Workshop II

Tuesday, June 2, 2-3:15 p.m.

The Sacred Compass—A Way of Spiritual Discernment: Brent Bill

A compass makes a good metaphor for our spiritual lives and the work of discerning God's will for them. God doesn't speak as clearly. Keeping our soul’s eyes on the sacred compass leads us to the holy discovery that we can move through life with purpose and promise, even in those times when we may not sense with certainty what that purpose and promise are. Based on Brent's book Sacred Compass, this is an interactive opportunity to check our compasses and see where God has lead and is leading us.


Brent Bill is a Quaker minister and the author of Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, and Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes. He has been a local church pastor, denominational executive, seminary faculty member, and go-cart track operator. He is currently the executive vice president of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations ( He is a graduate of Wilmington College and the Earlham School of Religion. Brent lives on Ploughshares Farm which consists of 50 acres of Indiana farmland that is being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.

Spiritual DiscernmentA Way of Life for Leaders and Teams: Steve Macchia

In today’s corporate-minded world it is a challenge to move ministry leaders away from top-down decision-making and lean more toward community-based discernment processes. This workshop will walk through biblical, historical and practical methods of personal, team and congregational discernment. The hope is that by learning how to practice spiritual discernment in one’s prayer closet and among teams of leaders, it will indeed become a way of life with no turning back to the non-communal way ever again!


Stephen A. Macchia serves as founder and president of Leadership Transformations and director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building (, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also received his DMin. He’s the author of five books, including Becoming A Healthy Church, Becoming A Healthy Disciple and Becoming A Healthy Team (all published by Baker Books). He is also he creator of CHAT (Church Health Assessment Tool), an online listening tool for leaders and congregations. He and his wife Ruth live in Lexington, Mass., and have two children, Nathan and Rebekah.

Consultation, Discernment, and Institutional Development: Dealous Cox

Corporate discernment is often confused with “consensus” as a political give-and-take, when it most centrally involves a spiritual endeavor rooted in seeking to know what God would have a group do. The effect of seeking God’s will together, however, contributes to institutional development and missional excellence in a variety of ways. These include a corporate prioritization of goals, a clarified understanding of mission, broad ownership of responsibilities, and the enthusiastic implementation of decisions—all components of mission-driven excellence.


Dea Cox served as a public schools superintendent in Oregon for 30 years and currently assists in managing Wilhelm Foods in Newberg, Ore. Dea is recognized as a leading educator in Oregon and one of the foremost authorities of corporate discernment in the Pacific Northwest. He has served as clerk of Reedwood Friends Church, clerk of the Elders of Northwest Yearly Meeting, and chair of the Board of George Fox University. His post-graduate work was conducted at Harvard University.

Voting Not to VoteThe Story of the WCC’s Path to Discernment: Peter Bouteneff and Paul Anderson

In 2005, the World Council of Churches voted not to vote but to use a discernment process as a means of coming to unity in their deliberations. Leaders from the Orthodox and Quaker traditions worked together in both raising the concern and in showing a feasible way forward. Also in 2005, Paul Anderson contributed a response to the Vatican published in One in Christ arguing for a vision of Christian unity around the leadership of Christ within the church. In this workshop Peter Bouteneff and Paul Anderson will share about these developments and their implications.


Peter Bouteneff is associate professor of systematic theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. His books include Daily Readings in Orthodox Spirituality, Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives, and Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth (2006). He completed his PhD at Oxford University.


Paul Anderson is professor of biblical and Quaker studies at George Fox University ( His books include The Christology of the Fourth Gospel and The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus. He is editor of Quaker Religious Thought, and his PhD is from the University of Glasgow.

Crafting a Theology of Discernment: Frederick W. Schmidt

All of us practice triage theology, understandings of God and God's way with us, crafted on the run, with limited resources. This workshop describes why and how we do this; its limits; and the particular challenges that laity and clergy alike face in asking the question, "What is the will of God?"

Fred Schmidt

Fred Schmidt serves as director of spiritual formation and Anglican studies at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. His books include What God Wants for your Life, When Suffering Persists, Engaging Scripture: Revelation, and Conversations with Scripture: the Gospel of Luke. His PhD in biblical studies is from the University of Oxford.

Visual Arts and Discernment: Val Isenhower and Judith Todd

The Holy Spirit speaks to us in the discernment process through a variety of avenues, including the visual. This workshop will explore ways to use visual arts to enhance a corporate discernment process.


Valerie K. Isenhower has co-authored two books on spiritual discernment with Judith A. Todd: Living into the Answers: A Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment and Listen for God's Leading: A Workbook for Corporate Spiritual Discernment. She is the former Coordinator of Ministry of Worshipful Work and is one of the founders of Water in the Desert Ministries ( Val specializes in facilitating discernment processes for groups and using photography in discernment. She is an ordained American Baptist Minister and is a published meditative landscape photographer.


Judith A. Todd is one of the founders of Water in the Desert Ministries: A Center for Christian Spiritual Renewal in Albuquerque, N.M. ( Judith is a gifted teacher with a specialty in discernment and biblical studies. Judith received her PhD in biblical studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Calif., and is an ordained Presbyterian minister. She is co-author of two books on spiritual discernment Living into the Answers: A Workbook for Personal Spiritual Discernment and Listen for God's Leading: A Workbook for Corporate Spiritual Discernment.

Right Relationship—Building a Spiritual Economy: Thomas Swain

There are practices we can incorporate into our lives that help build and strengthen our spiritual alertness and flexibility. We will build upon the Quaker sense of Christ within. This will sharpen our spiritual discernment in leading and decision-making.


Thomas Swain serves as clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Tutor at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Quaker & Shaker experience and spiritual gifts. He lives in a cooperative community outside of Philadelphia and was a librarian for Delaware public schools.

Every Church A Peace Church and Communal Discernment: Matthew Johnson

Every Church A Peace Church has inaugurated two new initiatives, one of which is an exercise in communal discernment in an effort to unite the historically peace churches and the historically justice churches in approximately twelve different urban/suburban centers around the country. When issues of value are at stake, coupled with communal health and quality of life issues, the proliferation of winners and losers serves only to deepen destructive patterns of interpersonal and communal interaction.


Matthew V. Johnson, Sr. is the national executive director of Every Church A Peace Church ( and founding senior pastor of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Atlanta. He is author of The Cicada’s Song: A Novel, The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections, Onesimus Our Brother: Reading, Religion Race, and Slavery in Philemon and The Tragic Vision of African American Religion (both to be released fall 2009). His undergraduate degree is from Morehouse College, and his PhD in philosophical theology is from the University of Chicago.

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