The Circle Process helps people have open and honest conversations about difficult matters in which everyone has an opportunity to share without being judged and without debate. Its focus is on learning, understanding and valuing one another even in the midst of disagreement.

Logistics

Items needed: Circle of chairs for participants, a large candle to place on the floor or small table in the middle of the circle as a symbol for the presence of Christ. An object, shell or stone or another object that a person may hold when he or she is speaking. A Bible to read scripture.

Room setting

The room is set with a circle of chairs, all participants in the conversation sit in the circle.

The facilitator of the conversation lights a candle in the middle of the circle as a sign of Christ’s presence among the group.

Process

The circle process works best with up to 12 individuals. When there are more than 12, from the larger group, a group of 12 volunteers may begin. If the group does not know one another well, people go around the circle to introduce themselves.

The candle is lit and there is a time of Scripture and prayer. The scripture is read 3 times with different voices around the circle. Participants are asked to share a word that resonates as they listen to each reading.

Suggested Scriptures

Matthew 5:9 
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Ephesians 4: 29, 31-32
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up as there is need so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Jeremiah 17: 7 – 8
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Covenant is Established

  • Confidentiality
  • The amount of time the group will be in conversation
  • Purpose or issue to be discussed

Facilitated Conversation

The circle process is about creating a space for deep listening and engaging in sacred conversations. It is about having an equal voice around the circle and exploring other view points in a safe way.

Circle Expectations

  • Only one person can speak at a time in the circle
  • A person may only speak if they are holding the shell or stone or other object.
  • Using mutual invitation, once a person has finished speaking they invite another person to speak.
  • The person may accept the invitation and the object and speak, or pass the object to another person.

Facilitated Conversation

  • Purpose is to gain clarity on expectations
  • Agreement on expectations
  • Create consensus on next steps

Conversation About the Way Forward

  1. Why are you United Methodist? What about the United Methodist Church has been meaningful for you?
  2. What do you understand about differences in The United Methodist Church concerning homosexuality?
  3. If you know a gay or lesbian person, what do you know about this person?
  4. What in the Bible informs how you think about the differences Christians have about homosexuality?
  5. What is your hope for your congregation in the midst of the conversation about the Way Forward?
  6. Who will you be and how will you treat others if the church doesn’t change or does change?

Example of Circle Process Questions for Other Matters in the Life of the Church

  1. What is the presenting issue?
  2. What other issues are people concerned about?
  3. Of these issues what is the primary issue?
  4. What do we know about this issue?
  5. What has been done to address the issue so far?
  6. What has been successful and what has been unsuccessful in addressing the issue?
  7. What are appropriate next steps that the SPRC can take, those involved in the conflict can take, the congregation can take to resolve the issue?
  8. Do you agree with these next steps, or what would you modify?
  9. What is the consensus for next steps?
  10. What is an appropriate timeline for the next steps