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Houston Graduate School of Theology CS 501 Introduction to Christian Spirituality.

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1 Houston Graduate School of Theology CS 501 Introduction to Christian Spirituality

2 What is discernment?  Sources Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology, chapter 11 Smith, Gordon T. The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press.  Discernment Defined Insight – the capacity to see something clearly Discretion – the capacity to distinguish between good and evil and good and better Judgment – assessment informed by knowledge and understanding

3 Discernment  Through the regular practice of discernment, a person grows in wisdom, which becomes increasingly evident in the quality of one’s choices  The ability to discern the voice of Jesus is a critical spiritual skill, basic to our capacity to make vocational and moral choices

4 The exercise of discernment  External – concerning the veracity of events, situations, and people; God’s work in the world and one’s participation in it; and extraordinary phenomena  Internal – determining the source of inner impulses has always been difficult and may be the reason why most of the work on discernment has concentrated on this area

5 Dynamic tensions Divine initiative and human response Context of life and the particularity of Jesus’ voice The voice of Jesus in prayer and in the world The individual and the community

6 Divine initiative/human response  God is always the initiator  Christian spirituality is a spirituality of response  In spiritual discernment, the believer learns how to respond to God’s initiative priority of God call for genuine human action and responsibility  Discernment rests in the tension between the priority of God and the call for genuine human action and responsibility

7 Context of life/voice of Jesus  God speaks into the particulars  We learn to be attentive in the details of our lives greater capacity to listen to Jesus if we are frank with ourselves  We have a greater capacity to listen to Jesus if we are frank with ourselves about who we are, where we have come from, what we have experienced, and what we hope for.  As a result, we develop the ability to attend to the inner witness of the Spirit.

8 Jesus’ voice in prayer and in the world unexpected  A discerning person learns to be alert and attentive to the voice of Jesus in every context of life, even through unexpected channels of communication  Effective discernment requires an openness to surprises, to the strange and wonderful ways in which God may choose to speak  We will not recognize Jesus’ voice unless we listen to the Spirit while in prayer

9 The individual and the community  The community is both a threat and an indispensable aid to discernment  To foster spiritual maturity, the community enables individual Christians to hear the voice of Jesus and encounter the living bread and water for themselves for by  Though a believer learns discernment for oneself, it is not learned by oneself

10 Critical affirmations The Voices of the Members The Gift of Discernment The Role of Leadership

11 The role of leadership within  The leader finds a responsible place within the process, as part of the group  Leadership is one of the gifts given to the community  The community takes seriously the perspective, skills, and gifts of the leader through  The leader listens to the community and to the voice of the Spirit through the community

12 The voices of the community  Each member plays a significant role appropriate  Communal discernment seeks to affirm the appropriate voice and contribution of each person, corresponding to each person’s giftedness and role within the community

13 Gift of discernment  Individual contributions that enable the group to discern well.  Varieties of expressions Seeing beyond the immediate (vision) Understanding the issues and facts (critical analysis but beyond rational analysis) Identifying the emotional dimension Sharing of wisdom and insight (sage)

14 Conditions for Communal Discernment Common Purpose Resolve to Decide Together Mutual Regard and Acceptance Clearly Framed Matter for Discernment Good information and Good Research

15 The meeting to discern Discussion toward Resolution Moderator asks for comments and observations that have arisen out of prayer A “sense” may emerge that there is more agreement among the group than originally thought possible Prayer and Silent Reflection Meeting for ClearnessExtended time of listening prayer Open Discussion Threshing Meeting Issues, concerns, observations, and perspectives are freely expressed

16 Spiritual Direction  Freeing and empowering others to know with greater confidence what God is saying to them  Empowering others to hear more clearly the voice of Jesus  Distinct from both counseling and mentoring

17 Distinctions  Counseling The agenda is set by the emotional needs of the one being counseled Spiritual directors and mentors know that when it comes to emotional pathologies, they are well advised to refer others to trained counselors  Mentoring The agenda is set by the one who mentors One has a set of skills and trains the other in those skills

18 Distinctions  Spiritual direction The agenda is not so much emotional needs, nor is it a training program The witness of the Spirit determines the course of the conversation Fundamental posture is in being with the other in a manner that enhances the capacity of the other to know how God is speaking

19 Peterson’s assumptions  God is present and at work in each person’s life  A wealth of spiritual wisdom exists on which we can draw as we seek to respond to the work of God  Every person is different, therefore, directors should not work with a predetermined outcome

20 The Bottom Line  Spiritual direction is not a ministry of giving counsel about decisions other can choose well  Rather, in spiritual direction, one of the most effective ways in which we can serve the other is by probing to see how the other can choose well, in intentional response to God

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