This past November I was privileged to attend a week long Mediation Skills Training hosted by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. I attended the workshop as part of my internship with the Conflict Transformation Ministry of the NCCUMC. During the training we learned about facilitating mediations, personality profiles, listening techniques, and resolution skills. For those unfamiliar with professional mediation, it is important to note that there are many different mediation organizations with an equally diverse set of methods for conducting mediations. The Conflict Transformation Ministers of the North Carolina Conference, were trained by a group called Just Peace. So as I attended the Lombard training, I was struck by how different their methods were compared to some other techniques and I was interested in the unique qualities of their approach to conflict.
This made me question what, if any, are the essential pieces of mediating conflict? Psychological profiles could not be absolutely crucial to mediation, because not all mediators use them. The method of dealing with problems from large to small, or small to large, or even the number of meetings could not have been an essential aspect, because that also differs between groups. So, what is the one thing present in all successful Church mediations?
By the end of the training I was convinced the most crucial aspect of any successful group mediation is the healing presence of God! How else can we explain the success of such varying methods and practices? Despite the failings of mediators and methodology, God redeems us in remarkable ways during mediation. The Holy Spirit goes before us when we share our lives and perspectives in honest conversation.
God shows up in mediation in a number of ways: in the devotions said to open meetings, in the trained mediators, and especially in the forgiveness and love shared between brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the clearest ways God is present is in the mutual recognition of the imago dei (image of God), even in the midst of conflict. Recognizing God in one another is an essential step to living a more healthy and holy life. Just as we recognize we cannot live fully without God in our lives, we should also realize we cannot live fully without each other, as each of us contains the imago dei. This mutual recognition of the divine image helps us reestablish broken relationships and tear down the pride that separates us.
John Wesley described this mutual dependence in Christian Perfection, writing, “We may be wise but have little love, or we may have love with little wisdom. God has wisely joined us all together as parts of the body so that we cannot say to one another, ‘I have no need of you.’” Acknowledging God among us and within each other is an indispensable element of successful mediation and flourishing churches. As you inevitably encounter conflict in your personal lives, churches, and work places, take time appreciate how God is present in the conflict. When we acknowledge God’s abiding presence in conflict it gives us eyes to see how our friends, family, coworkers, pastors, and even enemies carry the image of God.
Aaron Hayworth, CTM Intern