Thursday, January 10, 1991

Conflict - Seeking to be Faithful in Times of Disagreement

The church session should have conflicts. The only way it will NOT have conflicts is not to meet!
Speed Leas, in his book, Moving your Church through Conflict, identified 5 levels of conflict in congregations.


Objective: work out a solution to the problem, whatever it is. Anger may or may not surface. The focus is on finding a resolution. The issue is not person-centered. Communication is quite open. Language is open and straightforward. No hidden agendas.


Objective: becomes colored with the need for self-protection. There is some guardedness. Discussion is less specific and more generalized. Compromise becomes the method of dealing with differences.


Objective: not to solve the problem, but to win. Language used by those operating at this level reveals some perceptual distortion. Healthy resolution of conflict at this level occurs infrequently, but it is still possible.
Objective: hurt the opponent or get rid of them. The good of the organization is not considered. The language used appeals to generalized and personalized principles such as truth, freedom and justice, while avoiding the specific issue. Healthy resolution difficult or impossible.
Objectives: destroy the opponent. Healthy resolution difficult or impossible.

Seeking to be Faithful Together:
Guidelines for Presbyterians During Times of Disagreement
In a spirit of trust and love, we promise we will…
Give them
a hearing…
listen before we
John 7:51 and
Proverbs 18:13
1 Treat each other respectfully so as to build trust, believing that we all desire to be faithful to Jesus the Christ;
_ we will keep our conversations and communications open for candid and forthright exchange,
_ we will not ask questions or make statements in a way which will intimidate or judge others.
2 Learn about various positions on the topic of disagreement.
3 State what we think we heard and ask for clarification before responding, in an effort to be sure we understand each other.
Speak the truth
in love
Ephesians 4:15
4 Share our concerns directly with individuals or groups with whom we have disagreements in a spirit of love and respect in keeping with Jesus’ teachings.
5 Focus on ideas and suggestions instead of questioning people’s motives, intelligence or integrity;
_ we will not engage in name-calling or labelling of others prior to, during, or following the discussion.
6 Share our personal experiences about the subject of disagreement so that others may more fully understand our concerns.
Maintain the
unity of the
spirit in the
bond of peace
Ephesians 4:3
7 Indicate where we agree with those of other viewpoints as well as where we disagree.
8 Seek to stay in community with each other though the discussion may be vigorous and full of tension;
_ we will be ready to forgive and be forgiven.
9 Follow these additional guidelines when we meet in decision-making bodies:
_ urge persons of various points of view to speak and promise to listen to these positions seriously;
_ seek conclusions informed by our points of agreement;
_ be sensitive to the feelings and concerns of those who do not agree with the majority and respect their rights of conscience;
_ abide by the decision of the majority, and if we disagree with it and wish to change it, work for that change in ways which are consistent with these Guidelines.
10 Include our disagreement in our prayers, not praying for the triumph of our viewpoints, but seeking God’s grace to listen attentively, to speak
clearly, and to remain open to the vision God holds for us all.
Adopted by the 204th General Assembly (1992) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for use by sessions and congregations

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