The Movement of Spiritual Discernment into Mainline Churches: Chuck Olsen and Danny Morris

From their experience of leading discernment facilitation events, “Schools for Discernmentarians,” which were jointly sponsored by Upper Room and Worshipful-Work, Danny and Chuck will follow the emerging interest in the practice of spiritual discernment into mainline churches. They will trace a line of publications and special events related to this movement. Their books on spiritual discernment, which were published in the mid-nineties, stimulated interest within their respective United Methodist and Presbyterian denominations and into the ecumenical world as well.
Chuck Olsen, founder of Worshipful-Work, is a retired Presbyterian minister with special interest in developing leadership for church boards/councils—and for judicatories as well. He is author of Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders, and co-author with Danny Morris of Discerning God's Will Together. His latest book, The Wisdom of the Seasons: How the Church Year Helps Us Understand Our Congregational Stories, will be released by Alban this next fall. Chuck lives at Johnson Lake, Nebraska.

Danny E. Morris served twenty-two years as pastor and twenty-five years with Upper Room Ministries. Author of two books on discernment and co-author of another, he developed the Academy for Spiritual Formation, the "Five-day Academy," The Upper Room Living Prayer Center, and a discernment network of over eight-hundred churches—either interested in, or practicing discernment in church governance. See more about his publications and his work on spirituality and humor:
Cultivating a Heart that Listens: Suzanne Farnham

Deep prayerful listening is fundamental to spiritual discernment. This workshop will explore time-tested ways to nurture the practice of listening at ever-deeper levels, drawing from a wide-range of traditions.
Suzanne Farnham is Founder of Listening Hearts Ministries in Baltimore Maryland ( As leader of spiritual discernment retreats and workshops, Suzanne specializes in training trainers for in-depth program work. She is She is co-author of the Listening Hearts series of books, including Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community, Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations, and Listening Hearts Manual for Discussion Leaders.

Facilitating Discernment for Novices and Experts—Arthur Larrabee

Effective clerking, or moderating, involves establishing a theological framework for understanding corporate discernment as well as developing practical wisdom for supporting the process. These principles are common for novices and experts…and everyone in between!

Arthur Larrabee is the General Secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting ( He has served as the Clerk of PYM, of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, and of the Westtown School Board of Trustees, and he is a recognized authority on Friends’ decision-making process, locally and nationally. Prior to his service to the Religious Society of Friends, he worked for over 20 years as a lawyer.

Vocational Discernment: Finding our fit in God’s World: Teresa Blythe

Tough economic times mean a lot of people—and churches—are in need of vocational discernment. Drawing on her experience as a full-time spiritual director who has spent the last five years working with FTE’s Volunteers Exploring Vocation program, Teresa Blythe will describe the elements for vocational discernment. In this workshop, Teresa will share discernment processes and prayer practices from her book 50 Ways to Pray that are helpful for persons and groups in vocational discernment.

Teresa Blythe is the Director of the Hesychia School for Spiritual Direction at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson, Arizona. She has written 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times and has extensive experience working with individuals and groups in vocational discernment. Teresa also contracts with various church boards and organizations as a discernment facilitator, especially around questions of stewardship and mission vision (


Circles of Trust – Creating Soul Safe Spaces for Personal and Communal Discernment: John Fenner

The Courage to Lead® for Clergy and Congregational Leaders is a retreat-based approach to renewing personal identity, professional integrity and vocational vitality. Rooted in the work of Parker Palmer, the retreats create a soul-safe space for personal and communal discernment about questions of meaning and purpose, calling and ministry, a space that supports both solitude and community. During this interactive session, principles for creating a “circle of trust” retreat and the use of the clearness committee will be explored.

John A. Fenner is Program Director for the Center for Courage & Renewal’s Courage to Lead for Clergy and Congregational Leaders, based in Brevard, North Carolina ( Having prepared for formation facilitation with Parker Palmer John co-facilitates a number of the Center’s national Circle of Trust retreats as well as a seasonal series for nonprofit leaders.

A Listening Life: Practicing the Presence of God with Youth: Josh Reid

Discernment in youth ministry... you're probably thinking, “That's like having to choose between playing Bloody Winkum or Ultimate Frisbee, right?” But what if discernment played a more foundational role in the spiritual development of young people? What if youth and youthworkers alike worked at nurturing communities that practiced recognizing and responding to the Presence and Activity of God in their midst? This workshop will consider transformative approaches to youth ministry centered in discernment.

Josh Reid is Pastor of Youth Ministries at Newberg Friends Church in Newberg, Oregon (; he and his wife Kayla have three children. In addition to youth ministry, Josh is keenly interested in the new abolitionist movement and delivering people from the sex trade. His heroes include John Woolman, Bono, Cleta Crisman, Paul Julius Bock, and Jed Bartlet (from The West Wing).
Steps in Listening to God Together: Jan Wood and Lon Fendall

We are often uncomfortable with group discernment because we don’t understand its structure and movement. This session will explore the practical, step-by-step process that makes congregational discernment accessible—and delightful—for groups.

Jan Wood, a Recorded Friends minister, is the Director of GOOD NEWS Associates in Seattle, Washington ( She is a speaker, writer, spiritual director and consultant. She is author of Christians at Work, Not Business as Usual, and is co-author of Practicing Discernment Together; Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making.


Lon Fendall is the Director of the Center for Peace and Justice and the Center for Global Studies at George Fox University ( He is the co-author of Practicing Discernment Together; Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making, Citizenship: A Christian Calling, William Wilberforce: Exceptional Lay Leaders, and Stand Alone or Come Home: Mark Hatfield as an Evangelical and a Progressive.


Soaring in the Spirit—Developing a Theology of Worship: Chuck Conniry

A theology of discernment is theology lived. The Risen Christ invites us into life-encompassing relationship with him and all others with whom he is related. This presentation will explore basic discernment practices that give life to our theology.

Chuck Conniry is Professor of Pastoral Studies, Vice President and Dean of George Fox Evangelical Seminary ( Chuck came to George Fox University in 1997 with twenty years of pastoral experience, and he designed and directed the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program for 10 years. Author of Soaring in the Spirit; Rediscovering Mystery in the Christian Life, Chuck and his family reside in Sherwood, Oregon. He loves to write, swim, and ride his Harley.