Principles and Strategies for Using Gospel Nonviolence to Reform and Renew the Church
The information in the first two segments of this resource (Basic Principles for Discerning the Use of Gospel Nonviolence and Twelve Steps of Gospel Nonviolence) are adapted and summarized from the wonderful book “Love in Action: A Direct-Action Handbook for Catholics Using Gospel Nonviolence to Reform and Renew the Church” with permission from the author, Richard K. Taylor. The interested reader is strongly encouraged to purchase this book for more in depth explanation and concrete strategy suggestions. It is available for purchase through FutureChurch’s online store (www.futurechurch.org)
Basic Principles for Discerning the Use of Gospel Nonviolence:
(See pp.16-20 of Love in Action)
- Deep faith: Jesus was absolutely obedient to God and trusted God in all things (John 13, John 18:10-11).
- Resistance to Injustice: Jesus was outspoken in his defense of the poor and of any abuse of power in his religious tradition. For example, in the story of the woman caught in adultery Jesus refused to hold only the woman culpable. In Judaic law men who committed adultery were also subject to capital punishment by stoning but the religious leaders brought only the woman to Jesus for judgment. He does not condemn her and implicitly identifies her accusers’ duplicity by saying: “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”. (John 8:1-11)
- Goodwill Toward Wrongdoers: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6: 27-29)
- Willingness to Suffer for What is Right: Jesus was willing to suffer the violent death of crucifixion rather than deny his understanding of the inclusive, loving reign of God. (Luke 6:22, John 18, Mark 9:34-36, Mark 8:27-33)
- Refusal to Inflict Suffering on Others: Jesus never inflicted suffering… “My father would have sent 12 legions of angels to protect me.” (Matthew 26:51-55, Luke 22:50-53, John 18:10-11)
- SUMMATION: Church reform is a spiritual discipline and not to be undertaken only out of “political correctness.” If you want to reform the Church, you must discern what God is asking, prepare spiritually and depend entirely on God/the Holy Spirit’s leading. All of the work of planning and organizing should be conducted within that context!
The Twelve Steps of Gospel Nonviolence:
(See pp 131-133 of Love in Action)
- Discern Personal (and Group) Commitment: A nonviolent action or campaign takes time, effort and spiritual energy. Make reasonably sure you and/or your group are free enough and motivated enough to meet these demands.
- Prepare Spiritually: Let your anger drive your intelligence. Transform anger into agape love.
- Build a Core Group: Draw people in. Foster a positive group spirit. Hold effective, prayerful meetings. Divide the work. Keep deepening your understanding of gospel nonviolence.
- Investigate: Get your facts straight. Try to understand the other side. Look for alternative solutions.
- Strategize: Develop a vision. Be clear about values. Set clear goals. Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Identify final decision makers, draw up an action plan, agree on the steps of the plan, develop specific, attainable and measurable objectives.
- Negotiate: Negotiate with the people who can make the change (bishop, chancellor, pastor) not the gatekeepers (executive assistant, parish secretary). Prepare carefully for each meeting. Name a negotiation team. Set the agenda. If negotiations fail, be clear about next steps.
- Educate and Build Broader Support: Have educational brochures and materials readily available to draw more folks to your cause.
- Prepare for Direct Action: Do a strategic analysis, explore direct action possibilities most likely to workExamples: Standing with blue arm bands witnessing for Women’s Ordination in the National Cathedral at the time of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the US. Or the witness by victims of clergy sex abuse at the USCCB meeting in Dallas, 2003. (See p. 132 in Love in Action)
- Train for Direct Action: Especially key to maintaining non-violent values/ethos. Role-play various scenarios.
- Make a Final Appeal: Give powerholders every opportunity to correct the injustice or wrong on which attention has been focused.
- Take Loving Direct Action: Pray together, put action under light of the Spirit, plan carefully (coordinate media, signs banners, leaflets monitors/peacekeepers etc).
- Celebrate, Evaluate, Plan Next Steps: Identify positives, what’s working, how to improve, celebrate accomplishments.
Some Basic Principles of Community Organizing:
Adapted by Chris Schenk fromOrganizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders by Si Kahn 1991, National Association of Social Worker press and Organizing for Social Change by Kim Bobo et al from the Midwest Academy, Chicago, IL (http://www.midwestacademy.com/). Both used with permission.
- Build a base: Make sure to gather a broad representation of people across parish and diocesan diversities/organizations who are committed to working on the issue. Do not do public events or actions until you have a well-established constituency.
- Identify the core leadership group: This should be composed of people who: like people, are credible, are good listeners, know how to build trust, can speak well to media and diverse constituencies, are willing to work hard, are flexible, are self disciplined, know how to set limits, are visionary and courageous and have a sense of humor.
- Core leadership should include people with these skills: Know how to work with people, able to define issues, know how to hold a successful meeting (set agenda, chair, encourage participation etc), know how to develop long and short range strategy, set goals, prioritize, raise money, work with the media, do investigative research etc.
- Choose an issue: Should be realistic, winnable, aimed to build your organization/movement.
- Choose strategies:Things to consider in choosing a successful strategy may/should include:
- determining what best engages parish/diocesan leadership?
- avoiding a strategy that could be divisive of your base group of supporters
- using educational materials on rights and responsibilities of Catholics, baptismal authority, etc. to build your case
- considering canonical consultation (see www.futurechurch.org)
- making sure the chosen strategy is consistent with the group’s values
- making your views public (at the right time and in a respectful way) including engaging the media where appropriate