Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Christian Conflict Resolution... Shouldn't There be Resolution at Some Point?

Earlier this year, the Rev. Canon Phil Ashey discussed the errors and unbiblical nature of the current methods of conflict resolution utilized by certain leaders in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal church. I have some of his words quoted below. Recently, my bishop (Andrew Waldo, Upper South Carolina) sponsored a clergy education day on "conflict resolution" that may have been intended to help some of our priests navigate the troubled waters stirred up by the Bishop's recent approval of a rite for blessing same sex intercourse. I suspect that Canon Ashey's approach was not the subject of discussion. My interpretation of our Bishop's approach to conflict resolution is that he intends to confuse people enough so that they believe that there is no resolution possible to "the issue", and that "vive la différence" should be the unifying principle as we move forward with same sex blessings being blessed in some parishes and condemned in others.

In 2001, when the storm clouds of innovation and doctrinal disagreement were gathering, two leaders of churches in the Anglican Communion, Archbishops Drexel Gomez (West Indies) and Maurice Sinclair (Southern Cone), addressed the matter of facilitated conversations in To Mend the Net: Anglican faith and Order for Renewed Mission (Ekklesia, 2001).  In their critique of the Anglican Communion’s Virginia Report, they described the then Communion “processes of reception” for addressing disagreements as hopelessly naïve– procedural solutions only that did not (and still do not) do justice to the nature and function of authority in the Church.  The operating assumption then, and now, is that if we have the right referee and the right “rules of discourse,” we will inevitably come to the right conclusion.

But in 2001 Gomez and Sinclair spoke with prophetic insight and up-to-the-minute relevance in describing the fatal flaw of facilitated conversations AFTER innovations have been allowed to disrupt the spiritual unity of the church without any consequences:

“the way the ‘process of reception’ is presented and set up for consideration has, practically speaking, only one or two possible results, eventual acceptance of the innovation or a never-ending period of reception.”  (63).

This is the heart of the new religion of reconciliation:  facilitated conversations (Indaba) that can have only two possible results:  eventual acceptance of the innovations, or a never- ending process of facilitated conversations, until all resistance is vanquished.
There is another biblical way for addressing doctrinal disagreements that come packaged as disciplinary questions.  It’s a process that Paul knew well– he was one of the main figures who participated in it.  The presenting issue was whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic law.  Behind this disciplinary issue was a critical doctrinal issue:  is the grace of Christ alone sufficient, his death on the cross for all sin, and appropriation of his saving grace by faith?  The Council of Jerusalem met and had some conversations about that.  They listened to testimony.  They prayed.  They sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  They sought the mind of the whole body at that time (“It seemed good to us…” Acts 15: 28).

But above all they weighed every word, and every disagreement, against the Word of God so that whatever they decided would agree with the testimony of God’s word, the Bible (Acts 15:15).  In the end, it meant saying “no” to the Judaizers.

And that is what Groves and practitioners of “facilitated conversations” simply cannot accept.  God save us from the substitution of “relational reconciliation” as an end in itself for the true spiritual unity that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ – even when that Gospel says “no.”Read it all here.
To most of the Christians in the world and to this simple pewsitter, the Gospel clearly says "No" to the Church's blessing of same sex intercourse.

This creates a conflict in a relationship that cannot be resolved with a "You say yes, I say no" because, as the Beatles pointed out years ago, that eventually leads to "You say Goodbye, and I say Hello."
Hela heba helloaHela heba helloa, cha cha chaHela heba helloa, woooHela heba helloa, helaHela heba helloa, cha cha chaHela heba helloa, woooHela heba helloa, cha cah cah [fade out]


  1. "relational reconciliation" is what ++Justin Welby would call "good disagreement". I would liken both phrases to "Jumbo Shrimp".

    1. Years ago, when President Eisenhower was hospitalized with a heart attack, his doctor reported to a worried nation, "the President had a good bowel movement." Similarly, I have a good disagreement with my bishop, priest, and others on this issue.