Conflict, a Process to Be Managed
Conflict Resolution in a Parish
Conflict occurs when two or more parties believe that what each wants is incompatible with what the other wants.
Conflict is an inevitable and important human process.
Conflicts are likely to increase in times of change.
Conflict can be fostered by human brokenness and the presence of evil.
Conflict resolution can be fostered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Conflicts can lead to creative or destructive results.
Positive Results of Conflict
- Better ideas are produced.
- People are forced to search for new approaches.
- Long standing problems are surfaced and dealt with.
- People are forced to clarify points of view.
- The tension of conflict stimulates interest and activity.
- People have a chance to test their capacities.
Negative Results of Conflict
- Some people may feel defeated and/or demeaned.
- The distance between people may be increased.
- A climate of distrust and suspicion may develop.
- Turbulence may cause some good, creative people to leave.
- People or some small groups that ought to cooperate may become concerned only with their narrow interests.
- Various kinds of active or passive resistance may develop where teamwork is needed.
- New members to a congregation/group may be screened out i.e. the group makes it hard for them to join the group.
- A congregation feels "cold" to a new-comer.
The goals of understanding and managing conflict are to reduce the likelihood that negative results will occur or become excessive.
Conflict and the Church
The Gospel proclaims Jesus as saviour and healer.
The Church is the body of Christ. Therefore the church ought to be a healing community.
The scriptures give us healthy ways of resolving conflict.
As a healing community, the church ought to model healthy ways of resolving conflict.
Principles for Dealing with Conflict
If You have a Problem with Someone (First Party Conflict)
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Prayer asks God to change my enemy.
Prayer will help me see and understand my enemy with more compassion.
- take hate out and put love in
Prayer opens us to seek the truth and be open to God revealing the truth.
Emotions are morally neutral; they are neither good nor bad.
Our emotions energize our behaviour; which is morally good or bad.
This scripture verse is suggesting that when I am angry, I must strive to use my anger in a productive way; not a destructive or sinful way.
Emotions are associated with situations. Anger is caused by being hurt. An appropriate way to deal with anger is to deal with the situation.
Example: MADD and murder.
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Of how can you say to your neighbour, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye. and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)
My attitude can make a conflict worse.
I must examine myself, am I being a hypocrite, behaving in the same way which I am accusing someone else of behaving?
What is my motivation for challenging another person?
Is it justice?
Is it pride?
What about my own needs for power and control?
If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ( Matt. 18:15-17)
Speaking first to a person gives the opportunity to clear something up without:
- embarrassing people;
- upsetting a larger group of people;
- wasting time at a meeting, which could be better used on other matters
Hearing second hand that someone has a problem with me is not helpful; it only makes me angry.
- leaves a person to guess something is wrong, if they don't ask there is no resolution.
What to say:
I feel upset (feeling word) because (describe situation). I would like to you (describe
- no put downs or name calling; give the person respect
- avoid beginning with, "You", it makes the person you are confronting more defensive.
Bringing 2 or 3 witnesses, it could be one person. This person should be more
"neutral", preferably someone who is mutually respected or a person in
an authority position.
- 3rd party conflict resolution
Tell it to the church, the following sequence should be followed until
resolution is reached:
- Incumbent and Church Wardens
- Parish Council
- Deanery Officials and Archdeacon
- Executive Committee
With clergy and lay people appointed to positions, the General Synod discipline canon applies. If a situation is serious enough to warrant proceedings against a person, records need to be kept of what the person did and actions taken to solve or address the situation.
Then Peter come and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times." (Matt. 18:21-22)
if the Conflict Can't Be Resolved? - Options
- wait and try again
- try to let it go and give it up to God (David and Saul)
- take comfort in the fact that you tried
- you may be one link in the chain of events in which God resolves the conflict
- find people who can give you emotional support
- re-negotiate your relationship with the person you are in conflict; it may still be possible to work together even if you can't agree
- re-invest your time and energy in another activity or other people:
- recognise your personal limits in terms of what you can give
- take care of yourself so that you maintain you capacity to give
- transfer to a different parish
- stop attending church
- running someone down; being judgmental
- sabotaging him or her
- silent treatment
If Someone Has a Problem with You (Second Party Conflict)
Acknowledge the truth of what he or she is saying
Apologise when you agree that you have hurt him or her
(These skills are taught in the Calling and Caring Lab 1)
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)
This verse indicates that if someone has something against us, we have the responsibility to go and straighten it out, not avoid it or wait for them to come to us.
Strategies to Reduce Conflict
Many conflicts are a result of getting the wrong information or not being informed in time.
What is "good" communication
- who, what, where, when and how
- keep last minute changes to a minimum: creates confusion
- accessible to the intended recipient
- sufficient notice, best 3 weeks in advance
How do we communicate in a parish?
- word of mouth
- meetings, formal and informal
- telephone calls
- are phone lists available? are they up-to-date?
- is there a reliable way for announcements to be submitted, is the deadline known?
- is there a reliable way for announcements to be submitted, is the deadline known?
- are they distributed prior to the meeting?
- is it cleaned up periodically?
- saves paper by reducing distribution of notices
mail received by the parish for different people
- how is it distributed
parish policy statements
- more accessible than meeting minutes and saves decisions from being lost in meeting minutes
parish calendar of events
- reduces conflicts from double bookings
Who is responsible for Communications?
- each person is responsible for finding out what is going on
- each person is responsible for reporting back to people who are appointed as a coordinator or chair
- those that are in charge of something are responsible for getting their information available to people
Many conflicts are a result of people feeling that they were not allowed to have their say or that they had valid ideas which were not accepted.
- communicate the notice of meeting
- forewarn people if a significant decision is going to be made
- give people an opportunity to put their issues on the agenda
- the Holy Spirit speaks through people
- use listening skills mentioned above
- ask people to explain why they think a particular approach is best
- the reason why reveals the problem they are trying to solve and that is very useful information
- don't be afraid of truth or that you might be wrong; trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth
- look for win/win solutions
- different ideas may be complimentary
- principle of unanimity
Allow Sufficient Time
- one meeting to introduce an idea and discuss it; the next meeting to make a decision.
- more important things first