The Bishop’s E-pistle: Faithful Conflict

So far, I have spent 20 hours on Zoom this week doing the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center’s Mediation Skills Training Institute. Twenty hours down, 20 hours to go. I’ve been joined by seven other clergy from our diocese as we learn the LMPC process for working through conflict between individuals, congregations, and clergy.

The goal of mediation is transformative: it can transform relationships and bring about actual healing.

When you read the Acts of the Apostles or most of Paul’s epistles, it is clear that conflict has been a part of the Church for as long as there have been followers of Jesus. Setting aside the conflicts that Jesus had with people who were not following him, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, you see conflict between Jesus and Peter; between Jesus as the mother of James and John; between Thomas and other disciples.

We disagree. And when acting faithfully, we seek understanding, we seek healing, we offer forgiveness, and we change our behavior and repent when we have harmed others. Sometimes that seems like an impossible task.

What conflicts have you seen during your church life? How were they resolved–or not?

In my life and ministry, I have experienced forgiveness, reconciliation, and the holy balm of healing in conflicts at church. I’ve also experienced hard hearts, breaking of relationships, and cycles of ever-greater hurt and wounding. My prayer is that by having more leaders in our diocese with the skills to move from conflict to reconciliation we will more often succeed in following Jesus faithfully.