at Grace Cathedral
The art of conversation is central to being human. By conversation I don't mean superficial chat but real engagement with issues in a civil manner where true respect enables the airing of real differences. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, describes the Church as a school for conversation. Lately that conversation has ceased to be civil and is more like a raucous shouting match. We're in danger of losing something deeply important. The monk who influenced me most when I was studying for the priesthood used to say that the most convincing argument for Heaven was that we had to have somewhere to finish all those spirited conversations. And Thomas Merton (reflecting on Rudolf Bultmann) saw conversation as a means of valuing tradition as a way of critiquing the present. He also saw that tradition needed to be critiqued by the present. "Real loyalty does not involve repetition but carrying things a stage further." To find out what that next stage might be Merton made not a vow of silence but a vow of conversation. Isn't this a vow that should be made by all human beings? As Rowan Williams said in another context, "We can afford to listen to each other... not anxiously waiting to be offended but expecting to be taken... deeper into the life of the living God.
The Forum at Grace Cathedral was initiated in 1995. A live and Internet broadcast talk show program, The Forum was designed to bring people and ideas together on a community level, and was dedicated to open conversation on critical issues. Guests came from a wide range of areas including authors, political figures, religious leaders, and cultural icons; they included Michael Pollan, Gavin Newsom, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Jane Goodall, and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Most programs are available for download in The Forum Archive.