“Christians too often see conflict as a problem to be managed or solved rather than a means of God's grace. Rethinking conflict theologically allows us to reimagine how we form Christians to engage conflict constructively for purposes of personal, congregational, and social change. ”
For many Christians, conflict is a bad word. It signals that there is a problem, that someone has sinned, or that a split is looming. Yet, over the past two decades, some Christian leaders have begun to engage conflict not merely as a problem to be resolved, but as an opportunity for constructive change. This collaborative research project aims to explore how conflict workers are being formed theologically and practically, whether that formation is faithful and effective, and how it might be improved.
The project proceeds in three steps. First, we will map the current efforts at formation for conflict engagement. Through wide consultation in the United Methodist and Episcopal churches we will describe the current ways in which Christian leaders are being formed as conflict workers. Second, by convening a group of “master practitioners” and in depth case studies we will evaluate how these programs of formation are working. Third, building from this consultation and evaluation, we will collaboratively construct a new vision for the formation of conflict workers. While this constructive work will proceed from the prior two steps, we anticipate that it will include a focus on both the skills of conflict transformation and a theology of conflict that views conflict not only as evidence of sin or finitude, but as a means of grace.