An Open Letter to Pastors and Ministry Leaders:
It is important to us at ControlAltDispute to communicate clearly to pastors and local ministry leaders that we consider ourselves to be supporting not replacing the local church. As Christians, we at ControlAltDispute are individually and collectively a part of the body of Christ – a part of the visible Church – with specific gifts, talents, and experience. We offer that to the Church by offering to come along side the local churches in order to assist the pastors (and elders, trustees, etc.) in fulfilling their role as set forth in I Corinthians 6.
We see ourselves in a sense as “specialists” in the field of resolution. Some may ask: “Can’t anyone apply Biblical principles to conflicts and promote resolution and peace?” The answer, of course, is yes; but can all people do that equally well? Certainly not. You might just pause and ask yourself to try to remember back in seminary (or Bible college, etc.) what kind of training or education you received in dispute resolution. (I have asked several pastors this question with nearly uniform results.) Similarly, how much time did you spend in seminary studying law? So the better question is not ‘can you do it’ but ‘what is the best way to do it’?
Let’s say a member comes to you with a conflict to resolve with legal implications or overtones: What would be a responsible response to give them? Should you assemble Elder David (the insurance salesman) and Elder Jerry (the retired boat captain) and Deacon Joe (because he went to a seminar two summers ago on peacemaking) and let them decide a matter with legal issues and implications? Maybe, but . . . why? A married couple comes to you with divorce on their mind and kids at risk, but you don’t think they’ve really understood where they’re headed legally and practically. What if you had access to an experienced Christian attorney certified by the Supreme Court as a mediator?
Can we talk? Understand that we are solidly pro-local church (sorry if we keep repeating that), but some of the most painful events in people’s lives have come at the hands of their own churches and church leaders. Some of this has been due what I can only describe as “well-meaning incompetence” in dealing with disputes. I could, but obviously won’t, tell you stories of church leaders mishandling (or even abdicating) their responsibilities in this respect that are heart-breaking. “These things ought not to be so.” While I am not remotely suggesting mishandling is the norm among Christian leaders, I am suggesting that it happens far too frequently and that it is often avoidable.
We live in an age and culture where good stewardship often requires cooperation and even outsourcing – within the body of Christ. A large local church body, for instance, may very well be able to impact the poor or hungry in their community in a way that a smaller congregation simply could not. This is why certain parachurch ministries make sense: food banks, crisis pregnancy centers, marriage and family centers, adoption agencies, counseling centers, youth outreach, international missions, and many others.
Please understand as well, that with ControlAltDispute, the local church can be as “hands on” or “hands off” as it desires. For instance, the disputing parties can simply be referred to us and we will take it from there. On the other hand, however, a given situation may suggest direct participation in the mediation/arbitration process by a session, ethics commission, minister, or the like. Sometimes a “Book of Church Order” has a bearing on the process. Nearly all of these things can be accommodated at ControlAltDispute.
In closing, let me just say that we hope you will see us as an important resource to you in fulfilling the mandate of I Corinthians 6, and if you ever have any questions about what we do or whether we can help, never hesitate to contact us.
Yours in Christ,
M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire