Helping Presbyteries & Local Congregations
to Resolve Conflicts
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to God’s self through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making an appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
~ 2 Corinthians 5: 18 -20
The goal of mediation is to achieve reconciliation in Christ by mutual agreement without having to resort to the judicial process of a remedial or disciplinary complaint.
The Mediation Network is a community of trained mediators who are committed to helping the church and its members resolve conflicts in a constructive and collaborative manner. Their training has prepared them to deal effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict. From time to time, the Network sponsors training events to increase the number of qualified mediators within the Synod. The goal is to have at least two mediators from every presbytery of the Synod.
Check out this blog post by The Rev. Jennifer Wegter-McNelly about the Spring 2016 training.
What is Mediation?
The goal is reconciliation in Christ through mutual agreement.
Too often complaints and conflicts end up with COM intervention or a judicial action. The goal of mediation is to seek reconciliation without having to resort to COM intervention of the judicial process of a remedial or disciplinary complaint.
Mediation is a process which facilitates negotiations between people or groups who have not been able to reach a satisfactory settlement to their differences and/or conflict. The mediator provides a process and structure in which differences may be worked out. The mediator’s tasks are to assist people to discuss their concerns, identify issues needing resolution, and to work towards mutually acceptable solutions and agreements.
Mediation can happen either before a judicial case is initiated or sometimes after a case has begun.
What is the Mediation Network?
The Mediation Network is individuals with the Synod who have completed training, such as Lombard Mennonite Peace Center’s Mediation Skills Training, who are available and willing to serve as mediators for congregations and presbyteries in their region or within the Synod of the Northeast.
From time to time, the Network sponsors training events to increase the number of qualified mediators within the Synod. The goal is to have at least two mediators from every presbytery of the Synod. Presently there are over 30 trained mediators as part of the Mediation Network.
Who are the mediators?
They are Presbyterians who feel called to this ministry and who have received specialized training in ecclesiastical mediation. While there are some similarities to legal mediation, there are also significant differences unique to the church context. Most network members have been trained in mediation processes developed by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.
In order to maintain impartiality, the Network typically assigns mediators in teams of two to cases outside their own presbyteries.
What sorts of cases call for mediation?
Mediation is appropriate only in situations in which both parties to a dispute have agreed to enter mediation and are open to the possibility of mutually negotiated agreement on some or all of the issues. They agree to approach the mediation process as a spiritual discipline, guided by the Holy Spirit. If the mediators determine that agreement is not possible because one or both parties are not fully on board with the process or are not able to come to the table as equals, they will advise all concerned that mediation is not suitable.
What do mediators do?
They lead both parties — be they individuals or groups — through a series of communication exercises tailored to the particular situation. The goal is to help both parties listen to each other, to see the conflict through the eyes of the other and to mutually arrive at a place where they can reaffirm the ties that bind them together in the body of Christ, even if they continue to disagree on particular issues.
Once they have come to understand the situation, the mediators will propose a plan of one or more mediation sessions, each of which will involve face-to-face communication between both parties.
Mediation is not arbitration. Mediators serve as facilitators, not judges. They lead Christians in conflict to seek reconciliation with each other in the name of Jesus Christ and to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.
How do I obtain a mediator’s services?
The Mediation Network accepts referrals from presbyteries, typically from the presbytery leader, stated clerk, moderator or committee on ministry.
If you think mediation would help in your congregation, please contact your presbytery leadership.
How do I become a mediator?
If you have ecclesiastical mediation training and wish to join the Mediation Network or if you are interested training, contact Jeanne Radak or Carl Wilton, co-moderators of the Synod Mediation Network.
Interested in joining the Mediation Network or seeking mediation in your presbytery? Tell us a bit about yourself by contacting our Stated Clerk, Nancy Talbot.