The Art of Consensus
Years ago our Unity family released Robert’s Rules of Order and moved to consensus, because it reflects how we actually function in community decision-making. Simply put, consensus is the process of reaching mutual agreement in a group and ensuring that everyone is heard. It moves people toward what they have in common.
The process of voting can exclude the minority opinion. Consensus follows the spirit of Unity, and we believe that the Universe/God/Spirit/Truth supports this process. The Unity Council uses consensus to make all its decisions, and the community as a whole practices consensus at Annual Meetings.
Consensus creates a safe and sacred place to be heard, and it requires individual responsibility. Congregants participating in consensus express their feelings, thoughts and questions, or they may choose not to speak at all. There is no right or wrong. We make a commitment to allow time for this process, and to respect each other’s voices – with no interruptions.
Communication between people in a group develops the feeling of community that sustains the life of the group over time. At Unity, the belief and experience is that consensus strengthens the community by creating a constant feedback loop which aligns intention with action or impact.
There are five levels of consensus:
- I fully agree – you have my support.
- I will support with some minor reservations
- I will support, but not actively. I won’t stand in the way of others doing this
- I don’t agree, and I can’t support.
- I actively disagree, and I will work against this.
Regardless of which of the five levels best conveys how you feel in a discussion, the individual responsibility function of consensus asks that everyone speak their truth.
In any discussion/decision, if anyone is at level 4 or 5, then consensus is not reached.
That means that no action can be taken on that issue/decision yet. What happens next is simply that the discussion must continue. We may decide to keep talking at that gathering, to meet again on that subject, to move some discussions to a regular or special meeting, or to move the issue into committee work.
We invite everyone in the community to fully participate—this is an inclusive process that works best when people know what consensus is and continue to practice it. Consensus is one of the most powerful reasons it feels so good to be here in our Unity community.