BACKGROUND. We have adopted this phrase "Holy Manners" as our model of behaviour. It first came to our attention when Marion Pardy became the Moderator of our United Church of Canada and used the phrase to suggest that diversity often meant dispute, and we needed guidelines for fair and open discussions. Here then are some links on this excellent idea from Gilbert Rendle.
Marion Pardy ProfileMarion Pardy. Click for the profile when she became moderator.
"We live in a changing church and in a changing world," says Dr. Pardy, "Our challenge is to seek God in the midst of change, to be daring enough to implement and critique change, knowing that we will make mistakes but also recognizing that 'stagnation unto death' is worse." Dr. Pardy says that while change may be inevitable and often necessary, we must exercise a sense of humility, recognizing that we are able to grasp, at best, only glimpses of the truth. This she says helps us " to relate compassionately to those most affected by change and to those who resist change."

"It may be confusing to the rest of the world, however, for The United Church of Canada, a diversity of views and practices within our denomination is the norm, rather than the exception. And this is where the challenge to our "holy manners" becomes a particular matter of concern. How do we live together, faithfully, in the midst of diverse opinions, that can stigmatize and hurt individuals and groups on all sides of the question?"
During the recently concluded 38th Council, the commissioners were asked to consider this list of holy manners in their proceedings which said " We will:
     keep God at the centre of everything we do
     separate people from problems
     allow for full and equitable participation
     listen carefully without interruption
     welcome the conflict of ideas
     honour the decisions of the body"
Jim Sinclair, the General Secretary.
"The pain may be because of difficult or awkward personal relationships. It might also be because of theological differences. The inclusive nature of our church means we have committed to relating with people who hold other views. It is always a challenge, obviously. It is critical we do not back away from it.
When it comes to differences of belief, theologian Walter Brueggemann had comments that are worthwhile for us to remember. He was talking about old habits and rigid absolutes getting in the way of understanding or acceptance. He said in a conversation, “We’re always looking for ways around the radicality of the call.” Speaking about Christians clinging to “a particular piece of the truth” and “imagining it to be the whole truth” he went on to remark, “There’s a deep itch to excommunicate everyone who is not (aligned with my) absolutes. And we’d have a very small church when we get done doing that.” Being a church together, with our diversities and celebrating our common unity, is the way to health.
This healing task is a Gospel imperative. As we work at it in the larger society it is as important in our life together in the church community." (from the General Council 38 Acting General Secretary's Accountability Report.)
Behavioral Covenants in Congregation: A Handbook for Honoring Differences
by Gil Rendle of The Alban Institute
This down-to-earth workbook gets to the heart of modern congregational life: how to live creatively together despite differences of age, race, culture, opinion, gender, theological or political position. Alban Senior Consultant Gil Rendle explains how to grow by valuing our differences rather than trying to ignore or blend them. He describes a method of establishing behavioral covenants that includes leadership instruction, training tools, resources (visual models, examples of specific covenants), small-group exercises, plans for meetings and retreats. CLICK HERE to read Introduction.
This is where our Marion Pardy got the phrase "Holy Manners".
From a Congregational United Church of Christ
"Gilbert Rendle’s book, Behavioral Covenants In Congregations, describes two common influences on our behavior. At one pole, the “domain of law” is binding and must be obeyed. At the other extreme, the “domain of free choice” allows for complete freedom. But in between is a third domain of “manners and obedience to the unenforceable” where we do right even when there is no one to make you but yourself.
This type of “self-differentiating” behavior is what Jesus taught and sacrificed His life for; it uses conflict constructively; it’s having courage to stand up for values, addressing the bigger picture, and learning how to live together. It requires really LISTENING to one another and modeling appropriate behavior.
Holy manners refer not only to being polite in social settings but also to having moral content and including behaviors based on the ability to distinguish wrong from right.
Behavioral covenants (vows, promises) are positive statements of behavior that will be followed; they are not statements of what is wrong from the past. Behavioral covenants focus on behaviors, not personality characteristics or individual persons."

Jan 5, 2004