In this post, Gregg Kaufman describes some present and future projects in which some faith communities will be exploring the use of National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) materials to help people talk about difficult and important public issues.
Faith Communities and Civic Life
by Gregg Kaufman
American faith communities associated with Judaism, Islam, Christianity and different religious traditions care deeply about many of the same issues about which the National Issues Forum Institute (NIFI) publishes deliberative dialogue materials. Religious organizations prepare educational materials about issues such as environmental challenges, criminal justice, race and cultural understanding, the economy, and education. Once more, these communities represent tens of thousands of citizens who convene regularly for worship, learning, and service. How might NIFI introduce deliberative dialogue as a valuable method for discourse in faith community settings? Here are two current projects.
Gregg Kaufman, an NIFI network member and Lutheran pastor, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) staff, are collaborating on a project dedicated to raising awareness about and making choices regarding the tragedy of gender-based violence in America. The ELCA is preparing a formal “social message,” a teaching document to be approved by the denomination’s governing body in November 2015. Kaufman prepared a corresponding deliberative dialogue guide, Gender-based Violence: What Steps Should the Church Take? The guide will be made available to congregations this autumn and a post-forum online survey will collect feedback about the issue and the deliberative process.
The Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington, D.C. advocacy offices will host a bishops’ conference in September that will coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to Washington. Deliberative Discipleship – Deliberative Democracy is the conference theme. Bishops will have the opportunity to become familiar with deliberative democracy and NIFI issue guides that reflect some of the concerns that the Pope and leaders of many religious bodies are mutually concerned about; economic inequality, immigration, strong families, and protecting the environment.
Faith communities have the capacity to bring people with deep concerns for public issues together. How can deliberative democracy practitioners develop productive alliances?
For more information about these projects contact: