Friday, June 18, 2010

Seeking the Peace from Above: Peacemaking and Conflict-Resolution in the Church

By Fr. John Mefrige

Reprinted from The Word, June 2010

Full article found on the Web site of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

The very words of Christ Himself proclaim, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God,” but all too often we see the very children of the Church embroiled in destructive conflict and controversy. Who has not been to a Parish Council meeting or an Annual Parish Assembly where there has been conflict or controversy? Who has not experienced strong differences of opinions within families or with siblings? Who cannot say that they know people who have gone through messy divorces in their Church communities? As a matter of fact, a cottage industry has emerged on the Internet now populated with numerous websites and blogs specifically dedicated to exploring the question of just how we are dealing with conflict in the Church. Perhaps one might conclude generally that conflict is “normal” to the human condition, and, by extension, to the Church, and we just have to do our best to survive it. But the reality is that, all too often, conflict leaves in its wake a myriad of severed relationships and broken ties that ultimately do harm to the very members of the Church that produce it.

The truth is that, as a result of most conflict, the members of that body are left reeling, wounded and scarred on the floor of the arena of differing opinions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could simply decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? Wouldn’t it be magnificent if, every time there was a difference of opinion in the Church or in any of our relationships, it could be worked out in a way that builds the relationship, rather than tearing it down? What I would like to suggest in this article is that conflict is not something to be avoided or suppressed, but that it is an opportunity for ministry. Yes! Let me say that again – conflict can be an opportunity to minister to each other and, through that ministry, glorify God in the process. We have the opportunity to harness the transformative power of conflict for growth and healthy change. This is no easy task, however, as evidenced by the many missed opportunities within our church families. To break free from a pattern of destructive behavior, we need to understand the way we react to conflict and the dynamics it produces, and get to the bottom of the issue that fuels the fire of destructive conflict.

The rest of the article is well worth the read...

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