Another book on peacemaking that builds on the work of Ken Sande’s Peacemaker. Sande came to Christian mediation as a lawyer seeking alternative ways to resolve disputes, especially for Christians in the light of the teaching in 1 Cor 6 that Christians should not take fellow-Christians to court.
Poirier comes to peacemaking as a pastor, and his burden is to make gospel-based peacemaking a habit rather than a tool for ministry only. He says we confine peacemaking to special crisis situations within the church.
He is, like all of us I suspect, a reluctant peacemaker. But we cannot flee from reality; and neither can we think of conflict as a detour from our real calling:
It is strange that we as pastors, called to preach the gospel of grace to sinners, balk [sic] at having to deal with real sinners with real sin in real and messy situations.
Peacemaking is not one skill among many that pastors keep in their ministry toolbox. Peacemaking is the embodiment of pastoral ministry even as Christ is the embodiment (incarnation) of the God of peace.
Looking to others’ interests
When this is part of our church DNA it will affect how we operate:
Wise peacemaking pastors anticipate that conflicts will erupt … and thus they will preclude them by training their leaders and people to negotiate in a way that fulfills one of the primary calls of the gospel – the call to look to the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4)
He fleshes this out with these remarks about change management:
- Inviting respectful appeals … communicates to our people that we are eager to be servant-leaders (177)
- When introducing a change to the Church’s [adult] Sunday school programme: Call a meeting to explain what the change is; why it is being proposed, what if addresses the perceived risks (and explains that it will be reviewed after a year); and then encourage feedback through the year and review after one year.
I know I can learn much from this.
And when there are conflicts, we distinguish between personal issues and substantive issues:
Whereas personal issues are dealt with by confession and forgiveness leading to reconciliation, substantive (or material) issues are dealt with by conference and consensus (or negotiation) leading to agreement.
Mediation and Arbitration
Mediation is where a third party assists two in conflict to find agreement. A Christian mediator is distinctive in that they ‘may counsel a party to look beyond the bounds of what is legal to what us just and equitable.’ (p. 210).
Goals of a mediator are to find satisfaction in three areas (p. 211):
- Process: that is done well and fairly for everyone.
- Personal: the each of the parties treat each other respectfully. This deals with the personal offence in the conflict above and beyond the substantive issue.
- Product refers to the substantive issue(s).
In Arbitration, the parties hand over the power of judgement to another – the arbiter – thus limiting their influence on the way the dispute is resolved. Arbitration also differs from mediation in that it primarily deals with substantive issues (the product) whereas Christian meditation spends considerable time addressing personal issues and matters of the heart.
A better word is discipleship:
Discipleship, then is the discipline of the church, and the discipline of the church is all about discipleship. As such it involves far more than the church court publicly pronouncing censure against someone. It involves the church using the various means of grace to faithfully nurture Christ’s disciples so that they may grow in the knowledge, love, and worship of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Hence, discipline actually begins with the regular pastoral duties of discipling God’s people through preaching, teaching, counseling, equipping the saints [proof texts follow].
The final section deals with how to apply peacemaking to the discipline of the church.
Clearly, discipline requires a sense of membership – this is an issue for us in Anglican polity (which some consider to be a contradiction in terms anyway!). More thought needed on this one.
A really stimulating book
Alfred J. Poirier, Peacemaking Pastor, the: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict Baker Books, 2006.