[Springboard] Consensus Method

david442 at cox.net david442 at cox.net
Fri Nov 9 11:43:41 EST 2007


I followed with great interest the comments on the consensus method taking place on the list serves and what Jeanette pulled together.  What a rich journey we’ve all been taking in how this decision making process has evolved!!!!

I drew two conclusions:  1)  there’s no set down in stone “consensus method” as practiced by the Order: Ecumenical.  And 2) all of our group methods grew out of and embody our best wisdom on how a group of people, large or small, arrives at a decision about some aspect of its life together and its future.

I also went to the Golden Pathways CD-ROM.  I did find an article in the index:  Methods:  Consensus Method.  However, that appears to be a talk given by Joe Mathews mostly about what he saw at the time (it doesn’t say when) the Order needed to be doing.  The opening paragraph does give a hint or two about what our method was – something about the Panjayat needs to “inject its symbolism into the next council and declare XX needs to be done.”  Interesting, don’t you think?

The article also refers to the Taize Community in France and its Rule as to the origins of our consensus method.  However, when I consulted their website I was unable to read their Rule nor able to get a sense of how they make decisions.

Soooooo…..I was thrown back to my own memory.  In several occasions I remember us forming a decision that we acted upon by “consensus”.  As Pat and I talked several components of the process came out when formally applied as such. # 1. We began with the assumption and realization that there is something called a “group mind”.  This meant that any group that gathers in some sense or another has a group mind already formed about what needs to be done, even if its only about what color to paint the toilet seats.  The article on the Golden Pathways refers to bigger decisions, like whether it was time to take our programs and offices into Eastern Europe – a real biggy.

#2 Once you make that assumption then you ask that someone say, “Our consensus is …..”  and spell out in some detail a model for doing X, Y or Z.  Then, if anyone objects to that consensus, that someone needs to say, “No,  the consensus (our group mind) is …..”  I believe only a few of us were able to pick up on this group mind business.   And very few of us ever got very skilled at “reading” a group mind.

Some helpful steps Pat & I remembered feed into this process.  Once a model or plan is presented you first ask for questions of clarity.  This usually fleshed out the plan more completely.  Then, you also ask once everyone is clear about the plan as presented, does anyone have any concerns about this plan?  Once these are heard then someone in the group is able to say, “The consensus is ….” In that statement you were trying to give a more inclusive statement of the group mind.  You couldn’t simply state your own personal opinion as such.  We will paint the toilet seats red and leave the handles silver.  Or “yes we’ll send a team to set up a house in Vienna.”

I got into this discussion because I’ve been asked to lead a session with a group in my local church next Monday evening.  The plan is to start a Wednesday evening service on a regular basis.  So if anyone has some wisdom on the best way to facilitate such a meeting, I’d appreciate your input.  But soon.  The idea is to begin training our church and its working teams or committees on making decisions by consensus since that is in our by-laws as the way we will make decisions.

David McCleskey

More information about the Springboard mailing list