The purpose of civil discourse is to enhance understanding, not to change minds. It’s always helpful to have a diversity of ideas, understand different perspectives, and potentially learn flaws in our own thinking. The pursuit of understanding is in and of itself a worthy endeavor.
The five-week curriculum on civil discourse for the Episcopal Church is designed to facilitate productive conversations about society’s important issues. The curriculum focuses on creating dialogues in church communities where people can come together free from the constraints of political affiliations.
Successful civil discourse creates a safe space for debate. Truly listening to another person’s thoughts and feelings is an important pathway towards finding common value. Coming to the table with respect and humility facilitates the sharing of ideas without judgement, and working through disagreement to unlock a way forward.
Alan Yarborough is the communications coordinator and office manager in the Office of Government Relations of the Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. He is also the co-author of the Civil Discourse Curriculum, a five-week masterclass on how to communicate as a society even when disagreeing and treat each other with respect and dignity. Bill Steverson is a parishioner in the Episcopal Church in Signal Mountain, Tennessee where he organized and led the Civil Discourse Curriculum in his local community.