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Marcia’s Musings: CONSENSUS, CAUCUS AND POWER (part 2)
Recently, I was in a meeting where there was very brief discussion of consensus. A person made the observation that their organization used consensus because they believed “the one voice of dissent was potentially a voice from God”. I thought, but how do you set the stage so that the one voice will be comfortable speaking? We weren’t in a situation that I could ask that question. There are many ways that a single voice of dissent can be silenced.
Part of consensus building must be giving everyone the option to say something different from the perceived direction of the group and giving them the framework, climate and structure in which to say it. Evergreen adopted the idea of doing our work by consensus after we organized by Ethnic Caucuses. That order was important, because the caucus structure helps us to achieve consensus. By first meeting in caucuses to discuss a concern, it is more likely the shyest voice has opportunity to be heard. There have been times when a caucus slowed down the decision-making process, allowing the lone voice opportunity to really be heard.
The Euro caucus in particular was concerned about consensus because of the “tyranny of the one”. Yosh told us that was not the way it worked. In reality it can if the one only stands against coming to decision. If a climate is created in which someone can voice a concern and feel that the concern is heard because every voice is honored as we work together to find God’s way, that’s consensus. Creating climates in which true consensus can be achieved is different than thinking ‘if I speak up I am understood as standing against everyone else’. There is power for everyone in consensus - more than there is power for the one.