Leading through Conflict

Conflict happens.  Loss happens. When they happen in a congregation, the results can be horrible… or they can be wonderful.

A new book by Interim Vice President and Co-Academic Dean K. Brynolf Lyon and Professor Emeritus Dan Moseley helps leaders understand the dimensions of conflict and loss so they can be present within the conflicts in a way that helps produce vitality and transformation rather than destruction of the community.

How to Lead in Church Conflict: Healing Ungrieved Loss," is now available through Abingdon Press and at the CTS Bookstore.

“Its not a ‘how-to’ book, but a ‘how-to-be-present’ book,” says Moseley. “This book is written - It assumes each context is unique and that there is no universal template which guide all conflicted situations. “

Lyon and Moseley offer a variety of examples of how the pains suffered by individuals often spill over into the life of the congregation. For instance, the chair of the finance committee is going through a nasty divorce and is mad at God. A major factory in the community has relocated, taking with it many church members’ jobs. Even the pastor’s own losses remain painful and unresolved. Is it any wonder, the authors ask, that the church council meetings are so rancorous and the church is mired in unproductive conflict.

According to Lyon, conflict is often about ungrieved loss. “When conflict occurs, pastors and other church leaders must know how to be present in the dynamics of grieving loss, encouraging space for a new thing to emerge,” says Lyon. “We want to show how leaders can understand  group-wide dynamics of conflict, ground their leadership in the liturgical meanings and rhythms of church life, and lead their congregations through potentially destructive realities into the creative possibilities that conflict can bring.”

“We set out to not only acknowledge the ‘Family Systems’ approach to processing conflict, but to show leaders they can be more effective if they understand more deeply the way individuals and groups function psycho-dynamically,” says Moseley.  “It’s not just about psychology.  Its about theological work, the work of leading a congregation.”

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