HOW TO DO A CONSENSUS FORMATION ACTIVITY
A CHURCH COMMUNITY AUDIENCE
1. Optional: READ THE DRAFT CONSENSUS
DOCUMENT called Creating a New Vision of Farming.
This is a long document (17 pages), from which pieces of use
for consensus formation are taken for use in the workshop./activity.
(Download the PDF version.)
2. Download and print from the Tools
page (items 4a and 5a) two documents: 1.) The Process of
Stating Farming Values and 2.) The Process of Stating
Ethical Principles and its Rationale.
[Notice in these two documents the distinction
between the values, which are nouns and ethical principles
which are whole sentences. As an example, in the Judeo-Christian
tradition, God and neighbor are supreme values. VALUES are
nouns, like God or neighbor. PRINCIPLES are complete sentences
telling us to protect, honor, or construct those values. E.G.
"We must love God" and "We must love our neighbors."
3. FORM A GROUP of two or three members
of your church community, under the auspices of any standing
local church committee,and with the knowledge of your denomination's
farm supporting office (e.g.for Catholics, the diocesan office
of National Catholic Rural Life Conference) or other group
which considers this kind of activity within its responsibility.
Get your people to draw up lists of all the values and corresponding
ethics of family managed farming they can think of, using
the two documents mainly as a model of how to cast values
and principles and so that, where possible, similar language
and lengths are used. Do not fail to use the wealth of your
church's traditional and recent writings both directly and
in footnotes ("Don't hide your light under a bushel").
Strangers and Guests is a good source for Catholics
as is The Church and Farming by Denis Fahey, Omni Publications,
P.O. Box 900566, Palmdale CA 93500. For a list similar brief
publications for Lutheran, Presbyterian, Church of the Brethren,
and others see a list included in "In Search of First
Principles for an Agricultural Ethics" (by Stan Dundon)
in the book Agricultural Ethics, edited by Charles
Blatz, University of Idaho Press.
4. CALL A MEETING OF THE LARGER COMMUNITY,
with appropriate permissions and sponsorship, to get a broader
input. If your group is mainly farm families, try to include
those who have special known expertise or interests such as
direct marketing, environmental issues, farm animal welfare,
5. CONDUCT A CONSENSUS FORMATION EXERCISE,
starting with the lists of values and corresponding ethical
principles developed by the smaller group Determine an appropriate
method to insure openness, creativity and consensus but with
efficient use of time. Determine democratically a means to
establish the outcome of your consensus formation exercise
as a "practical consensus". E.G. a two thirds vote,
a period of time to allow fundamental or language-based differences
to be ironed out, the use of minority reports or footnotes
containing reservations or any other agreeable means.
6. WRITE UP A POLISHED VERSION of your
consensus statement and publish it for your local church first
for comment and possible reform, then to your regional church.
It would be best not to seek "official" endorsement
of your work until extensive comment has occurred. If, as
is common with many churches, there is a regional democratic
decision making process, try to get your work considered for
passage through that process. Try to get the broadest exposure
possible and recommend it to other denominations locally and
7. KEEP SOUL OF AGRICULTURE INFORMED OF YOUR
PROGRESS AND NEEDS.
Finally, remember the goal: A Consensus Statement
on the multiple values and ethics of family managed farming
so broad, so rich and so diverse in its supporters that: