Help offered for church conflicts

Leaders of churches that sometimes experience turmoil and disagreements—all church leaders, basically—can benefit from a hybrid course at Eastern Mennonite University, offered on four weekends this fall. The course combines teachings from EMU’s conflict transformation program and its seminary.

“Managing Congregational Conflict” was a lynchpin course for Barbara Robbins, a 2011 graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

“I am a congregational consultant for Virginia Baptist Network,” she said. “I provide coaching and guidance for congregations in conflict, as well as helping congregations work with reorganization and strategic planning.

“The course was the perfect blend of theory and practice,” said Robbins. “I am able to apply projects from that class directly into congregational settings.”

“Managing Congregational Conflict” is open to students in both EMU’s CJP program and to Eastern Mennonite Seminary students, as well as to community members or others who are interested in the topic.

“I entered the CJP program as a mid-life student seeking to fine-tune what I already know and enhance what I was already doing,” said Robbins. “This course brought together the strong foundation in organization studies that CJP brings, into a life application I was interested in.”

Mike Metzler, ’09 grad, took the class while in seminary. “I learned that conflict is an opportunity for change. Conflict is still scary but framing it as an opportunity allows me to move towards conflict with some excitement as well.

“This is one of my top three courses from my master of divinity studies at EMS,” added Metzler, associate pastor at Mountville (Pa.) Mennonite Church. “It builds on the foundational classes in ways that transform the students as well as impacting the congregations in which they are called to serve.”

The course focuses on congregations both as family systems and organizational systems. It also works with the ideas of forgiveness and the theology of forgiveness in congregations.

David Brubaker, PhD, associate professor of organizational studies at CJP, and Mary Thiessen Nation, PhD, adjunct instructor for EMS, co-teach the course.

The course will run Friday 6-9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. beginning the weekend of Sept. 23-24, and continuing one weekend every month through December.

EMS and CJP collaborate on a number of courses. The two graduate programs offer several courses as options for a graduate certificate in theology for peacebuilding or a dual master of divinity and master of arts in conflict transformation degree.



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