Managing Church Conflict

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"Managing Church Conflict," by Hugh F. Halverstadt, addresses the question of whether conflicts can be "Christian." He argues that the key to making church conflicts "Christian" may be found in providing a faith-based process for differing parties to use; and he defines a "Christian" conflict as depending on which process is chosen for resolution, rather than the actual resolution of the issues.

Therefore, Halverstadt argues that one's conduct during conflict management is central to bringing about peaceful resolution in a Christian manner. Halverstadt creates a three-step model, which includes how to become a conflict manager, how to appraise conflict situations, and finally how to manage conflicts. This model prescribes working with conflicting parties by encouraging and applying behavioral standards such as respectfulness, assertiveness, accountability, and a focus on the common good.

Halverstadt distinguishes his work from other books on church conflict, which outlines the following: a way of approaching conflictive situations that are theological and ethical; using communal attitudes and goals while intervening in conflictive situations; applying communal power for managing the conflict; finding common ground between the parties on an ethical process as a means to work through their differences; using interdisciplinary methods for gaining perspective; and showing the reader how they can manage conflicts themselves rather than hiring a consultant. Halverstadt claims that, except in extreme cases of chronic interpersonal conflicts, this model allows churches to manage their own conflicts.

One area I found especially interesting is where Halverstadt points to three reasons for church conflicts being difficult. Halverstadt points out, first, that the parties' core identities are at risk because spiritual commitments and faith understandings are highly inflammable since they are central to one's psychological identity. Second, that the Christian...
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