Greetings of Pentecost! The beauty of the Pentecost celebration of Acts 2 is that people who lived in different cultural contexts could come together and despite the variety of languages they spoke, each person understood what was spoken by the apostles.
Pentecost is a time when we look at the beauty of diversity and pray for wisdom to celebrate this in the fullness of the Spirit. Trinity gives us a model where the distinct can remain united and unique at the same time.
At ACF we have a similar experience of celebrating languages and cultures that are different from each other. When a wide variety of people meet, one of the challenges would be the ethics and ethos of decision making. We need to go beyond the old normal when the majority was always right and the powerful always had their way.
When more than one person comes together there is always the potential for conflict and when we have people from different cultures and expectations living and worshipping together it is only normal that expectations and experiences could be in conflict. It is therefore important for us to define the basic paradigm of our working together and our decision making.
I would suggest the following guidelines, especially in a context wherein we have a Council that has all the six inhabited continents represented, and a community that speaks at least thirty different languages. In situations of decision making, especially when there is a potential conflict of interests involved the model that we will be looking at will be a combination of the following.
1. The Consensus Model
To be of one mind and one vision is a challenging call. However when there are different opinions placed at the table the following guidelines would help
a) All opinions properly heard
b) The majority and the powerful learn to listen intensely to other perspectives
c) Everyone invited to be on board on the discussion regards the decision
d) Everyone is free to have their opinion but should that insist that their opinions should be the decision of all
e) In situations where one mind is not easily achieved look at meeting points on the way where all can be on board
f) Be willing to wait till others also agree on what is being discussed and be willing to adjust as long as there is no scriptural conflict in the decision.
g) Realise that waiting as more useful than thrusting decisions that is unacceptable
h) In all these Love and Justice should be the core values of decision making
2. The Conflict Mitigation Model
Experience has often taught us that complete resolution of some conflicts are impossible as long there remain factors that keep fanning the coal. It is therefore helpful to look at a conflict mitigation model
a) Accept that in a culturally diverse context conflicts are natural and are bound to happen
b) Seeking and Defining the root issue behind the conflict is always helpful
c) Eliciting Information on the larger context of the conflict and Eliminating uncertainty around the same is crucial.
d) Once the roots are clear then the next step would be Detecting and Diagnosing the issue
e) A collective brainstorming in Defining the best ways of mitigating would be helpful
f)A practical way forward would be Designing and Developing a mitigation plan
g) Implementing the plan taking all parties on board would be important
h) This could sometime take time and therefore patiently and Constantly evaluating the impact of the intervention would be necessary
i) Ensuring the conflict does not surface in the same mode again would be a commitment of all parties involved.
3. The Collegiality Model
The web of positive relationships should always define a community. There is friendship, equality and love that defines communities. When collegiality defines relationships dealing with conflicts takes a new form. The well being and good of the other also become primary concern of each. In this model
a) Each is considered Equal to any other and therefore all would be looking at the good of each and each will be looking at the well-being of all
b) Boundaries are set and respected in all dignity
c) The three models- Thinking First, Seeing First, Doing First- find meeting place. We acknowledge that each person approaches issues differently and once we understand that, appreciating why people behave the way they do would be possible
c) Forgiveness, Adaptation and Letting Go mindset is crucial in healthy friendships and this will be helpful in decision making in difficult contexts
4. The Collaborative Model
Working Together in Harmony is the basic punchline of community living. Beyond the confines of friendship this model calls for engagement with the “other” and “the othered” creatively.
a) Different Skill sets are recognised and adapted into teams
b) The Strategic and Routine are understood as having a variety of possibilities
c) Policy Matters and Operational Matters need to be understood and spelt out clearly so that everyone understands the vision and that the decisions made are leading towards a goal.
d) Each acting as a catalyst. Decision making is not external to the actual implementation and everyone would have a part to play in the decisions finding fruit.
e) The sense of ownership of all despite the manifestations of differences should help think beyond the walls and look at building bridges together.
f) Constantly Evaluating the Outcomes, Costs and Consequences would help maintaining trust and avoiding corrupting influences creeping in
5. The CHARIS Focussed Model
The preferential option of Jesus to the marginalised should be another defining guideline to all our decision making. CHARIS or GRACE should be the focus of this model.
a) The Least, Last and the Lost should be the primary focus in any decision making with the guideline that no decision should cause further jeopardy for them
b) The Vulnerable always finds priority and justice to those in the edges would be ensured
c) No form of discrimination in whatsoever manner will be appreciated
d) There will be Zero Tolerance to time tested manifestations of violent behavior
e) Past experiences and Cognitive biases will be considered, forgiveness would be one of the option to deal with past trauma but justice would demand recompense and restoration.
f) The overarching grace of God would be revealed in each decision made
All our decisions should be scripturally grounded. One of the passages that always challenged me in defining community was…
For this to happen we need to have a spirit filled paradigm of the accepted and appreciated norms of living together.
May God bless with a blessed Pentecost season
Rev’d Vinod Victor
Chaplain, Anglican Church of Freiburg
on June 1, 2022