Believe Out Loud Power Summit

The weekend of October 9-11, Rene Garcia and I were the Grace representatives to a conference in Orlando, with almost 100 other members of Lutherans Concerned, for an ecumenical training event on how to be more effective in our efforts to bring about full inclusion of LGBT folk into our respective churches. Methodists, Episcopalians, ELCA Lutherans, Presbyterians, members of the United Church of Christ, American Baptists, and others all came together to share stories and strategies, and to listen and learn even more at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit.

Administered by the Institute for Welcoming resources, the faith arm of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, this event was well-conceived and very powerful. There were four 3-day tracks from which to choose, where we each spent the full weekend learning, in-depth, about one specific aspect of the complete inclusion strategy.

I was assigned to the Conflict track – a perfect fit for the work that I do. Conflict management is most successful when the parties involved, even if they are in disagreement about certain issues, share a common vision and common values, so we began there, with interactive small group exercises. I learned that we can use these techniques in a setting either before a predicted conflict erupts (such as when a congregation begins discussions about becoming a reconciling, welcoming church) or even after conflict and division have been introduced (such as the current situation in the ELCA regarding sexuality policy change). The task is to work toward finding common ground – values and vision upon which all parties can agree.

Next comes an understanding of differing conflict styles for individuals and even for groups of people. Do we operate on principles of avoidance, compromise, conciliation, or collaboration? All have their up-sides and down-sides. No single one is right or wrong, but being able to identify what the predominant style is is necessary before fruitful change can be approached.

It was very rewarding, however, to be able to identify Grace as having a healthy collaborative style, because this requires a balance of power between parties in order to be effective. It was nice to be reminded that we have been able to traverse potentially dangerous periods of change with little or no divisive, negative conflict – as when we became an RIC congregation, when we called Pastor Lura in opposition to then-church policy, and when we determined to stretch ourselves in a specific, ambitious mission to our community, Montrose Grace Place. It was good to be able to fully appreciate (and to share with others) that Grace is truly a very healthy organization, and that we have handled conflict well in the past and can continue to do so in the future.

There was more, and several of the strategies will be very useful in my personal work to help resolve conflict and tension in our synod (see the Coalition for Education and Reconciliation article elsewhere in this newsletter).

As a faith-based event, Believe Out Loud also integrated wonderful worship; the keynote speakers were splendidly inspiring; and we came away refreshed and renewed and rejuvenated to continue this vitally important work.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in the full-inclusion effort, there is much that needs to be done; much that is happening now which can always use fresh energy – at national and local levels alike. Come find me. Let’s talk.

-Laura B