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The Amur Tigers Need You!

Posted: December 20, 2016 by Rob Voyle

This time last year my wife Kim and I were returning from a tiger tracking expedition in Eastern Russia. Tiger conservation is an expression of Kim's love of cats and especially tigers which are her great love. And I would like to share the story of how we created the Trees for Tigers 501c3 charity.

The Amur tiger, also known as a Siberian tiger is the largest of all cats and is critically endangered with only an estimated 500 remaining in the wild.

While the tigers in the area we visited are not generally threatened by poaching as they are in other areas they do face another substantial threat: Disposable Chopsticks! Yes you read that right, Disposable Chopsticks.

The tiger's wilderness forest is being legally and illegally harvested, trucked across the border to China, machined into disposable chopsticks and exported to Japan and Asian themed restaurants here in the US.

Tigers don't specifically need trees, but their primary food source, the wild boar does. For the wild boar to flourish they need nut bearing trees such as the Mongolian oak and the Manchurian walnut.

While we didn't see any tigers in the wild we did see many tracks and were within 20 minutes of at least one tiger based on freshness of the tiger tracks. What we also saw was their natural habitat in Dumiskoye a wilderness reserve overseen by Alexander Batalov a Russian conservationist and authority on the Amur tiger and Himalayan bear that also inhabits the area.

It's natural when seeing something bad, such as the destruction of the tiger habitat, fueled by greed it is easy to get angry and focus on getting people to stop doing these bad things.

From an Appreciative Inquiry perspective problems exist because we keep asking the wrong questions, or focusing in the wrong direction. As we tracked and then spent the long nights enjoying good conversation, great hospitality at the reserve, and lots of laughter my mind began to think of the questions that weren't being asked.

While poaching isn't a significant problem where we were, indifference to their plight will kill off the remaining tigers. But if we were to think of the problem of poaching, most people focus on stopping the poaching. I think we need to ask a different question:

What do we need to do to make a live tiger (or other endangered species) more valuable than a dead tiger?

One of the answers to that question is eco-tourism. Where the local population benefit financially from those who come to see the tigers. And like all good appreciative inquiry interventions there are also multiple benefits, because people who come to these places are profoundly impacted and changed.

When awe and wonder touch the human soul all sorts of good things happen.

As I sat at the dining table drinking vodka, and laughing outrageously as we told jokes in Russian, German and English and watched Viktor our great interpreter try to translate a joke that relies on a play of words. I sat and marveled with some sadness over who had taught us to be afraid of one another and consider each other an enemy. Here we were joined in laughter and a joint concern for the well-being of such a magnificent animal as the tiger. We had found a common ground that was not just good for each one of us, but connected us to something far greater than ourselves.

Another question began to echo in my mind. How can I become part of a solution? It is easy to sit and talk and ask who is to blame for some problem. In the Appreciative Way we begin by changing the question and the focus.

It is easy to say what the government should do or what other people should, which all avoids the question, what can I do?

Personally, as an engineer, I like simple, practical solutions. The problem is deforestation the solution is reforestation. But not just any reforestation. Most of the cut over forests, being wilderness, quickly regenerate with white larch, however these trees have no benefit to wild boar or tigers. It takes many generations before the oak and walnut and other nut bearing trees return.

As I pondered these problems my memory took me back to a story I had hear many years before about Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, a contemporary in the British navy of Lord Nelson. This was a time of wooden sailing ships built primarily from oak. When he was on leave Collingwood was fond of walking and hiking and would always have one of his pockets filled with acorns, which he would plant wherever he thought was a good spot for an oak tree. This simple act was his way of ensuring an ongoing supply of the lumber from which to build new ships.

In conversation with Kim and Martin Royle of Royle Safaris who was our tour guide and also shares our passion for tigers, and with Alexander we started an organization Trees for Tigers which we have now incorporated into a charitable organization. It is a collaborative effort with all the stakeholders to create a safe and sustainable habitat for people and tigers in Eastern Russia.

Our three core collaborative activities are:

Reforestation of logged areas with a balanced ecosystem of trees that can sustain wild boar and consequently tigers. This will include research into the best practices of creating sustainable forests.

Promoting eco-tourism to ensure that live tigers are more valuable to the people than dead tigers. Eco-tourism also build bridges of cross-cultural awareness that can further collaboration for environmental conservation.

Education, partly through the eco-tourism, and partly through direct education programs in schools and conservation groups. The education will focus not only on the plight of the tigers, but on the simple things people can do to be part of the solution.

We are currently working on a website: http://www.treesfortigers.org that describes in more detail the challenges the tigers face and the nature of our work.

If you would like to join us in our efforts on behalf of the Amur Tiger:

Educate people about the negative impact of disposable chopsticks and refrain from using them when they are offered.

If my newsletters over the years have proven helpful to you in your life and work I invite you to make a Christmas gift to the Trees for Tigers. You can do so online at: https://www.treesfortigers.org/donate.cfm

And in the meantime I encourage you when faced with a problem to listen to the questions being asked and then ask the question that isn't being asked. As my friend Steve Andreas says, "it is easy to spot wrong answers but much harder to spot wrong questions," and I would add it would be simpler to ask the question that isn't being asked.

With Christmas Blessings

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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No Reconciliation Without Repentance

Posted: December 2, 2016 by Rob Voyle

There is much talk in our society today about coming together, unity, and reconciliation. And most of the talk is actually making things worse rather than creating unity and reconciliation. My personal response to most of the calls for reconciliation is: "reconciliation, you have got to be crazy ... over my dead body (I hope it doesn't come to that) but my revulsion to the idea of reconciliation is pretty intense because I will never reconcile with hate and the denigration of others."

As those who know of my recent work, I am on a mission to teach the world to forgive, so the issue of reconciliation often comes up in conversation, especially because forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different realities that are often confused.

Forgiveness is how I deal with my past and those who have hurt me. It is totally independent of the offender, forgiveness is how I chose to live today in response to what others have done to me in the past.

Reconciliation is about the future, it is an agreement between two or more people about how they will live and work together in the future. And my basic rule is, never be reconciled to those who violate my values. Jesus forgave the Romans, even as they pounded nails into his body, but he was never reconciled to the mission of Rome.

However, I also believe that we have been given a ministry of reconciliation, not a ministry of tolerance, nor of conflict management, but of reconciliation. So how are we to reconcile.

I don't think there can be any reconciliation until there is repentance. In South Africa, it was Truth and Reconciliation, not denial and reconciliation, nor truth and punishment. We can not gloss over those acts where lives were destroyed and others profoundly restricted in their access to the resources they need for daily living and thriving.

So before there can be any reconciliation there needs to be repentance.

To actually repent we need to do three things - the 3Rs of Repentance.

We need to "Recognize" that we have done wrong or are heading in the wrong direction. We can not reconcile with anyone who does not recognize what they have done wrong, and similarly we can not reconcile until we recognize that we have also done wrong.

We then need to "Regret" that we have done wrong. This is counting the cost of what we have done. Many people know they are doing something wrong but don't regret it, especially when the cost of their actions is not immediate. Sadly, we may only discover the real cost when it is too late to halt the consequences we have set in motion. With respect to reconciliation we need to regret the enormous cost of sustained hatred. Unfortunately in our society we put such a huge value on revenge and getting even that we rarely count the cost of our hate motivated social and political processes.

We need to "Reorient" from what we have been doing and turn to what we need to be doing. We can not be reconciled unless we turn from our hate based motivations. Here is where we need to reorient from hate to curiosity and compassion to discover the deeper values that we do share and on which we can build a foundation of reconciliation.

At the moment we are arguing over strategies to achieve something of dubious value, and the real issues are being unexplored. For example when people are living in poverty they are not interested in being great, they are interested in their next meal. And as long as there are people in our world who think a cold, secondhand chunk of pizza would be great I have failed, and we as a nation have failed, to repent and reorient which are the precursors and path to reconciliation.

I wish you a Blessed Advent with much repentance and path straightening as we prepare for the coming of the one we follow and call Lord.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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Confessions and Repentance for Election Failure!

Posted: November 11, 2016 by Rob Voyle

My first confession is that this is all in hindsight and comes under the heading: I really should have known better.

Like many in our country I awoke Wednesday feeling physically miserable and distraught because of the results of the election. My emotions ranged from anger, fear, sadness, bewilderment, and concern for those who would be preaching this Sunday.

But my mood has changed and what I would have said this Sunday if I was preaching has also changed.

Here is my personal reflection:

The extreme emotions I and many have felt, are what many millions in our country would have felt if the vote had gone the other way. I now get it!

To bring this home to our churches when people have been in torment over the way a decision, especially on issues of sexuality, has not gone their way and I would stand bewildered by their degree of torment. I now get and have empathy for that distress and I want to know more, to discover the core of that distress.

Here is my personal confession for my failure. Taking responsibility for that which is in my locus of control has actually been helpful in reducing my distress.

My first failing is that for the past year I have focused totally on why Mr. Trump was unfit to be president, and he regularly gave us evidence to confirm my perception, so I kept paying attention to why he was wrong and delighted in the new evidence I could add to my list.

As a leading practitioner in the field of Appreciative Inquiry where we say "what we focus on will become our reality," I really should have known better.

My second failing was my utter arrogance in looking down on those who supported Mr. Trump, without considering for an instance what their pain was that would make them want to vote for him. I gave them the tag idiots and then could dismiss their pain, their concerns, their fears.

As the founder of the Appreciative Way, with its foundation in compassion I really should have done better to listen to and understand those who differ from me and to find a common ground of core values rather than argue about strategies to achieve a very temporal solution to perceived problems.

One of my core values is the baptismal promise "to respect the dignity of every human being." I violated that value by despising and rejecting Mr. Trump and more importantly his supporters rather respecting their dignity and seeking to understand what motivated their actions.

From my perspective contrition is not about paying for past mistakes but focusing efforts on new behaviors to create a just and life-giving world, not simply for myself but for all of humanity. So here are my actions in contrition:

To pay attention regularly to whether I am living and behaving from a place of fear or love.

To continue to develop and practice ways of respecting the dignity of every human being.
I will stand fast against those that demean, belittle, and destroy others and I will resist many of Mr. Trumps stated plans if they were to be enacted.

And more importantly I want to continue to develop simple tools for people to actually practice "respecting the dignity of others." How do we actually do "respecting the dignity of others" when they strongly disagree with me, and how can we do it in ways that lead to reconciliation based on our deeper values that we have in common? I am not interested in being naive and having nice feelings about people who violate my values, but I am interested in developing ways for finding common ground with those with whom I disagree and working together to create a shared better world.

Over the past few years I have been adapting Connirae Andreas' Core Transformation process to exploring the dreams behind people's behaviors from simple volunteerism, to those things that violate our values. I want to continue developing those processes so that our congregations can be a place of healing and reconciliation in a world that desperately needs it.


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Those Damn Foreigners!

Posted: October 7, 2016 by Rob Voyle

Perhaps it was because he was a Gentile, or a Hellinzed Jew outside of the norm of the Palestinian disciples, Luke seems to focus several stories on "the foreigners getting it" whereas the people of Israel miss it completely. The good Samaritan and this week's Gospel in which only one leper, the foreigner, returns to give thanks for his healing are examples of the acceptance and righteousness of foreigners.

There is a strong theme throughout the Scriptures that the "outsiders" are actually "in" and the ones who think they are "in" are actually "out." There is also a strong theme of caring for the outsider, and the failure of this basic hospitality is a constant source of judgment from the prophets in the Old Testament.

In many of the healing stories in the Gospels there are two dimensions to the healing. A physical healing of some malady such as blindness or leprosy, and a spiritual healing of being an outcast. Jesus' unwillingness to let the woman with the hemorrhage anonymously steal a healing was possibly prompted by his desire to resolve her outcast narrative rather than let her settle for a physical healing.

It seems this Gospel message is very timely amidst the rhetoric against foreigners and immigrants in American politics today. What is especially vile is that much of it is supported by those espousing a Christian faith who claim to take the Bible seriously.

It seems that those who "claim to be in" are as blind to what they read as the nine lepers who were healed and failed to acknowledge the source of their healing. As both a priest and a psychologist this blindness baffles me.

Clearly we have a group of people who are not overburdened with insight. How to help them have insight is the challenge. Perhaps we should be like Jesus and not even bother as he didn't even try with the nine who were formerly lepers. I think Jesus knows better than me that arguing with ignorant people is a waste of time.

I also wonder whether Jesus was too successful in his healing of the nine former lepers. In many of the healing narratives the healing is instantaneous rather than a gradual curing process.

As my colleague Andy Austin has pointed out in his Metaphors of Movement work that when a person describes their predicament as something they are "in" they are describing their problem as a container. When the solution arises they will be "out" of the container and the transformation will be rapid if not instantaneous. In contrast, a person who describes their predicament as though they were walking through a desert, may have a significant journey before their problem is resolved.

I often experience this when teaching people to forgive. One moment they are "in" a state of resentment and the next moment they are "in" a state of forgiveness. They can't be in two states at once. Sometimes it is possible to see the instant the change occurs with a change in facial expression or posture. I have not had a person need to do a follow-up session once that shift has occurred.

What I have also discovered is that these instantaneous changes are very robust and stable over time. They are so stable that people quickly habituate to the new state and often very quickly forget that they used to resent. At follow-up several weeks later they respond with: "what resentment?" I wonder whether that is what happened with the nine former lepers, that they were so profoundly healed that they forgot to remember that they had been lepers.

It seems that way in our nation. Beyond the Native Americans we are all recent immigrants in this land. But once we have the feeling of being "in" America we forget what it is like to be "out" to be an outsider. Sadly, so many people who live within the boundary of America live like outsiders as they live in the American nightmare of poverty and hunger and not in the American dream of freedom and prosperity.

Spiritually speaking we were all outsiders. We kneel and eat at a table that is not of our own making nor our own entitlement. We can't inherit it from our parents or our friends. We can however share it with everyone.

From a spiritual perspective we live in two giant containers. One is to be "in" fear the other is to be "in" love. When we are in the existential container of fear we will want to exclude all those who are different because they frighten us. Yelling at, ridiculing, or berating such people will not help as it will only reinforce their fear. The only thing we can do is stand at the door of love and welcome them "in."

Can you remember when you were an outsider or have you forgotten. Are you still an outsider or did you get "in." If you did get "in" can you remember how you got "in" and who do you need to thank for helping you "in."

With much gratitude to a man named George who welcomed this foreigner in.


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Moving Mountains of Resentment and Uprooting Mulberry Trees of Misery

Posted: September 30, 2016 by Rob Voyle

In this week's Gospel the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. In Luke's Gospel this request comes directly after Jesus has told the disciples that they need to forgive, and forgive, and forgive someone who repeatedly offends (Luke 17:4).

Whether Luke intended any connection between the saying about staying in a state of forgiveness and the disciples request for an increase in faith is unclear to me. Luke's Gospel often seems like he had lots of sayings of Jesus and parables that he couldn't leave out and so he puts them in somewhere, so there may not have been a connection between these two verses.

However, in my current mission of teaching the world to forgive, I can see a significant connection. For many people the idea of forgiving requires an enormous amount of faith when they are living on the dark side of a mountain of resentment.

Also interesting is the disciples request, "increase our faith!" But the object of that faith is not stated. Possibly they are asking for an increase in faith in God. But maybe they are not asking for extra faith in an external God but an increase in their own ability and belief that they would be able to forgive repeatedly.

Jesus tells the disciples if they had faith the size of a mustard see they could tell mulberry trees to take a hike, and in Matthew's Gospel you could move mountains.

Over the years the one area where my faith has grown astronomically is in the area of helping people learn how to rapidly achieve and sustain a state of forgiveness. Usually it only takes one session, and in many cases it can be done without my ever knowing the story of what somebody did. I have the faith that I can move mountains of resentment, in large part because I have, and nothing builds faith like success.

It is not uncommon after a forgiveness retreat for people to say that they have set themselves free of years, often decades, of resentment, and that they now feel lighter, can breathe now and various aches and pains in shoulders and limbs have gone. One of the coolest stories was of a UCC minister who had come to a training and gone back to his congregation and helped a person free themselves from 65 years of resentment.

I will readily admit that there are lots of others things in myself or the lives of the people whom I encounter where I have very little faith in my ability to even move a mole hill of misery. But not so with resentment.

I often hear people say that they can't forgive and my response is simple: "You are right you can't (they really are right because if they had been able to forgive they would have) and then to continue, "would you like me to teach you how."

I have found that is useless to argue with the assertion they can't forgive, or tell people that they should forgive. In fact telling someone that they should forgive when they have told you they can't is just giving them one more person to resent. What we need to do is teach and empower people how to forgive.

One of the biggest things we need to teach people that forgiveness is not reconciliation, they are two very different things. Forgiveness is how you respond to what has happened to you in the past. It is totally independent of the person who has hurt you.

Reconciliation is an agreement between two or more people about how they will live and work together in the future. Without forgiveness there can be no reconciliation. Even with forgiveness there are some people you don't want to be reconciled with. I forgive the Hitlers of this world but I will never be reconciled to them or their mission.

If you want to grow your faith in your ability to move mountains of resentment I encourage you to attend one of the upcoming forgiveness training programs.

Or if you know someone who needs to learn how to forgive I am also leading forgiveness retreats in:

The full schedule and registration for all programs can be found at: Training Schedule

With blessings on your life and work and with a prayer that at the end of your days, or even before, you hear the heavens proclaim: "Well done!"

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. If you are interested in joining in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church please let me know.

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Teach Your Congregation to Forgive: Five Week Lenten program

Posted: September 26, 2016 by Rob Voyle

If you are tired of living in a world that:
• Is saturated by resentment
• Places a huge value on revenge
• Confuses revenge and punishment with justice
• Doesn't know how to find the freedom of forgiveness

Then learn to teach the people you care about how to forgive and live in love with one another.

"Jesus told us we need to forgive but he never taught us how." - Steve Andreas

In this program designed for Lent you will receive the resources to:
• Teach people what forgiveness really is and what it is not
• Teach people how to forgive
• Resolve the internal resistance to forgiving,
which often occurs naturally when they learn
what forgiveness really is what it is not.

Program Outline:

Week 1: Living in Unconditional Love: Not All Gods are Created Equal

Sermon: Not All Gods are Created Equal

Living in the Presence of the God of Love
The Only One Worthy of Your, Time, and Love

Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises

Crazy God's Make People Crazy
Cleaning The Temple of Crazy God's
Metaphors of Unconditional Love

Week 2: Discovering the Golden Thread of Life Within Your Life

Sermon: The Golden Thread of Life

Discovering the eternal life-giving qualities in the temporal things we love
Doing what you love to do as a follower of Jesus

Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises

The golden thread of life
Resolving "I know it in my head but I need to know it in my heart."
Wanting: the root cause of misery and how to gloriously fail at it.

Week 3: The Three Faces of Compassion: Tenderness, Fierceness, and Mischievousness

Sermon: Compassion as the temporal manifestation of Eternal Loving Kindness in the world

Compassion as the agent of transformation
Compassion is more than one thing
Loving your enemies as an act of compassion

Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises

Discovering how Jesus was tender, fierce, and mischievous
Discovering our own way of being tender, fierce, and mischievous
Discerning when to be tender, fierce, and mischievous as an agent of transformation

Week 4: Forgiving Others

Sermon: Discovering the Freedom of Forgiveness

What do you have to do to be resentful
Clarifying what forgiveness is and what it is not
The stupidity of forgiving and forgetting
Surrendering others into the realm of God's love

Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises

Satisfying objections to forgiving
Practical, sustainable, forgiveness: converting demands into preferences

Week 5: Forgiving Self

Sermon: If God forgives you why shouldn't you?

Guilt as an act of arrogance
Shame as a toxic affliction of the soul
Living in the light of Love rather than the darkness of condemnation

Forum Conversation and Practical Exercises

Creating a robust, realistic, reliable, self-image
Rebuilding our self-image after we have failed

For more details please see: Teach Your Congregation How to Forgive.

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No, You Don't Want to Take Your Ministry to the Next Level

Posted: August 25, 2016 by Rob Voyle

The Problem of Status

No, You Don't Want to Take Your Ministry to the Next Level

Taking something, as in job, career, business, ministry, church etc., to the next level is a very common phrase in the coaching world. It is often used in the promotion of coaching services:

Do you want to take your career to the next level?

Or we are promised that we can "Take your business to the level!

And many clients come to coaching with a genuine desire to achieve the next level in their career, thinking this is an honorable goal.

But all this desire and promotion to get to the next level indicates that coaching (or any form of helping) can be perverted for an erroneous and potentially harmful goal.

As my friend Andy Austin has shown in the Metaphors of Movement Training the motivation of "taking something to the next level" is all about status seeking.

Jesus had some words of advice about not seeking status because when you reach that level you have further to fall and the greater the humiliation.

The higher you go the more painful the fall and so we spend more energy ensuring we will not fall rather than pursuing the good we could be doing. Protecting status can be very energy consuming.

Clergy too often want to take their ministry to the next level, often because they want a bigger church. The next level is always up. I have never had a pastor say: "I want to take my ministry to the next level and find a smaller church."

I have heard of people "down-sizing" which seems to be a good thing especially when we are tired of maintaining a higher level but in general when we think of levels and direction up seems to be good and down bad. For example, heaven is always up and hell is always down.

The idea of being at different levels is also interesting from the perspective of who we look up to and who we look down on. If we look up to someone then they will have to look down on us.

When Jesus called his disciples friends, he leveled the playing field. There would be no looking up or down on one another, we are now all on the same level.

So why engage a coach. Definitely not to take your ministry to the next level.

Here are some status free possibilities:

• Perhaps you want to develop your expertise in ministry not so that you would be at a new level above others but that you would be able to do more good and more efficiently regardless of what level you are at.

• Perhaps you want to level out the discrepancies in your life and integrate the demands of your personal and professional life.

• Perhaps you want a thinking partner to help you discern where the One who calls you his friend is leading you next.

If you are interested in learning more about the language of levels check you calendars for Andy Austin's training in Boulder next year May 5-10, Metaphors of Movement Training

With Blessings for Your Life and Work

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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See Restoring Hope for healing and change strategies based in the Appreciative Way.

Parishioners and Staff are Treasures not Assets

Posted: August 5, 2016 by Rob Voyle

"People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why
the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being
used." - Dalai Lama

It has become common in business circles to hear leaders say something like:
"our employees are our greatest asset, or in churches our staff or parishioners
are our greatest asset.

At first glance that seems to be an affirmation of employees or parishioners
until we reflect on what we do in the United States with our assets: We leverage
them, trade them, sell them, deplete them, mine them, and all sorts of things
that I wouldn't want done to me.

Several years ago when I was in West Virginia I heard people complaining about
strip mining, which I to typically think is bad for the environment. However my
reaction at the time was to think the strip miners were real wimps in comparison
to the ways I have seen many churches strip mine the emotional and spiritual
environments of their parishioners and employees. And it is not only churches as
many businesses also strip mine and burnout their employees.

When people experience burnout that tells me some one has been strip mined. They
have been working in a way that is not ecological, in the physical, emotional
and spiritual realms they inhabit.

Thinking of people as assets is a first step on the path to dehumanizing and
strip mining them. It is the beginning of legitimizing treating people

One of the assumptions of the Appreciative Way is that "our language creates our
reality." The usage and meaning of words also changes over time so their impact
will also change. What we need to do is pay attention to the outcome of our
language and not the intention of our language.

Rather than thinking of people and especially employees and parishioners as
assets, think of them as treasures. Take a moment and remember a time when you
were treasured. What was that like? ...

I know I would rather be treasured than treated like an asset.

I will also acknowledge that in our history we haven't treated the treasures of
others very well, but for now I like treasuring and being treasured rather than
using or being used.

Who do you know that needs to be treasured?
What is one thing you could do to treasure them?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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Check the Training Schedule for the latest listing of leadership training programs.

Why Be Good

Posted: July 28, 2016 by Rob Voyle

I love the book of Ecclesiastes or Why be Good?

I work hard, I put in lots of effort, and it all will come to nothing, says the
Preacher. Vanity of vanities, a mere striving after the wind.

I love the book of Ecclesiastes and the preacher's relentless refrain. Its the
stop sign in the way of my ego, that strives for self-aggrandizement and
self-reward. It doesn't matter whether you are good or bad we are all going to
die. We may work hard and create much, but we will die and others will pick up
or destroy what we have created. It is out of our hands and all that effort was

I also love that the preacher never gives us an answer, he leaves it up to us to
determine for ourselves, why should we do what we do, why should we be good, if
we are all going to die and end up in the grave.

We have to decide for ourselves whether to do good or do bad, live only for
ourselves or for others, the end result is the same. So, why be good?

The book of Ecclesiastes predates Christianity. In general Christians take a
different perspective, there is an afterlife, heaven or hell, that is the reward
that is why we should do what we should do.

Take a moment and imagine there is no heaven, no afterlife, and think of what
you will do today. Why will you do good or bad? ...

Now imagine there is an afterlife and think of what you will do today? Why will
you do good or bad? ...

Has your decision changed because you believe in an afterlife?

I was once teaching a class on St. Paul's belief in universal salvation. One of
the participants said, "you mean everyone is going to heaven?" "Yes," I said. He
looked at me in utter bewilderment and said, "so why am I being good?" Exactly,
why do we do good?

For many Christians there is now an external motivation to do good. Doing good
is my egos desire not to fry, but is that really good or simply an example of
radical ego self-interest. That external motivation keeps us as spiritual
infants and we will never grow up and discover the wonder and freedom of who we

If we are all going to the grave as the Preacher says, or to eternal salvation
as St. Paul says, why be good since the outcome is the same?

I have a teacher, a man I appreciate deeply for his wisdom and compassion, who
is an atheist. He does good because he is good.

I want to be like that. Without thought of some future reward to love and do
good because it is good.

Why do you do good?

With hope that there would be more good in the world, because that would be

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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See Restoring Hope for healing and change strategies based in the Appreciative Way.

Teach Us to Pray

Posted: July 22, 2016 by Rob Voyle

This weeks Gospel (Luke 11:1-13) one of the disciples ask Jesus, "Teach us to
pray, as John taught his disciples."

Apparently John was known for teaching his disciples to pray. What is not clear
from the request is whether the disciple is asking Jesus to teach them to be
motivated to actually pray or to teach them "how" to pray.

Jesus' response seems to cover both bases. He teaches them what to say when they
pray, and then gives a discourse on God as a loving parent who will respond
favorable to people who pray. And the answer to our prayers is the Spirit.

The whole point of prayer is not to get stuff, or change other people, or change
ourselves but to abide in the Spirit.

Perfunctory prayers said before meetings, especially by professional pray-ers,
are of little benefit when the goal is to center oneself and the group in the
Spirit. My pet peeve is that such prayers and many liturgies are said with such
speed that the only purpose of doing them is to get them done before we can go
and do something else that is more important. I also have a gripe about prayers
that begin with the word "may" or are punctuated by the word "just."

Prayer is about communicating with God. We need to spend as much time listening
as we do talking if we are to effectively communicate. I ponder what would
happen with my friends if I talked to them like many people pray...

When I began this journey with Jesus many years ago I read a small book on
conversational payer by Rosalind Rinker. She offered a simple way for
individuals and groups to gather and converse with God. Over the years I have
found that the more I pray the less I say, the more I listen and the more
centered in the Spirit I become.

So many congregations want to grow, they keep telling God they want to grow, but
do they listen. We want to be given more people, make up the numbers pay the
bills and God wants to give us the Spirit.

All revivals, all times of transformation, begin with a fresh understanding of
the nature of God. Whether it be the revivals of Abraham, Ezra and Nehemiah,
Jesus, Paul, the birth of new monastic orders, Martin Luther, the reformation,
John Wesley, all began with a fresh understanding of the nature of God.

Even in our own lives the times of transformation where preceded by a new
understanding of the nature of God. The old God in our understanding could not
take us to the place we needed to go and it was the new God in our understanding
that empowered transformation. Maybe God doesn't change, but clearly our
understanding of God does.

If you really want to create transformation in your congregation the first thing
you will need to do is to teach the people to pray. To create a sacred space
where people can receive the Spirit which is the answer to prayer.

Without a new understanding of God, the old God in understanding will continue
to give you what you already have.

With a few moments of silence...

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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Good Samaritans and What Is Love Calling Us To Do

Posted: July 8, 2016 by Rob Voyle

The Good Samaritan story was Jesus response to someone who wanted to "justify himself."

I often hear or see people claiming God is on their side as they seek to justify their perspectives and actions. Our political processes are rife with such justification in ways that were very rare when I arrived in this country 34 years ago. And the actions taken in the name of these justifications leaves me wanting to have nothing to do with the God these people proclaim to honor.

I also hear people in churches, and I have said it myself, "what is God calling us to do?"
Which rather than creating a clarity of thinking and action has often lead to rationalization and a lack of action. I have also seen and recoil when God and a perception of God's will is used as a huge club to coerce people into action.

The use of God language as a stamp of divine authority to justify a pursuit of unjust actions leaves me thinking we would be better off as atheists. So much of our country's God language leads to hate and fuels the bigotry, hypocrisy, and violence of our times.

My friend Ron English, who was raised in Ebenezer Baptist church and ordained by Martin Luther King Jr., asks the question differently. Rather than asking, what is God calling us to do he asks: What is love calling us to do?

I have found asking "What is love calling us to do?" leads to a very different response both within me and the people that I am working with.

And I wonder what would happen if our politicians began asking: "What is love calling us to do as a nation?" rather than justifying their actions of hate-filled power mongering with mindless god talk.

By love I am not meaning a sentimentality nor a tolerance for evil. In my teaching on love I use Stephen Gilligan's understanding of compassion: tenderness, fierceness, and mischievousness. Fierceness is a single minded pursuit of a just future.

I distinguish fierceness from anger. Anger is what we experience when we look back on a past injustice. Fierceness is what happens when we transform that anger into a fierce pursuit of a just future. Without that transformation anger, focused on the past, will lead to hatred and a desire for revenge and retribution. We cannot fix the past but we can create a new future.

One of my role models for fierceness is Martin Luther King Jr. His "I have a dream speech..." is a fierce proclamation and desire for a just future. It is not an angry rail against an oppressive and evil past but a fierce vision of a better future. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are other role models of the fierce rather than the angry way.

There is no place for hate.

And as Jesus reveals in the story of the good Samaritan.

There is no place for indifference.

There is no place for self-justification.

There is only a place for love.

Praying for us all to have the courage to love tenderly, fiercely, and mischievously, in this time of darkness.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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I Saw Satan Fall From Heaven

Posted: July 2, 2016 by Rob Voyle

This Sunday's Gospel Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 has really got me pondering.

The word "Satan" means the "Accuser of the Brethren" and in this Gospel Jesus says he saw Satan fall from heaven. What Satan was doing in heaven is beyond me, but here is what I know.

There Are Three Realms of Accusation:
1. The spiritual or existential.
In the presence of God, since our time in the Garden, we feel accused and ashamed.
2. The social or interpersonal.
There are bullies in our world who accuse us of wrong doing and failure, especially the failure to make them happy, or having done something that made them unhappy. They often begin their accusation with: "You should be ashamed..." or "Shame on you..."
3. The personal or intra-personal
Many of us suffer from internal critical voices that demean and belittle us and steal our joy. For example the critical voices that tells you that you are a failure or that you will never amount to anything. Sometimes these voices are the internalized voices of others, sometimes they are our own voices. Either way they can make us miserable.

Each of these accusations threatens us with alienation. When all three are aligned they create a living hell. Just one accusatory voice can make our lives miserable or limit our ability to perform at our best.

None of these accusations are likely to be rational and any attempt to rationalize ourselves out of them is likely to fail. For example arguing with an internal critical voice is just likely to make the critical voice louder and more distressing.

In the world of contemplative prayer we are taught to let them "float on by" as arguing with them is another form of attachment to them. Yet many times the accusations keep floating on back.

The good news is that these voices of accusation are actually quite resolvable without long analysis.

If you want to help people resolve voices of accusation then I invite you to join one of the coach training programs where you can join us and learn the strategies to watch Satan fall from heaven.

Rob Voyle

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We Are God's Chosen People Not God's Protected People

Posted: June 26, 2016 by Rob Voyle

The harshness of the Gospel, Luke 9:51-62, for this coming Sunday and the random
violence of our times reminded me of a comment author and retreat leader Jim
Finley once made:

"We are God's chosen people not God's protected people."

I don't know about you but there are many days I would rather be protected than
chosen. But clearly that is not the case and the challenge of why bad things
happen to good people confronts many in our day and in the days of all of

It is clear we are pilgrims, not settlers on this earth, and the harsh reality
of death awaits us all. For some it comes too soon. For others it is preceded
with lots of suffering.

To make sense of the randomness of violence and death many resort to simplistic
expressions of cause and blame that are often repugnant to anyone with a shred
of common sense and compassion.

While the reality of eternal life offers protection in the ultimate sense, it is
in the future, and in the meantime their is suffering with which we have to
respond. Trusting in the idea that we are protected when clearly we are not is
unhelpful. Rather than relying on a false certainty of protection I find the
ambiguity of being chosen to be more comforting.

But for what have we been chosen. It is very easy to let the idea of being
chosen to blossom into arrogance rather than humility. I think Micah gets it
right. We have been chosen to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk
humbly with our God.

As a Christian I would say I have been chosen to be as liberal in sharing God's
love, mercy, and forgiveness as Jesus was and is.

With gratitude for the joys of this life and God's love and presence in the hard

A prayer:

Almighty God, you have made us your chosen people, not your protected people.
You have given us a lodging in this world but not an abiding city. Help us in
this present moment, as a pilgrim people, to endure hardship and delight in
goodness, knowing that we have your love in our hearts with a work to do, and at
the end of our journey we know the joy of our homecoming and the welcome of your
embrace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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Forgiveness and Standing Silent Before the Pilates of this World

Posted: March 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle

Over the past few weeks I have taught several Teach Them How To Forgive
workshops and retreats.

One of the big challenges to forgiving comes when the person we feel resentful
toward is a bully and is likely to continue their hostile behavior. People will
get caught in the trap of saying, "I will forgive them when they change" or "I
will be happy when they will change."

In both scenarios the resentful person has placed their well-being in the hands
of someone who has clearly demonstrated that they don't care how hurtful they
are being. While I am not fond of calling anyone a swine, I think this is what
Jesus meant when he said "Don't cast your pearls before swine."

Never entrust your happiness, or what you deeply value about yourself, to
someone who cannot respect or value you as you do.

It is interesting to note that resenting doesn't get the bully to change. In
fact, I must confess to being a really pitiful resenter. For the past few months
I have been deeply resentful to Donald Trump and Senator Cruz, and they haven't
changed a bit. Perhaps if I was an expert resenter they would have changed...
But perhaps it won't because some world class resenters have tried and failed

I recall Jesus saying: "Forgive them because they are ignorant." Actually that
is an exaggeration on my part. He said to forgive them because they didn't know
what they were doing, which is a statement about their behavior whereas calling
them ignorant or idiots is a critique of their identity and personhood, not
simply their behavior.

I also wonder about the utter stupidity of arguing with an ignorant person. I
have found it impossible to win an argument with someone whose brain is at half
mast. Only a fool argues with a fool, so it might be safer to simply say they
don't know what they are doing.

Alternatively you could deal with a bully by becoming a bigger bully. However
that is also foolishness, because it will fill the world with the very thing we

So how are we to deal with the bullies in our lives? Especially the ones we will
continue to encounter.

Personally I want to be compassionate. In the Appreciative Way I think of
compassion having three faces, tenderness, fierceness, and mischievousness.

Being compassionate with bullies typically requires fierceness or
mischievousness. Being fierce is not about being angry it is about a state of
being that is beyond emotion in which I single-mindedly pursue a just future.
This just future is also a safe future.

One of the resources many participants have found helpful to move beyond the
stuck resentful place to the fierce place is the story of Jesus before Caiaphas
and Pilate. For the most part Jesus was fiercely silent. He does not engage in
an argument. Nor does he waste energy in a futile attempt to get Pilate to
change or stop what he was about to do.

While physically vulnerable to Pilate, Jesus never allowed himself to be
emotionally or spiritually vulnerable to Pilate. As we know from the rest of the
story Pilate had Jesus crucified, but Pilate did not take his life. Jesus, not
Pilate, offered his life to the Father on the cross.

What would it look like and feel like to be emotionally and spiritually silent
before the bullies in your life?

Take a moment and imagine what that would be like...
It may not change the bully but it will offer a profound freedom for you.

My prayer this Easter is that we would find new life in the fierce silence of
Jesus before Pilate and be likewise in the midst of the bullies in our lives and

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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Transforming Anger Into Practical Compassion

Posted: February 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle

What would it be worth to you to live free from resentment?

What would it be worth to you to be able to lead a person to a place of
forgiveness and compassion?

While I am tired of living in a frightened and angry frightened world I am more
excited by being able to teach people how to forgive and live compassionately in
the world. Helping a person in one session get to the place when they can say
"22 years of resentment is gone," leaves me a place that is beyond words

Some have said that we need to be angry about the injustices we see. I would
heartily agree if my anger actually helped. What I have discovered is that when
I get angry I just contribute my own version of judgment and injustice to the
world. Or to put it in the words of St. Paul: "The anger of Rob does not work
the righteousness of God."

So what are we to do with the anger that arises when we see injustice. It needs
to be set free from the demands of our egos and transformed into a single minded
pursuit of a just future. I distinguish this from anger by calling it
fierceness. What do you notice when you are ego driven angry and when you are
fiercely pursuing justice?

Within myself I recognize a substantial difference between my being angry and my
being fierce.

When I am angry, I am aware of my stomach being in turmoil, there is also a lot
of "noise" in my head. Most of the noise is of angry imagined conversations with
the person who has angered me. It is not about justice its about "just us" or
just me to quote a line from Richard Pryor.

When I am fierce my focus is not in my stomach but my forehead and there is no
noise. It is as though I have become single minded and I have set my mind on a
course of action from which there is no turning back. I imagine this is the way
Jesus was when he "set his mind to Jerusalem," and told Peter to "get behind me

And the big question is HOW! How we do we move from ego driven anger to fiercely
pursuing justice.

The Gospel for this Sunday calls us to repent. The 3Rs of repentance,
"Recognize," "Regret," "Reorient," gives us a model for transformation:

More than recognizing that we are resenting, we need to "recognize" what we
actually do to resent. Resentment isn't something that others do to us, it is
what we do to ourselves in the darkness of what others have done to us. The key
thing to recognize is the demand nature of resentment. When we are angry we are
demanding that life and others would have been different according to our
desires. Demanding the past would have been different doesn't change the past
and just makes us miserable in the present.

We need to "regret" the cost and ineffectiveness of resenting. This is a huge
challenge for many who have been immersed in our culture that places a high
value on revenge, pay back, and primitive ideas of justice.

We need to "reorient" to a compassionate way of being that honors our values and
acknowledges that we live in a world that has and will continue to violate our
values. With respect to resentment we can transform our "demands" into a
"preferences" and then personally live those values in the world. For example,
if your preference is to live in a "kind world" then there really is only one
way you can ensure that there will be kindness in the world and that is by being
kind yourself.

In the forgiveness training program we will explore both your personal ways of
manifesting compassion and how to help people reorient their internal world of
resentment into a state of forgiveness.

Details can be found at http://www.appreciativeway.com/training/schedule.cfm

Waiting with compassion is one way to meet the challenge of staying in love. As
my beloved Kim says, "compassion, its not just for saints anymore."

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

Leave a Comment...

Teaching Forgiveness and Staying in Love

Posted: February 8, 2016 by Rob Voyle

My friend and colleague Chris Rankin-Williams said in his sermon on the Sunday
after 9-11, The challenge of this life is not to stay alive the challenge of
this life is to stay in love.

That idea brought into focus what my ministry was about and what it has
continued to be about.

Personally I don't like being afraid and I don't like being angry. They are very
draining emotions and they do not lead to positive outcomes for me or others.
And I have never known anyone to change, for the better, because I hated them.

It seems that at every moment of every day I am confronted with opportunities to
love or to hate. I have given up watching most of the so-called news programs
because I feel often I am being told what to fear and exhorted to hate.

And then there is this Jesus guy who says: "love your enemies." That is about
the most un-American thing I have ever heard and if I was to listen to many
Americans the most unchristian thing anyone could say. Hating has become part of
our culture and our churches. Revenge has become a virtue, something our culture

One of the ways Christians justify the existence of hate in their lives is to
say "love the sinner and hate the sin." Spiritually speaking that makes no sense
at all. Once you are in a state of hate toward one thing it will leak out and
contaminate the rest of our existence. The Jesus I follow wasn't a flip-flopper
between states of love and hate.

I listen to Jesus telling me to love my enemies, and I hear Chris' words "the
challenge is to stay in love."

Teaching people how to forgive is my act of sedition, to overthrow the culture
of hate. Forgiveness however is not simply the end goal. Beyond setting people
from the burden of self-inflicted resentment the purpose of forgiveness is to
open the way to return to living in love.

How Do We Want To Wait Until Others Change?

Think of someone who really annoys you and who is not likely to change their
offensive behavior. How does hating them help you, or them for that matter
beyond fueling their offensive behavior?

The only thing we can do is decide on how we want to wait for them to change.
This is where we meet the challenge to stay in love.

We can wait in hate.

Or we can forgive and wait with a twinkle in our eye and love in our hearts.

This is the kind of waiting that I see in Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama.
They have faced and continue to face major oppression yet they have the ability
to fiercely confront it while maintaining their joy.

Perhaps for most of us there is an intermediate state where we have forgiven and
wait with emotional neutrality without the transcendent twinkle. Here we are no
longer attached to specific outcomes of good or bad for the other and can turn
our attention to other life-giving relationships.

And another, perhaps more enlightened place is a compassionate state where we
can wish good for the other, without being attached to what that good might be.
(From my experience when dealing with difficult relationships my idea of what is
good for the other is always about what would really be good for me.)

Waiting with compassion is one way to meet the challenge of staying in love. As
my beloved Kim says, "compassion, its not just for saints anymore."

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

Leave a Comment...

Church Growth Makes Absolutely no Sense

Posted: January 29, 2016 by Rob Voyle

The language of Church Growth has dominated the religious culture for all of my
ordained ministry. And during that time, with a few exceptions, I have witnessed
decline not growth.

Many people have written books and theorized on why we haven't grown and we
still haven't grown. So here is my theory why it hasn't worked: The language of
Church Growth makes no sense in the light of the Gospel.

We have been called to make disciples and followers of Jesus and not to grow

Take a moment and think what comes to mind when you contemplate making followers
of Jesus...

Now think of what comes to mind when you contemplate growing churches...

The language we use has a powerful impact on the images and ideas that come into
consciousness. For me the words "following Jesus" evokes images of relationship,
friendship, journey, engagement with the world, which in turn inspires possible

The words "church growth" evokes a picture of the white clapboard church I
attended as a child. Following that image with "growth" makes no rational
sense. It is an intellectualization that does not inspire action. As long as we
talk about and pursue "Church Growth" we will little action and continue to

One of the core assumptions of the Appreciative Way is that language not only
describes reality but is the way we create reality. The person who has taught me
the most about understanding the power of language, how to understand and use
metaphors is Andy Austin, and I am delighted to be co-sponsoring Andy's
Metaphors of Movement Training in Boulder.

Andy's work is important for both the Chiefs in our congregations and for the
Shaman and Spiritual Directors in our communities of faith.

Example 1 for Chiefs: Aligning Our Language and Core Metaphors

In the last newsletter I looked at the core charism of a denomination. The same
approach can be used of an individual congregation.

What is the core charism of your congregation?

Often that core charism will be represented as a metaphor. I think of one
congregation that has the metaphor of a "shade tree" and another that has the
metaphor of a "ship".

Now imagine you are the leader of each of these congregations and are about to
begin a new ministry.

Telling the "shade tree" community that you are ready to embark on a new
ministry and launch an opportunity for parishioners to discover new horizons of
faith, will make no sense at all, whereas it will make a lot of sense to those
in the "ship" congregation.

Or telling the "ship" congregation it is time for them to prune back some of
their work so that they can branch out and offer shade to the oppressed and
weary will make no sense whereas it will make sense to the "ship" congregation.

Or we could confuse everyone by really mixing the metaphors and talk of pruning
back one ministry so that we can launch a new ministry that will really help us
take the road less traveled to where we can truly soar and grow deeper in our

Whenever the metaphors are incongruent with perceived reality the metaphors will
be experienced as an abstraction and not a call to action and literally nothing
will be done.

As leaders we need to align calls to action with our core metaphors.

Example 2: For Shaman and Spiritual Directors

Imagine you are offering pastoral care to two different parishioners who are
dying and as part of your conversation you ask the person what they imagine
death to be like and one says it is "like going to sleep" and the other it is
"like passing over."

Before reading on you might like to consider what you think death is like... Or
all the other euphemisms that people may use for dying.

Now consider how to respond to the two people.

The first is getting ready for the "Rest of their Life." The sleep metaphor also
suggests that pastoral care may involve telling bed time stories. And I
personally recall sitting and peacefully reading the psalms to someone as they
were dying.

"Passing over" suggests that death is perceived as a journey and I recall
telling a long story about packing, saying good bye, and taking a trip, to
another parishioner who died quite peacefully several hours later. (Because it
had been so powerful I tried using it with another parishioner and it failed
miserably. If I had only known of Andy's work back then...)

In the Metaphors of Movement Training training Andy will teach you how to listen for and elicit a person's metaphors as they describe their life predicament.

You will then learn how to respond to the specific metaphors.

You will also discover not all metaphors are created equally, in fact there is a
significant taxonomy to the types of metaphors.

For example people describing themselves as "being boxed in" are using a
container metaphor which requires a very different response than someone using
an immersion metaphor such as "floating in the ocean".

I have posted an article by Andy that outlines some of the types of metaphors
at: Metaphors of Movement Article

With gratitude to Andy for teaching me about the use of metaphors in my work and daily living.


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Anglican Primates: My Appreciative Way Perspective on the Conflict

Posted: January 27, 2016 by Rob Voyle

What are we to do about the Anglican Communion and our current conflict?

An appreciative perspective on conflict and collaboration.

For the past couple of weeks the news, social media, and church conversations
have been flooded with opinion and rhetoric about what the Anglican primates did
and didn't do, can and can't do etc. etc.

What has been missing in all the conversation is any practical understanding of
what to do next. Most of the conversation has been focused on who was wrong and
who was right. And trying to convince others that they are right while others
are wrong. The consequence is that both sides are more embittered and hardened
in their position.

One of the things that saddens me most about all church conflict is the level of
vitriol and hate that quickly arises on both sides, and the utter abandonment of
the core values and practices of what it means to be a Christian. And I am left
with the awareness that we really have little to offer a conflicted world, other
than adding our own conflict.

And so for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering, as a consultant, what
would I do to facilitate healing and reconciliation. What do I have to offer as
a follower of Jesus who is walking the Appreciative Way.

I view conflict as the result of competition for resources to live a sustainable
life. These resources may be material, but also include emotional resources such
as respect, acceptance, community, identity, love and also spiritual resources
such as a sense of purpose and an understanding of the nature of life and
existence that can control existential anxiety and dread.

I use an adaptation of Gregory Bateson's logical levels of learning to
understand how these physical, emotional, and spiritual resources are related
and impact each other. Not all resources are created equally just as not all
conflicts are created equally. The model also offers a way to understand the
role of anxiety in fueling conflict and the strategies required to resolve it.

I have posted a brief article: From Conflict to Collaboration on my website
http://www.appreciativeway.com which you can download. It describes both the
nature of resources and conflict and also provides strategies to achieve

How would I use the model to create a strategy for transformation.

From my perspective the conflict in the Anglican communion is in the realm of
identity, the purpose of the communion, and the nature of God. These types of
conflict can only be resolved by divine intervention, such as Saul's experience
on the Damascus road. Every revival begins with a fresh understanding of the
nature of God.

Without transformed awareness all attempts at conflict resolution will be egos
grinding on egos. Typically in the midst of conflict we are not interested in
listening to God because we are too interested in telling other people what we
believe God thinks. Bible Studies and conversation are just opportunities to
convince people we are right and they are wrong.

The solution to such conflict is to return to the core charism or resource of
the denomination.

The core charism of Anglicans is common prayer, not common dialogue, not common
conversation, not common Bible Study, but Common Prayer!

In the light of common prayer I think it is time for the Primates

to stop talking to each other,
to stop listening to each other,

and start being in each others presence and the presence of God.

When we can't agree on words and their meaning then we need to be silent in the
presence of the One who is beyond words.

I wonder what God would have done if the primates had simply got together for
three days and:

Shared Eucharist from one of the prayerbooks of our communion
Ate together in silence
Shared morning prayer from another of our prayerbooks.
Sat in silence together
Shared noon day prayer
Ate together in silence
Did a walking meditation in silence
Sat in silence
Shared evening prayer
Ate together in silence
Sat in silence
Shared compline
And slept in the peace that comes from knowing it was never our church but

I wonder not what the Primates would end up doing after three day but what God
would have done in their hearts.

And I wonder what would happen to us if we surrendered our desire to change
others into the silence and simply beheld them in the light of God's Love.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. I am still on my mission to "Teach the World How to Forgive" and am looking
for congregations to host one-day clergy and counselor training and one day
healing retreats. Please let me know if you would be interested in hosting a

Leave a Comment...

Check the Training Schedule for the latest listing of leadership training programs.

Stick with Love if You Want Others to Change

Posted: January 18, 2016 by Rob Voyle

"I have decided to stick with love because hate is too greater burden to bear."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today the words of Dr. King echo in my heart, as I remember him and as I share
in creating the future in which I would like to live.

From our political and religious landscape there is way too much to hate, that
evokes anger, fear, frustration despair and hopelessness, and then there are the
people who cause all that nonsense...

I am so fed up with idiots and am tired of saying "Father forgive them for they
know not what they do..."

Then this character I have decided to follow says: "love your enemies" and Dr.
King says "stick with love."

And the pragmatic, solution focused part of me, that wants all sorts of change,
and especially other people to change acknowledges:

"I have never known anyone to change, at least in the direction I want, because
I hated them."

Or to put it in St. Paul's way: "The anger of Rob does not work the
righteousness of God."

My program "Teaching Your Congregation to Forgive" is part of my response to the
hate in our society. But the goal is not simply that we forgive. My greatest
hope is that we learn to live in love with one another. That love will be our
inspiration and motivation rather than fear and hate.

But telling people they need to love is not that helpful if we don't teach them
How to love.

So here are three things that I have found helpful in practically choosing to
live in love rather than get stuck in hate.

1: Give Up Wanting

I think of all the things that I want to be different...

And I catch myself saying: "I will be happy when..."
This is a guaranteed way to stay miserable especially if the "when" is someone
else changing. What we have done is put our happiness in the hands of someone
who either doesn't care or is a very slow learner.

The real question is: "how do we want to wait while the other person gets around
to changing?"

I can live in love as I wait rather than wait in hate.

Or it is waiting with happiness while I work for those things that I want.

This is the twinkle in the eye of the great justice seekers. It is not denial of
the injustice that abounds, but that they work with love and happiness in their
hearts as they bring justice to the world.

Years ago, giving up wanting was a daily habit until it became an unconscious
habit. I would find myself getting cranky while I was driving and being stopped
by a red light. I would catch myself saying. "I will be happy when the light
turns green, or I get where I am going."
I intentionally transformed it by saying: "It is with happiness that I will wait
for the light to turn green." This may sound simple, but for me it was a
highly effective spiritual discipline, that became a profound habit of

2: Transforming Demands into Preferences

Resentment is not a natural consequence of what others do to us. Resentment is
something we do in the present moment in the darkness of what others have done
to us. The mechanism of resentment is simple: It is an angry rumination in the
present moment in which we "demand" that somebody or something would have been
different yesterday.

But demanding the past would have been different, regardless of the rights or
wrongs of yesterday, doesn't change yesterday it just makes us miserable

The solution is to change the demand into a preference. This keeps intact our
values and radically reduces the level of resentment in the present moment. We
can "prefer" rather than "demand" that others would have behaved differently.

Living from a place of preference rather than demand is also helpful when
contemplating the future. Demanding that people will behave in certain ways in
the future is incredibly arrogant and will keep you in a world of denial,
because most people aren't going to change to suit you.

Living in an attitude of preference keeps intact our values and is a gentler
more realistic and loving way of living.

3: Wishing our Enemies Well (and not in the well)

I have no idea what would be good for me or good for anyone else. I have prayed
with great fervor for jobs that I thought had my name written all over them only
to be rejected and then to be offered a much better job a few weeks later.

So I have stopped praying for people and myself to receive specific things.
Instead I surrender people into the goodness of God without ever defining what
that good would be. I simply know that it will be good for them, good for me,
and good for all of humanity.

I have also found that when we pray for our enemies it is rarely for their
benefit, but is actually for our benefit. We want others to see the error of
their ways so they will act differently so we can feel better.

And so I can wish my enemies well but I do not define what that well is. I
sometimes imagine a great ocean of unconditional love, and surrender the person
into that ocean while I also am safely in that ocean. Sometimes they need to be
over the horizon, sometimes in the next bay or perhaps a few feet away. I know
the ocean is not mine to give but I do know where I can be in that ocean when
they are also in that ocean.

I find that these three things provide a foundation for beholding others in an
attitude of love rather than an attitude of hate. This attitude of love can then
inspire action in the world.

I wish you a very blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. day and the joy of sticking to
love .

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

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The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

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