April 2016 Vestry Papers: Conflict

April 6, 2016

Conflict may take several forms. Many times it has to do with an imbalance of power or a sense that everyone is not being treated fairly. It may be visible to all or more subtly, be building bit by bit despite the best efforts of those determined to avoid conflict at all costs. Our articles this month offer approaches for congregational leaders to consider when faced with conflict.

  • Are you conflict averse? Most of us learn at an early age to sometimes give the expected answer – rather than a truthful answer - as a way to avoid conflict. In “Overcome Being Conflict Averse” Rich Simpson names this phenomenon and invites leaders to help their congregations move past this conflict avoiding behavior and instead discover how having difficult conversations may lead to deeper relationship, healing, and reconciliation.
  • Speaking up is important in congregations headed down the path of – or embroiled in – conflict and angst. In “The Courage to Speak” Bonnie Anderson reminds congregational leaders of the promise we made in our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being. She offers approaches for clergy and laity to consider that might head off these difficult situations.
  • Encontrar a gente para llenar posiciones de liderazgo puede ser un reto. Un método consiste en ofrecer oportunidades para toda la feligresía, incluyendo la juventud y las personas jóvenes adultas, para desarrollar habilidades de liderazgo - como ayudantes, asistentes, como parte de algún comité. Cuando era una joven adolescente, Liz Luna comenzó como voluntaria en de la Escuela Dominical de su iglesia, pasando de ayudante a líder durante un período de tres años. En "¿Demasiado joven para liderar?" Liz describe la tensión creada cuando algunas personas adultas en su iglesia plantearon preguntas acerca de quién está calificado o calificada para ser un o una líder.
  • Finding people to fill leadership roles can be challenging. One approach is to provide opportunities for members, including youth and young adults, to develop leadership skills - as helpers, assistants, or committee members. As a young teenager, Liz Luna started volunteering at her church’s Sunday School, moving from helper to leader over a three year period. In “Too Young to Lead?” Liz describes the tension created when some adults in her church raised questions regarding who is qualified to be a leader in a particular setting.
  • What can a church learn from a soccer referee? In “Conflict Resolution from a Referee” Scott Petersen, priest and a soccer referee, draws our attention to the ways an experienced referee, in the heat of the moment restores order and engenders trust in his/her decisions. He offers the referee’s steps as a guide for reacting to conflict when it flares up in a church setting.

We encourage you to think about how the ideas presented in this and every issue may provide an impetus for evaluating and reflecting on what you could learn from the experiences of others. To help in your discernment, we offer a list of the resources related to the topic at the end of each article. If you have a resource you’d like to share, please email me at editor@episcopalfoundation.org with the link or add it to the site using the Your Turn feature.

If you are interested in Spanish language content, please visit our searchable index of our Spanish content here.

Please share this issue of Vestry Papers with your colleagues and to invite them to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices and Vestry Papers. Subscriptions are free. New subscribers are asked to fill out a short registration form to have Vestry Papers and ECF Vital Practices content delivered twice a month to your email inbox.

Faithfully,
Nancy Davidge
Editor, ECF Vital Practices