We really DO like conversation….

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A few months back those of us who try to operate this thing called The United Methodist Reporter had a dilemma. We absolutely wanted to create a space for conversation on the stories we publish and on life in the United Methodist Church, but time and time again we found the comments here devolving into name calling and demonization, with folks seeming to take joy in declaring their brothers and sisters to be heretics. Frankly, it had gotten a bit out of hand, so we turned off comments for a while to see if we could discern a better way. We looked at a bunch of commenting systems, like Disqus or Facebook Comments, but in the end they all had limitations we didn’t really like. After searching for a while, we’ve come upon a new commenting system that we are going to try in the hopes that we can work together to improve the level of discourse on the site.

As before, the same rules apply — treat one another with respect or we’ll ban you from the site. That may sound like censorship but UMR is a privately owned site and we simply won’t stand for personal attacks, which is our choice as site operators. We understand that passion is a part of good conversation, but we believe passion never trumps Christ’s call to love one another as he loved us. If you disagree with someone, make a good argument, don’t throw brickbats (whatever a brick bat is?).

One new addition to the commenting system is that folks can vote on whether they like or dislike a comment. If you think a comment is good and helpful, give it a thumbs up and it will rise to the top. The same holds true for those comments that are less than helpful — vote down and they will fall to the bottom.

We understand that there is no perfect system and that there will be people who believe it is their right to say whatever they want without concern for the feelings of others, suggesting that to do otherwise is to be “politically correct.” We believe that treating others with respect and offering a bit of tact isn’t about political correctness, but rather is simply what people of faith are called to do (read about the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians or the call to be careful with our speech in James).

We know that this is a difficult time in the life of our church. There are great differences in our beliefs on how to interpret scripture and our common life together. There is a lack of trust at all levels. We may be idealists but we believe that trust is gained through honest, respectful engagement with one another, not lobbing attacks at “those people” on the other side. We hope that we can be one means of furthering the conversation, and we hope you will join us in the journey.

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6 Comments on "We really DO like conversation…."

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Mary Page
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When people truly have a conversation it is messy. You do not agree. Most Americans are no longer trained on how to disagree in a way that is not personal. We are taught in school and often by teachers and our culture to attack personally rather than discuss issues. I am not so concerned about tact as in getting to the truth and finding a consensus. I would like to see more processes on moral conscience as defined by John Wesley where issues are discerned. Anyway I like your idea but I am totally concerned that you spent so much… Read more »
Gil Caldwell
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I, over the years have had an off and on e-mail, snail letter conversation, with someone who is a supporter of our UMC anti-marriage equality language and legislation and I am not. It has been “off” for awhile, but may be “on” again. I, with his permission will share with UMR anything that may be of interest. I believe that no or uncivil conversation, between those who have differing opinions on racial justice and gender justice represents a barrier to racial and gender justice. The same is true for justice for same gender loving couples. Bias is nurtured by casting… Read more »
David T
Guest

Thanks, UMR, and may the “holy conferencing” commence!

James
Guest

I have tried……………..

Hayne Hamilton
Guest

No publication, print or digital, succeeds in a serious dialogue unless it publishes letters to the editor to be read by the entire circulation, not just those who comment on a particular article. These comment links always turn into arguments and reflexive spot opinions. Open up to letters to the editor. You might learn a lot, and your audience can enter into principled and more carefully considered positions. Respectfully, HH

Larry Ready
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I write not to disagree with any other position. For several weeks I have been bothered by a semantic issue which I think contributes to the “heat” of discussion. A number of recent articles have talked about schism as if the word itself is inherently evil. There was a recent article taking to task those who suggested that “talk of schism is rampant” and suggesting that not to be the case. It seems to me that is in fact what we all are considering, on all sides of the issues. The definition is: schism ˈs(k)izəm/Submit noun a split or division… Read more »
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