Thursday 10th November 2016 the Diocese of Bath and Wells organised a day for chaplains from many backgrounds – including schools – to consider ‘Making Peace with Conflict’ a day on conflict resolution led by Simon Keyes of the University of Winchester. After introductory worship, he began by quoting Archbishop Justin Welby.
If the Church is not a place both of conflict and of reconciliation it is not merely hindering its mission and evangelism, but it is a failing or failed Church. It has ceased to be the miracle of diversity in unity, of the grace of God breaking down walls. We must be reconciled reconcilers. (May 2013)
The analysis proceeded with a definition of conflict, conflict transformation through an invitation to look at how we see ourselves, how we see others, how we interact as groups and how we see God. The conference was asked to envision conflict having the potential for constructive change and delegates took part in a practical exercise around difference (whether we were dog- or cat-lovers or neither and why).
Delegates were reminded that our faith embraced a new vision of reality.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Simon then set out a sequence of actions and understandings that created a path to reconciliation. He reminded us that unresolved conflict was psychologically very debilitating and that the most desired outcome of conflict resolution was predicated on ‘unconditional forgiveness when an act of forgiveness is not requiring any prior response from the perpetrator. Forgiveness had two principal modes. Unilateral forgiveness involved the aggrieved person letting go of the need for revenge and resentment. Bilateral forgiveness additionally included seeking to bring about a change in the attitude of the perpetrator.
Sometimes this would not be achievable and so ‘good disagreement’ was advocated. Divisive subjects should be opened up in safe and creative ways. All participants need to demonstrate that they fully understand the issues of contention and that they fully understand each others’ perspectives. Hopefully, through these pre-conditions, relationships between the participants would be enhanced. Simon concluded by setting out influences and criteria for reaching outcomes that either resolved or stabilised disagreement. He ended with a quotation from HH The Dalai Lama.
Your enemy is your best teacher.
The afternoon session was led by the Bishop of Taunton, Rt Revd Ruth Worsley. She acknowledged the work of chaplains in all sectors and affirmed that the work of chaplains answered the question posed by Archbishop Justin during his recent visitation in the Diocese – ‘What is the Church doing on the ground? The values of the Church were lived daily by chaplains and she thanked those present for extending the work and influence of the Church to all areas of life. Bishop Ruth then ended the conference by presiding at a final Eucharist.