GROUND RULES
for Christians in Dialogue
"Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ (adapted by the Rev. Virginia Rickeman)"

The following ground-rules are recommended for church discussions of controversial topics:

We believe that the purpose of Christian discussion is to seek Biblical and theological understanding. We seek the mind of Christ, and thus the unity of the Church, on all matters.
When there is disagreement, we recognize that the participants in the discussion are Christians seeking to be loyal to their own convictions. Church members are brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, we strive to be respectful in word, tone and manner.

To that end, we agree to:
speak honestly and with regard for the feelings of others
listen attentively to each other, without interrupting
speak from our own experience
avoid sweeping generalizations
keep comments brief and to the point so that everyone has a chance to speak
stay open to the idea that everyone has something important to contribute to the discussion
refrain from applause
try to understand others’ views, knowing that understanding need not imply agreement
delight in each other

We understand that the mind of Christ is not always discovered by voting, which creates winners and losers, often dividing rather than unifying the Church. A numerical majority is not, by strength of numbers, necessarily more in conformity to the mind of Christ than is the minority. Disagreement may be evidence that no one has discerned the mind of Christ and further discussion is necessary.
Since God in Christ has shown the divine self to be most present with those who suffer, we will strive to give tender attention to the voices of those who are suffering physical, emotional and spiritual pain around any issue.

We believe that each person participating in a discussion is on a life-long journey of faith. Each is at a particular point along the way to answering perplexing life questions. No one this side of the Realm of God has yet reached complete knowledge, so humility is always appropriate Christian behavior.