Written by Ann Garrido and Sheila Heen,* this essay is addressed to anyone who works in a church setting and I would highly recommend it for collaborating bishops, pastors, parish staffs and parishioners. They acknowledge that reconciliation of differences is no easy task but,
the fields of conflict resolution and negotiation can be partners to Christian communities in this regard. Resources developed in the fields of law and business offer tangible, easily applicable ways of becoming a reconciling people. When motivated by faith, seven practices from these fields have the potential to become spiritual disciplines in which the Christian vocation to reconciliation is made real.While the guidelines suggested here come from the corporate world, the writers root them in scripture and offer grass roots application:
As Paul often reminded the early Christians, at the heart of our Gospel is one central message: through Christ the world is being reconciled to God. There is a sense of dynamism in Paul’s summary. All of creation writhes in the labor of becoming what God has always dreamed it to be. Christ the head has emerged while his body is still in the process of being born. Jesus leads the way; the earth remains in an ongoing process of reconciliation. The witness that Christians can most powerfully offer the world is not that of a perfect people, but of a people always fully engaged in the reconciliation experience.
It follows that exercises in reconciliation should be considered essential Christian practices—ways of fully collaborating with God in the ongoing work of creation. As Christians, we are expected not just to theorize about prayer, but to pray. We are expected not just to consent to the idea of works of mercy, but to show mercy. Reconciliation cannot be something we advocate from a distance. We must learn how to engage in it.
Garrido and Heen suggest seven guidelines for consideration, each one rooted in a familiar scripture and enhanced by scenarios drawn from typical parish life:
1) Avoid triangulationRead the complete article and I guarantee you'll see reflections of yourself, your diocese and your parish!
2) Distinguish between facts and interpretation
3) Practice passionate -and compassionate- curiosity
4) Let grace and compassion transform emotions
5) Engage the internal voice
6) Good intentions, bad impact
7) Be accountable for your personal contribution to the problem
*Ann Garrido is an associate professor of homiletics at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Mo. Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, is the co-author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin).
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