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We have our seventh Courageous Conversation Sunday, April 28, 2019. The topic for this Courageous Conversation is human sexuality and gender.

Sex is God’s idea. Most humans love it but it stresses us out to talk about it and figure out how much it matters to our faith and church life. The leadership at The Journey cares about every part of our lives because we believe God cares about every part of the lives he created. 

Based on some feedback from participants, we realize some Courageous Conversations weren’t as conversational or open to broad views as we would like to believe they were. Some held back views because they felt topics were angled toward a particular agenda.

The only agenda we want is God’s. We believe that comes not by preacher, shepherds, every person doing their thing but by hearing the word of God in community discernment through prayer, hearing one another’s voices, and following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, we would like to experiment with giving each Bible study group a resource for the Courageous Conversation topic and let you return to your regular gathering space, pray, and have courageous conversations there. 

Finally, we realize we don’t really have enough time in one hour, that we only give preludes to what we believe will be further courageous conversations in our homes, leadership, future Bible studies, worship times, and informal gatherings. May God bless us as we go to our small group Bible study gathering spaces.


For your review, here are some resources and portions of previous courageous conversations.

What led us to Courageous Conversations?

In response to our need to learn how to talk in healthy ways through church conflict, important issues, about our life choices, and about issues of justice we want to learn how to address together, the elders and Greg Taylor decided to open what we are calling, “Courageous Conversations.” Greg asked Carl and Janice Harris to help moderate some of the sessions that would be held monthly on Sundays.

The goal of Courageous Conversations is to create safe space for all people to listen to one another share concerns, stories, ideas that lead to growing spiritually together in deeper understanding, love, and acceptance of one another and God.

In a sermon, Greg told the story of Deborah as a model for how we may fight the evil in our world, injustices, hatred, war, violence, sin. But we must first fight the evil, the sin within our own hearts. Greg read 1 Peter 4:17 about first judging our own households before judging outside the church. 

Greg explained that we often send out our “guard dog” to attack issues or people when we feel threatened. We need to consider that we each also have a “wise owl” of the Spirit of wisdom of God in us that can be deployed instead of our guard dog. The guard dog has a purpose, to protect us in extremely dangerous situations, but the guard dog can really injure people when deployed unwisely and rashly. The wise owl is what we’re going to try and bring to these courageous conversations.

The elders in their letter called us to fast and pray the week of August 19-26, 2018 by skipping seven meals. They can be seven meals in a row or seven during those seven days. What is important is that we as a church commit together to prayer and fasting about a very important season.


Greg Taylor invited Kris King to host The Journey’s First Courageous Conversation in August 2018

The Journey began Courageous Conversations August 26, 2018. Preacher Greg Taylor decided to invite Kris King to kick off Courageous Conversations. Read more about Kris King below.

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Kristen King is the lead organizer of ACTION-Tulsa, a project affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). She has been an organizer with the IAF for 18 years, working in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. She has a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. Ms. King is married, has two great kids both in graduate school, and just became a grandmother for the first time. 


Ground Rules for Courageous Conversations

Kris King, Greg Taylor, and Janice and Carl Harris helped us develop ground rules for Courageous Conversations

Jill Taylor took these notes of Kristen King’s two sessions Aug 26, 2018 at The Journey.

  1. We will create a safe space for all people to listen to one another share concerns, stories, ideas so we grow deeper in love, wider in understanding, and greater in collective action.

  2. We’re not here to chit chat, problem solve, debate. It’s Courageous Conversations, not opinions.

  3. We’re here to take the risk of sharing our own stories.

  4. We’re here to respectfully listen to others’ stories.

  5. We will be fair, not judge others, and humbly become aware that no one has a final answer to the question at hand.

  6. We will use first person “I” statements and speak only what love requires and nothing more or less.

  7. We will explore the depth and complexity of human relationships, needs, interests, and injustices.

  8. We will patiently realize that anything worthwhile takes lots of time, many conversations, and we will not abandon the process.

A group of about a dozen people met at Foolish Things Coffee Shop after Kris King spoke, and we talked further about how Courageous Conversations are meant to lead our church to collective actions of love, mercy, and justice for those groups of people we feel passionate about, both in and outside of our church, in our community.

Pam Rushmore asked about biblical connections to Courageous Conversations . . . in addition to what we’re already doing in the Bible Project to connect with CC, starting in December we’ll be in the Gospel of Luke. So as we move through Courageous Conversations in 2018-19, we’ll see and hear about Jesus taking actions, as we contemplate moving from conversations to actions in 2019!

You can also hear Kris King’s sessions by clicking the buttons below.


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We also explained in August 2018 that we will focus on learning to listen to one another's stories. Greg asked Janice Harris and Carl Harris to help moderate. Each of the three have have lots of experience in helping groups form and stay together, and learning each other's stories more deeply, rather than trying to achieve agreement about everything. 

One time a month, we’ll gather again as a church for another Courageous Conversation. In September Carl and Janice moderated the opening of topics we might discuss during Courageous Conversations. How did they do this?

First, they gave us “Courageous Conversations Guiding Principles.” These are displayed on this web page and can be downloaded and printed for use by any church. They are adapted by Joseph Phelps.

Some of the material we are using, including the title, “Courageous Conversations,” comes from the Methodist Discipleship Website.

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The most important first activity we did with the group gathered from adult and youth Bible study groups on a Sunday morning September 2018 was to give time for each person to either speak or write a response to this question: “What is the most important issue in your life right now?”

The card we used to receive these answers is below. What is important to point out here is that we developed topics for Courageous Conversations directly from the top responses. People wanted to talk about grief and loss, politics, social justice issues like immigration, racism, and human sexuality. There were comments and suggestions on more than twenty different topics, but we chose the top half dozen to focus on for this year.

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Courageous Conversation on Grief and Loss October 2018

Carl and Janice Harris led the first topical Courageous Conversation. We wanted to begin a topic that would unify us and not divide us. We first asked for the congregation to tell stories about grief and loss. People told about the pain of losing love ones, jobs, relationships, and purpose. We grew together by talking about emotionally difficult things that we all have to some degree. We practiced telling brief stories about our grief and loss without judgment of one another.

Courageous Conversation on Family Conflict November 2018

Leading up to the holidays, we decided to do another unifying courageous conversation. We expect courageous conversations to break out of “church” circles and go into family, work, and neighborhood. So we proposed a story and a question. Story: “Tell us a story of a family conflict you’ve experienced. Question: “How can you approach family conflicts applying the principles we’re learning in courageous conversations?”

Some families reported they applied these principles and their family gatherings were much more pleasant, but that doesn’t mean they avoided hard topics. Instead, they followed the principles of listening, hearing stories, non-judgment, compassion, widening understanding, and deepening love for family members.

Courageous Conversation on Race January 27, 2019 

Twenty people spoke and told brief stories about when we first learned race was a thing. 

Clarence Davis told about how he drank from “colored only” water fountains, how the rest rooms and services for “colored only” were not clean like the ones for the whites. 

Greg Taylor told about a friend he treated with racism, and he shared his belief that we all have racism we must continue to become aware of and let God change.

Some of the Courageous Conversations include visuals such as videos and handouts. The following is the content for the Courageous Conversation on Race that we called, “Who is my neighbor?” We encouraged each person to think of ways you have been challenged to expand your view of neighbor. We challenged each person to think about the first time you learned racism was a thing, how you became away of the racial codes of difference. How did you challenge the racial codes in your mind? How do you still think of these racial differences?


OVERVIEW

  • Today’s topic is “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 9:46-50 and 10:25-37). 

  • This is not a debate, information gathering, or consensus making.

  • Aim is to listen and uncover assumptions about who is our neighbor today.

PRAYER FOR SETTING ASIDE BAGGAGE

Take a few minutes to internally become aware or verbally share fears, questions, hesitancies about this topic. This is a time to name and listen not discuss, which comes later.

PERSONAL ASSESSMENT 

  • Read the text of Luke 9:46-50 and 10:25-37. What do these biblical stories say about who our neighbor is? 

  • Write down other Bible texts, stories, and opinions you have about who your neighbor is.

ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURES ON NEIGHBORS

Genesis 1:27; Leviticus 19:18, 33-34; Exodus 12:38; Joshua 2:10-14, 9:3-27; Acts 8:26-39, 10:34-35; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 3:1-11.

STORYTELLING

  • Tell a story about a time when you expanded your definition of neighbor. 

  • Tell a story about the first time you realized race was a thing, that your race is different than others.

  • Listening to others: “One thing that I will take with me from this conversation is…”

APPLICATIONS

  • How do these biblical texts and our discussion relate to how we interact with people of different nations, races, languages?

  • What barriers and boundaries do you observe in the culture around you, in your community, even your church?

  • What barriers exist between our faith community and others?

  • What is one way, large or small, that you/we could break through this barrier and begin to dismantle the isolated security of our faith community?

CLOSING PRAYER

This Courageous Conversation was developed based on UMC Discipleship:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/courageous-conversations-about-race


Courageous Conversation on Immigration February 2019 

In January 2019, Greg Taylor traveled with fellow students of Phillips Theological Seminary to Tucson, Arizona to learn and observe the humanitarian issues at the United States-Mexico borders. The group was guided by an organization called Borderlinks. The most striking thing I learned is that from 6,029 to 8,600 people have died crossing the desert in the past twenty years. According to a report prepared in partnership with No Mas Muertes the “Border Patrol claims that at least 6,029 border crossers have died crossing into the United States since the 1990s. However, audits suggest that the agency underestimates the number of border deaths by as much as 43 percent, which yields a death count of over 8,600 people in the US borderlands” (Source: La Coalición de Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths).

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In the Courageous Conversation on Immigration, Greg told a story about the Borderlinks trip in Tucson, Arizona. Greg came away with a much wider understanding of immigration and border issues and much deeper compassion for this people involved. 

Greg asked Journey staff members Bartola Kuruvilla and Nyasha Peters to give a video testimony about the difficulties they face with immigration. Nyasha and Bartola both have their work permits and permanent residence status, and they are now working on citizenship. So far these processes have taken each of them about five years and thousands of dollars.

The goal of hearing a story about Greg’s trip and hearing from Nyasha and Bartola is not to agree on immigration politics but to widen our world view and understanding and deepen our compassion for loving action toward immigrants in and outside of our church.


Courageous Conversation on Missions and Risking Our Lives March 2019

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Pam Arlund from All Nations told the story of John Allen Chau, a missionary sent by All Nations, who was martyred.

The session was emotional because John’s death was tragic, and Pam Arlund and All Nations had to speak to global media about the loss. All Nations was criticized by media and the public for John’s actions of going in to what some believed was a closed island.

We learned during the session, however, that the island was indeed open, that John did things culturally appropriately to enter the island, and several other misconceptions were dispelled by Pam’s Q&A about the death of Chau.

We also discussed the risk of going on mission and that we often pray for protection and want guarantees for safety for our brothers and sisters who go. But we have no such guarantees. Some voices in the congregation mused about how we applaud military but do not applaud missionaries who sacrifice and go into dangerous missions.


Courageous Conversation on Gender and Sexuality

After a particularly difficult summer 2018 where some Journey members objected to lifestyle choices of other members, the shepherds placed in the August 5, 2018 bulletin a letter to address this situation. They stated that we will continue walking with people through their questionable or sinful choices, and we’ll do so lovingly, sensitively, and discretely as we can.

We discussed in sermons, Bible studies, and personal conversations how we do not want to fall into ditches of condemnation or accommodation but to loving walk with people through life decisions. We all have next steps to take with Jesus.

So at the end of the summer of 2018, we decided to begin “Courageous Conversations” in order to understand how to more lovingly live with one another. We began with unifying and not divisive courageous conversations and have practiced in order to come to some of the more difficult to talk about, such as politics, racism, immigration, and sexuality.

See you Sunday when we’ll again convene our adult and youth Bible classes together in the auditorium from 9:30 am to 10:30 am. for the next Courageous Conversation.


Courageous Actions!

Courageous Conversations are meant not for agreement but wider understanding of one another, deeper love, and growing in shared passion for how to act as a church to show love and mercy toward a group or injustice in our community. Easter Week 2019 we begin a new season of discernment, Bible reading, and prayer about how the early church inspires us to respond to the “Radical Acts of Love” of God!

The whole point of the courageous conversations is to understand and love so we can do radical acts of love together. We show God’s radical love for the world when diverse people get along and do radical acts of love for the world. This collective action is developed together in this courageous conversation process. This is an alternative to our preacher or elders choosing our collective actions or each person individually doing whatever he or she feels is right. We discover our shared passion and do a radical act of love together.


Greg Taylor, preaching minister of The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Greg Taylor, preaching minister of The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Greg Taylor, M.Div.

Greg Taylor is the preacher for The Journey. He holds degrees in Print Journalism from Harding University and a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology. Greg is working on his Doctor of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where The Journey is located. Greg is married to Jill, who is a math teacher at Broken Arrow High School. They have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob, and of course they are very proud of each of what God has done in each one of their lives. Greg is author of several books you can order from your favorite bookseller.

 
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