MoR Discipleship & Reconciliation Committee Handbook
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS for the 2016 edition
In the spring of 2015, in the midst of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Ministry of Reconciliation (MoR) as a program of On Earth Peace, Ministry of Reconciliation program director Leslie Frye wondered if it might be worthwhile to revise the 1995 Ministry of Reconciliation Discipleship and Reconciliation Committee Handbook. Marking pencil in hand, she read it cover-to- cover and was amazed at how relevant—even inspiring—the material remained even 25 years later. While we might want to look atmaking additions at some point, the collective wisdom still shines, so with the help of MoR Communications intern Lauren Seganos Cohen, we've converted the documents from WordPerfect to PDF files and are making them available online (see below).
All this is from God,
who through Christ reconciled us to God,
and has given us
the Ministry of Reconciliation...
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18
INTRODUCTION to the 1995 Edition
The Problem: "Conflict Is"
Conflict is. Whether we like it or not, wherever two or three are gathered, there are differencesof opinion. If the two or three are committed to each other, the conflict must be addressed. In ourcongregations, we can usually talk things through, and members are gracious enough to give and take.Conflicts on this level are often rich opportunities for growth, regeneration, change, and wholeness. Working together through differences of opinion helps us to discern the mind of Christ, as we often see in the Biblical record (see Acts 11, Acts 15, etc.).
But what of those times when the give and take doesn't feel good? What can be done when compromises feel forced? What happens when a difference of opinion becomes an underlying, unresolved conflict, or even an overt contention? What do you do when a conflict becomes increasingly destructive, and church members are at odds with one another? When the ability of the body of Christ to worship and work together has been compromised, where can healing be found? When a congregation needs reconciliation, where should they turn? The Church of the Brethren has decided to respond to these questions in several ways, one of which is for districts to form Discipleship and Reconciliation Committees.
The Ministry of Reconciliation of the Church of the Brethren* has created this handbook for thepurpose of assisting members of existing Discipleship and Reconciliation (D&R) Committees and district leadership in their efforts to help congregations deal with conflict. This handbook begins by laying a foundation for addressing conflict by grounding our understandings of reconciliation in the Bible. Several chapters are then devoted to the purpose, composition, and calling of D&R Committees. Next, a chapter addresses training in faith issues, conflict theory, and skills that can equip individuals for faithful service as D&R Committee members. This handbook concludes by addressing how D&R Committee members can apply that training to actual situations, from educational events to assisting a congregation torn apart by conflict. Appendices included provide specific tools, and list resources for those who wishadditional help or want to learn more about conflict resolution.
The Ministry of Reconciliation invites your responses to this handbook, as their intent is to make revisions as more is learned, and as our congregations and society change. The publication of the handbook represents the culmination of nearly three years of work, so it is with great joy (and not just a little relief!) that this copy is made available for your use. Our prayer is that this handbook will assist you in your ministries of strengthening the Body of Christ, as we strive to be "Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together."
Ministry of Reconciliation
Handbook Task Team
First Edition: Spring 1995
*At the time the first edition of this manual was written, On Earth Peace was a program of the Church of the Brethren General Board. The Ministry of Reconciliation had been a program of On Earth Peace since 1990.
This chapter, as its title suggests, builds the theological and biblical case for reconciliation. Specifically Aukerman draws on the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18 and details the steps of Jesus’ instructions to reconcile with a brother or sister. He also examines the ways in which Jesus modeled approaching conflict and seeking reconciliation among his own disciples. Furthermore, the biblical imperative to reconcile is matched by the imperative to forgive. Finally, Aukerman explores Paul’s theological understanding of our “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5:1-20, that at the center of reconciliation among people is reconciliation to God through Christ.
Written for the purposes of clarifying the role of district Discipleship and Reconciliation Committees, this chapter is a detailed look into the intentions and purposes of these committees. D&R Committees were formed to be a healing presence in the midst of congregational or district conflicts, as well as a resource to assist individuals and congregations in the development of healthy structures for approaching conflict before it occurred. Eller helpfully describes what a D&R Committee is and what it is not, in order to clarify any inaccurate assumptions about the role of these committees.
Calling of D&R Committees: Composition and Structure of D&R Committees
This chapter emphasizes the importance of intentionally calling persons to serve on Discipleship & Reconciliation Committees, rather than selecting members at random. The best persons are called to serve because of their faithfulness, trustworthiness, and skills. The makeup of the D&R committees should reflect a diversity of gender, age, and clerical status (lay and clergy), but structure and terms of the committees may vary from district to district. Overall the calling of individuals to serve on D&R Committees should not be taken lightly.
D&R Committee Training: Toward Effective Congregational Peacemaking
D&R Committees will be best equipped to assist congregations and districts if their members are adequately trained. Essential training includes calm emotional presence and spiritual leadership; listening and reflecting; family systems theory and assessment skills; and knowledge of a reconciliation process and ability to lead. Further training should include Brethren faith issues; self-awareness; conflict theory; group process and conflict resolution skills; and ethics. Overall D&R committees should be trained to view conflict not as sinful or against God’s will, but rather as opportunities for a relationship or a community to grow.
In this chapter, Bob Gross argues that Discipleship & Reconciliation Committees have a vital responsibility to educate congregations about faithful ways of managing conflict. He offers a picture of the qualities that a conflict-healthy congregation will display, and how D&R Committees can call and equip congregations and individuals who desire to increase their “conflict-health”: personally, interpersonally, and systemically.
Intervening in a Conflict: General Guidelines
In this chapter, Barbara Daté outlines broad guidelines that D&R Committees should keep in mind as they prepare to intervene in conflict situations. Before an intervention takes place, committee members should maintain confidentiality, respect boundaries and encouraging those involved with the conflict to do the same, and discern when and how to reach out to appropriate resources beyond the scope of the D&R Committee. During an intervention, committee members should design a short- and/or long-term plan for conflict resolution, enter the situation with professionalism and clarity, use intentional and accurate means of assessment, neutralize painful history if appropriate, know one’s own limitations as an intervener, and allow room for God’s grace to enter into the situation. After an intervention takes place, D&R Committees should evaluate the intervention, follow-up with the parties involved, and report to the official contracting/coordinating group.
Intervening in a Conflict: Adaptable Four Step Model
This chapter outlines a four-step model of conflict intervention that may be adapted to address varying situations. Step one is Initial Contact and Invitation, in which D&R Committees are contacted through the District Executive Minister, and in which D&R Committees clarify their role with all parties. Step two is Information Gathering and Assessment, in which committees use tools such as listening sessions, questionnaires and receiving church records to gather as much information as possible about the situation and present an assessment report to the congregation. Congregations then have the option to adopt or reject committee recommendations. Healing and Reconciliation is step three of this model. In this step committees may use mediation, neutralizing history processes, and congregational retreats to guide parties towards healing and reconciliation. In step four, Problem Solving and Decision Making, the congregation is ready to address the substantive issues of the conflict as well as any unhealthy conflict habits.
Intervening in a Conflict: Comprehensive Model
Jim Yaussy Albright
In this chapter, Jim Yaussy Albright encourages Christians to begin to view conflict not as the opposite of unity, but as a neutral state between brokenness and unity. When conflict is understood to be neutral, our approach to conflict will drastically change. Rather than approaching conflict with a goal of elimination, a more faithful approach will be to preserve authenticity and integrity, and to redeem differences rather than punish them. Albright describes the nature of the conflict resolution process, the emotional dimension of conflict, elements that create a climate for breakthrough, how to design a conflict resolution process and conflict intervention, and concludes with basic principles for interveners.
Appendix A: Relevant Annual Conference Papers
-1976 Discipleship & Reconciliation Committee Paper
Annual Conference action initiating D&R Committees
-2002 Shalom Team Paper
Annual Conference action initiating Shalom Teams
Appendix B: List of Resources
- Young Peacebuilders
- Social Change