Season of Civility

Are you weary of the increasing polarization in our public discourse at the very time we need government leadership to address our biggest problems?

You can help begin a different kind of conversation in our congregations and communities.  We should neither remain silent nor go along with the prevailing bitterness in our politics. We must create “safe spaces” for respectful conversations across the partisan divides. And we must move beyond the walls of our congregations include everyone in our local communities in this dialogue.

In 2012, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and other partners sponsored a “Season of Civility.” Read on to learn about this initiative and to find resources to help your congregation promote civil conversations in your community.

The Call for a Season of Civility in Wisconsin

Thirty-six regional and statewide religious leaders called upon the citizens of our state to enter a “Season of Civility” amidst the partisan rancor of the recall campaigns and the divisiveness of the 2012 elections.  Read the full statement here along with a full list of signatories.

Media coverage

Capital Times (Madison) article on Season of Civility launch.

Wisconsin State Journal article on services of reconciliation in Madison.

Hear Wisconsin Public Radio’s Kathleen Dunn interview WCC Executive Director Scott Anderson about the Season of Civility project.

Fond du Lac clergy leaders join Season of Civility effort.

More good press on the Council’s Season of Civility initiative from Capital Times editorial writer Phil Haslanger.

Parker Palmer column on the Huffington Post,  “A Season of Civility: Religion and Public Life.”

“A Season of Civility in Response to Campaign Incivility,” by Brian Konkel, Co-Pastor of Lake Edge Lutheran Church, Madison, WI, on the “God’s Politics” blog of Sojourners.

Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy

In Healing the Heart of Democracy:  The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, Parker Palmer sees a valuable role for faith communities in renewing our civic life.  The Season of Civility Project used  the book as a departure point for constructively addressing our differences, and for helping Wisconsin’s religious community take the lead in modeling a more faithful and life-giving manner of civil discourse.

Discussion Guide for Congregations

You can practice and develop the skills for civil conversation in your congregation.  The Center for Courage and Renewal has produced “Healing Democracy Action Circles Guide,” a six-session discussion guide on based on Parker Palmer’s book.  The Wisconsin Council of Churches, Interfaith Council of Greater Milwaukee, and other partnering groups, have prepared supplements for using the Guide in faith communities.

The Guide explores each of five “habits of the heart” that are essential for sustaining a healthy democracy:

  • An understanding that we are all in this together;
  • An appreciation of the value of ‘otherness’;
  • An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways;
  • A sense of personal voice and agency; and
  • A capacity to create community.
(See also “Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations.”)

The faith community supplements connect these habits with appropriate religious texts and teachings.  Please use the feedback form to let us know how you used these resources, and how your discussions went.

Download the Healing Democracy Action Circles Study Guide here.

Download Faith Community Supplements to the Study Guide below:

Sermons on Civility

The WCC invited pastors throughout Wisconsin to submit their sermons on the topic of civility.  To view the current list of downloadable sermons, click here.  To submit a sermon, send a copy in electronic format (either Word or pdf) contact Lori Denoyer.

Season of Civility Bulletin Insert

Every election year is an appropriate time to call for a civility in pub.  Your congregation can print the Season of Civility statement in its newsletter or include it in the worship bulletin, and post a link on its website and FaceBook page. The statement can be downloaded for your newsletter in Word format or as a bulletin insert in PDF format.

The Session of Tippecanoe Church, Milwaukee, WI developed a civility guideline to be placed ahead of prayer time in worship with the intention of supporting civil involvement in their faith community during the election season.  You can download a Word Document with a version of the guideline that can be edited for your church (at the points highlighted in yellow). Print it as an insert or copy it into your worship bulletin or newsletter as a helpful resource for your community.

Additional Resources on Civility

For a list of books and websites, click here.


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