence: What Steps Should the Church Take? The issue guide was developed to complement an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) teaching document, A Social Message on Gender-based Violence and stimulate dialogue in Lutheran congregations. While the resource addressed a particular denomination’s social message, any faith community is welcome to use the issue guide. Kaufman and his ELCA colleagues are devoting 2016 for congregations to host forums. This is where the project stands at the mid-point of the year.
Nearly 800 issue books have been distributed to over 40 religious organizations and passed on to affiliated congregations. Five congregations, one university class, and one clergy workshop totaling 93 people have used the issue book with 53 people completing post-forum surveys. 64% Strongly Agree and 32% Agree with the statement, “The deliberative forum is a helpful dialogue process.” Another statement, “I would recommend using deliberative dialogue to discuss future ELCA social statements and messages” yielded 67.9% Strongly Agree and 28.3% Agree responses. Among many favorable open-ended question responses, one forum participant wrote, “I would like to see this program happen in EVERY church. It was a wonderfully done forum and I am impressed with all of the deeply sensitive thought that went into creating this forum and that there were guidelines for the leader that enhanced the sense of safety. Bravo ELCA, I am proud to be part of such a forward-looking and open church (to the extent that it is possible) and my awareness of the work (both with churches and PARTICULARLY in current seminary education toward this goal.” That’s the Good News.
Clearly, convening faith community forums on a difficult topic is a challenge. Despite encouraging messages, phone calls, and an article promoting the resource in a denominational publication with 50,000 recipients, participation in the gender-based violence forums has been limited. That said there is hope that the second half of 2016 will result in more forums.
Comments, ideas, and suggestions relative to clever promotional strategies are welcome. How are others engaging faith communities in deliberative dialogue? What are your success stories?