FL Review Online

General Board of Global Ministries

UM Information

UM Reporter

Florida Southern College

Cookman College

FL UM Children's Home


July 18, 2003


Bishop's Corner

Confronting Conflict

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

Conflict in the church is nothing new. Just read the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth. They were divided by their differences in social class, spirituality and sexual morality. There has never been a golden age in which there was no conflict in the church.

Why should we expect the church to be free of conflict? The church is God’s grand experiment in human history to create community through a common faith in Jesus Christ. The church is to be nothing less than a new humanity through participation by faith in God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ and poured out in the Holy Spirit.

The creation of a new humanity involves overcoming the centrifugal force of human sin. St. Augustine said the human species is the only species that is “social by nature and quarrelsome by perversion.” The way to a new humanity united in divine love is through conflict. Once conflict erupts in the church, then the opportunity arises to really learn how to become a community of love in which there is a common commitment to Jesus Christ, mutual respect for differences and a spirit of forgiveness and acceptance. The emergence of conflict is often the test for experiencing genuine community.

Even though conflict is not new, it may be more common in many churches today simply because in a mobile society there are people who come together from many different places and there is a lessening of social inhibitions. Sometimes it is necessary for churches to be led through their conflict by someone from the outside who has been trained on how to resolve conflict. One of the items on the agenda of the Conference Table is to recruit and train consultants for conflict resolution and establish policies for their work in churches.

Whenever conflict emerges there is an understandable desire to walk away saying, “I want the church to be one place in my life where there is no conflict.” Yet to succumb to this attitude would be to fail the test of forming Christian community. In all relationships there is conflict. The issue is how to confront and overcome it.

If there is any community that possesses the resources for confronting and overcoming conflict it is the church. The church is the community that knows the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s passion on the cross. Within this environment of divine forgiveness, we can forgive one another and, thus, experience being a new humanity made possible by the grace of God.

Top of this page

© 2003 Florida United Methodist Review Online