Notes & Reports
Together in Ministry Groups ByLaws
Code of Ethics
Ministers Council, ABC
Consensus is a deliberative process where collective
decisions are arrived at by a group of individuals working together for
the good of the organization and its mission. Conditions under which
consensus is formed include open communication in a supportive climate
that gives the participants a sense that they have had a fair chance
to influence the decision and that all group members understand and support
the decision. Consensus building means that all participants listen carefully
and communicate effectively. Consensus has been reached when all parties
can at least live with the decision and will agree to support the decision
of the body.
Consensus as spelled out in the Appendix of the Evergreen Baptist Association
“A group reaches consensus on a decision when every
member can agree to support that decision.” From How
to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve
Problems, and Make Decisions by David Straus, published by Berret-Koehler,
San Francisco, 2002, page 58.
David Straus’ Phases of Consensus (p. 61):
- Phase 1. Perception: Is there a problem? How
do you feel about it? Is it legitimate to discuss the problem openly?
- Phase 2. Definition: What is the problem? What
are its limits or boundaries?
- Phase 3. Analysis: Why does
the problem exist? What are its causes?
- Phase 4. Generation
of Alternatives: What are some
possible solutions to the problem?
- Phase 5. Evaluation:
What criteria must a good solution meet? Which alternatives are
better or more acceptable than others?
- Phase 6. Decision
Which solution can we agree on? Which alternative can we commit
Another Model of Consensus Building
- The proposal is read to the group.
- A few minutes (like 15) are allowed for discussion, clarification
and incorporation of concerns.
- A straw poll is taken as a test for consensus.
- If the straw poll indicates unanimous agreement, the proposal
- If the straw poll is lopsided (2/3 in favor of the proposal):
- Proposer and others work on alternative proposals (15 minutes).
- Proposal is reconsidered by the group.
- A straw poll is taken.
- If a consensus is reached, the revised
proposal is passed.
- If no consensus is reached, start over
on this step or table the matter for later consideration
- If the straw poll is close, determine if the matter is important
by a simple hand vote.
- If there is no clear majority on the importance of the matter,
- If there is a clear majority (2/3) on the importance
of the matter, return to #5 above.
Levels of consensus
When people talk of consensus it does not necessarily mean that everyone
agrees to the proposal at the same level.
- Some may whole-heartedly agree.
- Others may agree
- While others may agree but have
some reservations but are willing to live with the decision of
the group. If everyone
is in agreement at least to this level you may have consensus. If
a majority of people only agrees at #3, more work may be recommended
to have a greater number at #1.
- While others may agree
with serious questions but will not block the group moving forward.
These questions in most circumstances are best addressed in such
a way that people can be more comfortable with the decision.
just one or two are unwilling to live with the decision the Quaker
approach may be used: the convener discerns “that the one
not uniting with the decision is acting without concern for the group
or in selfish interest.” And therefore the decision goes forward.