Pastor-Church Conflicts Don’t Belong in Court

Sad to read about the ongoing conflict between James Flakes and his former church, New Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist. Mr. Flakes served as its part-time pastor for several years, until he was terminated in 2017, which he evidently deemed unfair. Rather than resolve their differences within the church, as St. Paul exhorts Christians to do (I Corinthians 6:1-8), the parties are battling this out in Michigan courts. The Oakland Circuit Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over this intra-church dispute – a ruling in keeping with St. Paul’s biblical injunction. But Mr. Flakes persuaded the Michigan Court of Appeals that this should be viewed as simply another contract dispute (Flakes v New Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, Case No. 345988), so now it will be returned to the Oakland Circuit Court. We hope and pray that the parties will remove this case from the court system altogether, and find caring Christians who will help them resolve this privately. One suggestion for doing that: contact the Institute for Christian Conciliation. The court system is ill-equipped to address the spiritual and relational issues at stake in a dispute like this; these folks need the church.

Forgiving a Killer

An amazing thing occurred at the sentencing for former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger yesterday: the brother of the man she shot forgave her. Ms. Guyger was convicted of murder after she shot and killed Botham Jean in his apartment, mistakenly thinking he was an intruder in her apartment. During the sentencing hearing, the victim’s brother Brandt Jean, age 18, said to her from the witness stand, “If you are truly sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”

In his victim-impact statement, Mr. Jean said that he wished that Ms. Guyger didn’t have to serve any time at all. Instead, he wanted for Guyger what his older brother would have wanted: “I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you. I love you as a person and don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Then he asked if he could give Guyger a hug. As soon as the judge gave permission, the two embraced for a long time.

But there was more. After the jury exited, Judge Tammy Kemp walked over to the defense table, and handed Guyger a Bible, encouraging her to read it. Guyger impulsively reached out to hug the judge, and the judge reciprocated. The judge could be heard telling her, “It’s not because I’m good. It’s because I believe in Christ. None of us are worthy.”

God is still present in our courtrooms.

Endorsing Apologies in Mediation

This article notes the risks of apologies but also that they can be handled deftly in mediation. It’s well worth a read.

Exemplary Apologies?

Sometimes it’s a relief to imagine apologies carried too far. Check this out for some light-hearted humor around apologies:





A Bid to Mediate Church Conflicts

A very good article about mediating church conflicts was recently posted on, “Referring Church Conflicts to Mediation.” The author, Wayne Plenert, uses the passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians about the conflict between Euodia and Synteche to argue that there is a biblical basis for mediating church conflicts. In that passage (Philippians 4:2-3), Paul pleads with someone to help Euodia and Synteche resolve their conflict, noting that both of these women have labored with Paul in sharing the gospel. It’s the best example in the Christian Scriptures of mediation as an appropriate method for resolving conflicts. Mr. Plemert extracts some guiding principles for church leaders in addressing internal conflicts, providing a useful tool for any church member in a conflict with another (which is just about all of us, at some point or another!).


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