With our session’s blessing, I was privileged to attend a presbytery training event in Dallas on March 6 through 11 with five other members of our presbytery’s Commission on Ministry. The training took place at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas and was provided by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. It was superb training, and it was mentally exhausting! Sessions started at 8:30 in the morning and lasted until 5PM, and I found myself heading for bed by 8:30PM!
Having grown up in a heavily Mennonite community in Ohio, I was familiar with the Mennonite tradition of non-violence and peacemaking. In fact I was born into a religious tradition (The Apostolic Christian Church) which has much in common with Mennonite theology. The training event I attended focused on mediation skills, and our teacher, The Rev. Richard Blackburn, was excellent. He helped us understand conflict as it occurs interpersonally and in congregations, and he taught us invaluable skills in managing, intervening in, and resolving conflict.
One thing we were reminded of is that conflict is not necessarily destructive. Conflict can be constructive and can bring about healthy change and growth. For example, the first recorded instance of conflict in the New Testament church occurred in Acts 6:1-7 when the church was experiencing tremendous growth and the needs of some were being neglected because the leadership was overwhelmed. It was out of this conflict that deacons were appointed to share in ministry, and the passage ends by recording that the word of God continued to spread and their numbers continued to increase.
But we all know that conflict can have awful consequences if not managed well. Unfortunately that happens all too often in churches. Our mediation team will be available to pastors, sessions, and congregations who are experiencing conflict and need help in managing it constructively, and will be invited to work with them towards reconciliation. Thank you for the opportunity to attend the training and for your support as our team has opportunity to serve the presbytery.