From Distrust to Trust: Controversies and Conversations in Faith Communities by Matthew B. Sturtevant and Timothy J. Bonner is a deep dive into how churches navigate politically divisive issues, stretching and growing to include worshipers with diverse experiences and beliefs. Based on their research into churches discerning whether to perform same-sex marriages, Sturtevant and Bonner identify model practices and pitfalls for churches engaging in potentially controversial decisions. Their work incorporates a variety of perspectives, drawing on the experiences of churches in the Midwest, as well as both coasts. This book’s tools can help churches embrace trust through disagreements and grow in love.
“Timothy Bonner and Matt Sturtevant have provided a practical and needed text for leaders and followers to wade into the deep waters of nurturing trust in our relationships with others. As our world has become polarized in too many aspects of life, this work invites us to be curious about those who think differently. As we approach the other with curiosity and respect, we give others one of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone—the gift of being a growing person. Their work in congregations and therapeutic settings brings experience, knowledge, and a pastoral presence to difficult conversations we have all had or will have. Just as sandpaper takes down the rough edges to reveal the beauty in wood, this work reminds us that we could all benefit from a bit of sandpaper to reveal a deeper beauty in ourselves. Readers from a wide range of theological perspectives will find value in their work.”—Gregg Hemmen, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of the Central Region
“Attentive to the congregations affected by denominational divisions, From Distrust to Trust explores the 21st-century ecclesial crisis centering on congregational responses to cultural shifts. While specific to the legalization of same-sex marriage, they describe a noteworthy process for any situation where a local congregation must regain lost trust. While remaining elastic and adaptive are not easy answers, Sturtevant and Bonner have dived deep into the controversy, boldly suggesting that trust can be regained.”— Joy J. Moore, Professor of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
"The toxic way of handling differences in our national society has found its way into our congregations. The authors provide specific practices for building trust for relationships in faith communities capable of holding differences within "elastic" communities. Their approach isn't ivory tower dreaming but rather worked out in the context of congregations like yours and mine.”—Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Buttry, Author and Global Peacemaker
“From two seasoned and perceptive practitioners, a pastor and a therapist, come wise words on how to build a culture of trust in our congregations. In an increasingly fractious political landscape, churches can cultivate practices that transcend the divides and move toward greater respect for all. Creative and practical, informed by excellent scholarship, this collaborative text offers constructive guidance, which I commend.” —Molly T. Marshall, Ph.D., President, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
“Reading From Distrust to Trust encouraged my spirit of hope for the future of Christian congregations in America. Matthew Sturtevant and Timothy Bonner skillfully weave solid research, realistic evaluation, critical analysis, and creative guidance for congregational transformation. The authors tackle relevant, critical issues (political polarity, racial injustice, public health controversies, and LGBTQ inclusion) facing contemporary pastors and churches. They deliver well-researched, diverse, fair-minded, and pragmatic possibilities for building trust in congregational processes to discern Spirit-led paths ahead. I recommend this hopeful, frank, and brutally honest book for serious seminarians preparing for congregational ministry. It is a must-read for pastors, church staff, and lay leaders who long for a vibrant, open, and caring congregation. This volume offers healing, hope, guidance, and paths for reconciliation. The future of your vocational ministry and the vitality of your parish may depend on reading this one crucial book. Denominational leaders, bishops, chaplains, and faith adjudicators can find guidance for shepherding ministers who depend on their wisdom. Bold congregations can assess their context, build retreats, train leadership, and hold study groups around this text. I enthusiastically recommend it!” —G. Wade Rowatt, Ph. D., Retired Senior Professor of Pastoral Care, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
“From Distrust to Trust has come just in time for church leadership, lay and clergy alike, who seek to engage the many complex questions of our day faithfully and courageously. Loaded with spiritual wisdom and informed by other relevant disciplines, it is both a practical and profoundly thoughtful guide. Sturtevant and Bonner's study is a must-read for today's leaders.”—Rev. Dr. Angela Barker Jackson, Associate VP of Development Berkeley School of Theology
“This book is written to help congregations “actively work on finding their own identity, vision, and mission while working to attain and maintain trusting relationships among all participants.” In a world torn apart by critical issues and whose tears have crept into congregations, the authors emphasize trust building while tackling controversial issues. Without judging congregations or “elevating any one church above any other,” the authors explore how trust can be fostered in congregations. For congregations ready to tackle controversial issues, the author’s provide research, examples, and models to engage in this process.”— Dr. C. Jeff Woods, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA
“With wisdom born of experience
And with attention to preaching, polity, and process
The authors offer perspective, method, skills, and case studies
On how churches can carry on difficult conversations and arrive at respectful decisions with hopefulness and grace.
What a gift!”
—Richard Olson, retired distinguished professor of pastoral theology at Central Seminary
Timothy J. Bonner, MS, MA, DMIN, LCP is a licensed clinical psychotherapist in Lawrence, KS. After over three decades as a psychotherapist in community mental health centers, he completed this study for his dissertation at Central Theological Seminary, Shawnee, KS, where he received a Doctor of Ministry Degree in May 2020.
Matthew B. Sturtevant, MDIV, DMIN is one of the pastors of the First Baptist Church of Lawrence, KS. He has conducted ministry in Baptist churches in Kentucky and Kansas since 1998 and has received education in Kentucky (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary), South Carolina (a Clinical Pastoral Education residency in Columbia), and Chicago (Chicago Theological Seminary).
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