I may have blogged on this before, but we have just spent the weekend at Greenbelt, and one of the talks which attended was about this, and what it might mean. For me the most interesting comment was that it depends on context. The example given was that in academia it is good to talk with people who disagree with you, because the aim is a deeper understanding; whereas in politics the aim is to “do” something. If what we are aiming at is deeper understanding then listening to people with differing views to our own is helpful. If, however, we are trying to “do” something, and there are differing views on what to do (and in churches these can be strongly held and vastly differing) then reaching good disagreement is much harder.
Lesley and I were talking about this, and she said that in the latter circumstance there is research (a quick Google couldn’t find it) that says that people have a greater desire to be heard than to “win”, and that to get good disagreement on issues like that requires a good process which allows everyone to be heard. I don’t disagree with that, but I am not sure that it leads to good disagreement when both preferences are held very strongly.
For me, this shed some light on the problems that the church is currently having – are we trying to deepen our understanding, or are we trying to do something? The fact that we have such strong disagreements suggests to me that we are trying to do something. Perhaps we should be aiming for deeper understanding – although as an organisation we have to do things.