Ruth Haley Barton, founder of The Transforming Centre, was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation which teaches: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality … It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents.” —Tilden Edwards, Shalem Founder
Barton, who could not find peace or direction in her Baptist roots or through reading the Bible and praying, found fulfillment through spiritual direction. Now she incorporates a blend of Eastern and Roman Catholic contemplative spirituality and monastic practices in her retreats and books on practicing the presence of God in the silence and sacred rhythms of prayer. Lately she has been very instrumental in leading entire Protestant and Anabaptist church congregations and their leaders into these same practices through spiritual direction and discernment seminars.
This year, the Mennonites have once again brought in Ruth Haley Barton to help them make decisions in the silence regarding some very important upcoming issues that include LGBTQ and anti-Israel BDS resolutions. How tragic to see an entire church delegation over looking all that is necessary in their discernment process (the Bible), thereby shunning to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in seeking guidance from an apprentice of Thomas Merton and Tilden Edwards. Surely Menno Simons is rolling over in his grave.
“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4
Here are two articles for the remnant to read and pray about…
CLC discerns delegate agenda and offers counsel to Executive Board
Posted on March 30, 2015
NORTH NEWTON, Kan.—“We are here and we’ve been gathered by God, and the truth is gathered, too,” said Chuck Neufeld, conference minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, during a plenary session at the March 26–28 meeting of Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) in North Newton, Kan.
CLC members spent time in prayer and worship; received input from Ruth Haley Barton on tools for discerning God’s will for the church; and offered counsel to the Resolutions Committee and Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA on churchwide statements to bring before the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.
Neufeld’s reflections, offered after a half hour of silent discernment and prayer, were joined by those of other CLC members who called for mutual forbearance and care across the church in the midst of disagreements on how LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) individuals should be allowed to participate in Mennonite Church USA. Marco Güete, conference minister for Southeast Mennonite Conference, closed the sharing time with observations from his long career in the Mennonite Church, saying, “My reflection to God during this time was, ‘I love your imperfect church. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of it.’”
God’s will can be found, even in when we disagree
Apr 13, 2015 by Paul Schrag
The rest of the world makes decisions, but the church discerns. If that were just a choice of words, it wouldn’t be important. But Ruth Haley Barton believes the difference goes much deeper. To discern is to find the will of God.
“Christian leaders have an idea that their decision-making should be somehow different from the rest of the world,” Barton said in a presentation to the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council on March 26 at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. “But sometimes we reduce that to just having a prayer and devotions at the beginning of the meeting.”
Discernment is more than a nod to God.
At a time when MC USA is experiencing conflict over same-sex relationships and church polity, Barton’s message was timely. Though she spoke to leaders dealing with major issues, her ideas apply to every Christian and to all of life.
Barton is a teacher and writer about Christian formation and church leadership at the Transforming Center in Wheaton, Ill., who will speak to delegates at the MC USA convention in Kansas City in July.
She defines discernment as “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God in both the ordinary moments and the larger decisions of our lives.”
Discernment is the habit of noticing where God is at work and how God is speaking. Barton believes it is possible, in any situation, to “have a sense of whether God is at work or the Evil One is at work.” This needs to happen even in the interior world of our own thoughts and motives. 1 John 4:1 advises us to “test the spirits.” Are we willing to test our own spirit?
To do this, we need to listen to God in solitude and silence.
“Many of us are trying to give spiritual leadership without having much of a spiritual life,” Barton said. We must not let our busyness — even our Christian busyness — keep us from being aware of what is going on in our own soul. We need to be quiet and hear the voice of God as distinct from our own voice.
To whom does God give the spiritual gift of discernment? To those who are on a spiritual journey, Barton says. To those who let God transform them into a better version of themselves.
2] Ruth Haley Barton, Contemplative Prayer, and the Spiritual Formation Movement
3] Ruth Haley Barton Trains Mennonites to Discern in The Silence