|Spiritual discernment is an integral part of formation for Christian discipleship. Discernment is a life-long process of discovering the activity of God within an individual and a community. It is a foundation for nurturing Christian leadership.
Discernment is a process of exploring who we are as disciples of Christ because it involves reminder of the Christian identity and the guidance to a missional call. Both individual and corporate discernment should weave together for spiritual formation and guidance. Individual discernment focuses on personal spiritual formation and growth pertaining to personal faith. Corporate discernment is related to congregational life or a faith community; finding a corporate reality that shapes its identity in relation to Christ.
Ecclesial leaders, such as Catholic priests and Orthodox Christians, have been by tradition, practicing episcopal discernment related to their responsibilities and to providing visions for their constituencies for many years. Corporate discernment has been practiced in the context of a local church or a meeting for decision making or a strategic planning. For example, The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry tries to understand and find guidance of God for fulfilling God’s call as a community through strategic planning. Corporate discernment demands open mindedness and trust that each person in the community brings a gift to the table that the community needs.
The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is committed to providing resources that will enhance effective Christian spiritual leadership through spiritual formation.
A faith community is always in the process of discernment in one way or the other. For example, prayer, theological reflection, and meditation contribute to the transformation of a faith community. These corporate discernment tools have been enhancing the transformation of a faith community to be faithful to its call and mission. The question is, “How do we incorporate unique cultural practices into the Christian discernment process as an inclusive body of Christ in a global context?”
A group of Korean-American United Methodist clergy took a journey of corporate discernment for their spiritual growth and leadership formation. This group received the Discernment Leadership Initiative Award that was given to Christian leaders in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada by the George Fox University Congregational Discernment Project in 2009. The $1,000 award supported a group of Korean American United Methodist clergy for regular discussions, helping them explore how to lead in unity incorporating cultural and theological differences.
Korean-American UM Clergy: Spiritual Formation through Group Discernment by Rev. JongWoo (JW) Park
Dr. Gregory S. Clapper is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Indianapolis. He has written many papers on Spiritual Formation and is a presenter of Continuing Education programs involving Spiritual Formation.
W. Paul Jones formerly taught at Saint Paul School of Theology. He is a Roman Catholic priest and a family brother of the Trappists, and is living as a hermit in Missouri.
The George Fox University Congregational Discernment Project sponsored the conference, "Spiritual Discernment As Christian Leadership" in 2009. Dr. Paul Anderson presented "Dynamics of Discernment—Biblical and Practical" during the conference. Dr. Anderson is a Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University.
Rev. Dr. N. Graham Standish is an ordained Presbyterian minister serving the Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Penn. He presented "Corporate Discernment: The Key to Becoming a Blessed Church" during the Spiritual Discernment as Christian Leadership conference at George Fox University, Newberg, OR in 2009. In this presentation, Dr. Standish explains how the ministry of a local church could be a spiritual journey when the congregation practices discernment as a way of working together.