Chapter 5
Transforming Conflict

Chapter Summary

Conflict is a normal healthy part of human behaviour and we should not be surprised to see it in our church. But conflict can be destructive. John Mark Oduor likens the unhealthy response to a drum beat of war consisting of blame, the call for outside judgement on the opponent and the whipping up of fighting spirit. The result is violence and despair. In response he calls for a new drum beating out a message of forgiveness. This drum requires the building of relationships where conversation is possible in a shared place of meeting where uniqueness and diversity is celebrated and forgiveness can lead to belonging. Conflict has been part of the church ever since Peter discovered that the Holy Spirit had come upon the gentiles as well as the Jews. For some the acceptance of gentiles without their full conversion to Judaism was a step too far. The elders in Jerusalem tried to solve the issue at a council that issued a wise middle way solution, but this appeared to have little effect and the conflict escalated. The Letter to the Ephesians was written when the balance of power in some places had shifted and the gentile church was about to impose itself on the Jewish minority. In the letter it is made clear that there is only one Christian community, that has to embrace diversity in a single body. The alternatives of forcing uniformity or separating into two are incompatible with the witness of Christ. In the Anglican Communion there has been great pressure to ensure uniformity or to split. Three African dioceses faced this over their completely different attitudes to women priests. They considered separation as the best option, until they witnessed a remarkable reconciliation among a community in Kenya. They understood the way of Christ and committed themselves to walking together, valuing one another and seeking to discover Christ in one another.

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