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Original Cover of the Study written by Dr. Erwin Buck

original cover art for Studies on Homosexuality and the Church

 

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Guide for Caring Conversations
Origins of the Caring Conversation Model

In March, 1999, the National Church Council passed a motion stating that the ELCIC would strive to create an environment which would enable the church to develop policies and ministries that will lead to a more inclusive and welcoming place for gay and lesbian people. At the 1999 National Convention in Regina a model for Caring Conversations was piloted. The convention took action to affirm that Caring Conversations be recommended to all ELCIC synods, conferences and congregations. Since that time, numerous Caring Conversations have occurred throughout the ELCIC.

What Is a Caring Conversation?


A caring conversation is an opportunity for members of the ELCIC to listen to the experiences of gay and lesbian people and their families. The Christ-like qualities of respect, empathy and care are important components of the conversation. Divisive, argumentative and judging behaviour is inappropriate and unwelcome. In listening to one another, there is hope that the ELCIC and its congregations will begin to extend a genuine welcome to those sisters and brothers in Christ who are lesbian or gay.

Suggested Format for a Caring Conversation


After introductory remarks each guest is given 10-15 minutes to share their story. Depending on the number of guests, this portion will be approximately one hour in length. When all the stories have been heard, a question period of approximately 30 minutes gives listeners the opportunity to ask questions. These questions are of a clarification or elaborative nature. Finally a shorter time (15-20 minutes) is slotted for the important work of reflection on the conversation, usually in small groups.

  1. Welcome.

  2. Devotions: suggested text Philippians 1: 27-2:11.

  3. Summary of the origin of the model.

  4. Explain the format for the Caring Conversation (an agenda/outline on a flipchart may be helpful).

  5. Review the ground rules.

  6. Introduction of and presentation by the panel of guest speakers (approx. 15 min.).

  7. Questions from the listeners for clarification (approx. 30 min.).

  8. Small group reflection (15-20 min.).

  9. Wind up, thanks.

Ground Rules

  1. The focus/intention of the conversation is the stories. Our work is to listen carefully, sensitively and empathetically, maintaining a Christ-like attitude.

  2. Debate, criticism, analysis, advice-giving will not be permitted. The role of the facilitator is to ensure that a caring atmosphere is maintained. The facilitator may interrupt, ask for clarification on the part of the questioner, or call a brief time out if necessary. The purpose of the question period is clarification of what has been shared.

  3. The facilitator will serve as moderator of the conversation, ensuring that everyone who wishes to speak has an opportunity. The facilitator will encourage the listeners to phrase their questions in a simple and straightforward manner.

  4. If at any point in the conversation the guest panelists feel uncomfortable, they will indicate same to the facilitator. This may arise unintentionally. Regardless, the guest panelists may decline to respond to any question that they are not prepared to answer.

  5. No interruptions.

Small Group Reflection


Groups of 3-4 people meet to discuss what they have learned in this experience. Use these questions to facilitate the discussion:

  • What new insights have you from this conversation?

  • What have you learned?

  • What was valuable?

Pre-Conversation Checklist


In preparation for a Caring Conversation the following steps are recommended:

  1. Identify a sponsoring congregation.

  2. Identify a facilitator with an understanding of the issue and an ability to respond in this setting with sensitivity, caring and objectivity.

  3. Identify a target population.

  4. Develop publicity to describe the goals of the Caring Conversation.

    • to listen to the stories of those living with issues of homosexuality

    • to attend prayerfully with a desire to discern the will of God for themselves and their congregation

  5. Set out the ground rules for the event.

  6. Identify possible outcomes.

  7. Identify guest speakers who will serve on the panel.

The facilitator will recruit guest speakers to serve as panelists. Presenters can be identified through the facilitator's own personal network or by contacting the National Office of the ELCIC or Lutherans Concerned-Canada.

It is important that the facilitator meet with the guest panelists prior to the Caring Conversation to establish rapport and build trust. It is also useful for the panelists to meet each other and clarify names and agree on an order for presentation of the stories.

Wind Up


This is a time to say thank you to those who have shared their stories and also to those who have listened. As a church striving to be a more inclusive and welcoming place for gay and lesbian people, all in attendance need to be commended for their participation.

Debriefing


The facilitator is encourage to meet with the panelists immediately following the conversation to debrief participants about the experience.

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
© Copyright 2007 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada