Equipping churches to have healthy conversations about the sort of society we wish to live in as Christians
A note on Conversation Welcome:
by Revd Phil Jump
“What? Not another one!” cried “Brenda from Bristol” when she heard about the 2017 General Election campaign.
It is tempting to respond similarly when we come across yet another resource that seems to be all about “Brexit”! It does feel at the moment as though every political appointment, policy and crisis is only ever evaluated in relation to Britain leaving the E.U.
Conversation Welcome certainly has its roots in that historic moment of decision in June 2016. However, it was not designed to perpetuate this ongoing singlemindedness, but precisely to draw attention to the other important public issues in our world that shouldn’t be forgotten amidst our Brexit mania.
One of the questions posed in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU is whether the quality of debate and conversation suffered along the way. So much political coverage in the media seems to have become reduced to trading insults, disparaging opponents and perpetuating misinformation and exaggeration. When that begins to happen, people can feel uneasy about engaging with those who feel differently to themselves, or struggle to find the words to challenge the narratives and assumptions that emerge on both sides.
Conversation Welcome is designed to help local churches and community groups provide a setting where informed, reasonable debate can take place. We need spaces where people can acknowledge their differences, learn from each other’s point of view and not simply “pigeon hole” one another as being utterly divided and in conflict. Without healthy conversation, differences can quickly become the divisions that damage and undermine our sense of community.
Whatever our eventual relationship with our European neighbours, if we are going to have a fair and just society, it will be because as local citizens and communities we have come together with a common determination for this to be the case. Conversation Welcome seeks to be a resource through which local churches can help generate that resolve and commitment.
So there is an urgent need for those who can bring people together, not to reach uniform agreement on every matter, but to demonstrate that informed and reasoned debate is a useful and wholesome expression of who we are as intelligent, social beings.
Conversation Welcome cannot achieve any of these ends as a resource on its own. But it can provide local churches, community and faith groups with some of the tools and resources they need to fulfil these roles. I believe that there has never been a more important time to initiate wholesome visionary discussions about the values, principles and priorities that will define our nations in the coming years.
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