Let me give you two examples from the Banners Across America anti-torture effort.
In this campaign, some congregations signed on that we knew would support it. For example, the local Quaker meeting and ministry partnership of Northside Presbyterian and St. Aidan’s Episcopal have strong histories of speaking out on social justice issues.
It was easy to convince them to put up banners.
But not every congregation was as easy.
One of our board members attends a local congregation that has a history of being more moderate. They tend to avoid social issues. So when he brought the banner idea to the Church Council, he faced a harder sell.
Is it too political? Will it alienate members?
After an hour of debate, the vote came in: a unanimous vote for hanging the banner.
It was a transformation for this church from not talking much about these issues to actively engaging with them. Furthermore, it was a transformation from discussing the issue within the church walls to visibly taking a stand in public.
The pastor has told me that he thinks that years from now the congregation will look back at this decision and see it as the turning point when the congregation decided to go “the Jesus way” of speaking out on moral issues like torture.
Another board member had a similar challenge when she brought the banner to her church. In the end, her congregation decided they didn’t have enough unity to hang a banner; but they did agree to host forums to discuss the issue within the congregation.
This too is transformation. This is engaging a congregation that hasn’t been very involved and reaching out to people who don’t yet agree with this position. It’s reaching new audiences. And I’m as satisfied by this “engaged no” as I am with the easy yes from the Quaker meeting.