Net-Mapping for Common Ground: Churches and the LGBT community

One of our participants of the Net-Map certification coures last week mapped out the question: “Who can influence a greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Mennonite church?” For everyone involved that is an emotional issue, no matter what stand you take. And it is one of these issues where it is easy to demonize the other side. There is one step in the standard Net-Map procedure where you write the goal of the actor next to the actor and I encourage people to write it in a simple and clear way if possible. In this case it was obvious: Are they for or against more inclusion…

But strangely, writing plusses and minuses next to actor names didn’t seem to do us any good: It didn’t tell us anything new about this situation and didn’t help us explore possible next steps. So I proposed something else: Next to each actor, write their goals in a few words in the way that they would state them. That was a greater challenge: Writing the goals of your opponents in a positive way. And, at least for the moment of writing them down, considering that they might have a point, or, at least, that their intentions might not be all evil. So we found out that on both sides of the argument, there are some groups who are strongly interestes in “unity of the church”. And that there are some that are interested in learning how to deal with diversity in the congregation in general. So instead of feeling: “These guys are not fighting for us, so they are against us.” we started searching for common ground from which we could explore further steps…

If you want to read more about the issue itself, you could start here, on LGTB Mennonite activist sites: Gay Mennonite League, The Brethren Mennonite Coucil for LGBT Interests and read this article on beliefnet which sheds a light at the discussion without taking one of the positions. And if you want to see how this kind of discussion can explode between people who hold different positions, read the comments on this article on a gay pastor’s removal in the Mennonite Weekly.

3 Responses

  1. […] Net-Mapping figure out how to get the Mennonite Church to become more […]

  2. Eva, you made me think of a nonviolent reconciliation technique whose author I’ve forgotten (but I remember he was Russian) consisting in asking the 2 conflicting parties to state the reasons why the opposing party is “mad” at them in the way they would say it.
    It is used also in couple psychotherapy.
    I used it once myself in a family conflict and it proved quite effective.

    • Yes, the most interesting thing was, what I would call (for lack of a better description) a change of temperature in the room, once we started doing it. There is this moment when the person mapping gets more engaged or rather engaged in a different way…
      The other thing it made me think about was how our own bias as interviewers (finding is so convenient to see the world in black and white because it makes for results that are easier to highlight) changes what we can find out and where we can lead our interview partners. So, if I ask: “Are they for or against you?” I will find out that the world is divided in good people and bad people and the result of the fight depends on how many of each and how powerful they are. It’s a bit like the lord of the rings where someone born to be an orc can never be a nice person or good mom…
      If I ask to describe their goals the way they would do it, I might not even be leading to a fight and the world ends up being quite a complicated place where everyone is a little bit good and a little bit bad and all kinds of things can happen.

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