Thoughts on Mediator Disclosures

A Michigan mediator was hauled before the Attorney Grievance Commission for failing to disclose the full extent of her social relationship with one party’s attorney in a divorce case she mediated and arbitrated. I wrote up some thoughts about it, and the Michigan Dispute Resolution ADR Journal published them in their recent Fall 2019 issue, available on the ADR Section website, in an article entitled, “Neutral’s Lack of Disclosure Catches Attention of Attorney Grievance Commission.”

Nursing a Grievance, Resolved

A woman in Brighton MI has settled a dispute with her church regarding breast-feeding at church. I wrote about this shortly after the incident occurred last year, hoping the parties would resolve this by acknowledging one another’s interests, in accordance with Philippians 2:3-4. Instead, it sounds like they resolved it the typical American way, by filing a lawsuit and settling for money.

The mother/plaintiff wasn’t looking for money; the news article says she donated it to non-profits that support breast-feeding. It sounds like the church finally offered an apology that the mother accepted, in contrast with the church’s initial apology last year, which apparently only further upset the mother. She said she didn’t want to sue, and “everything changed” when they agreed on an apology.

It’s sad that this woman believed her only option was to hire a lawyer and sue her church. Instead of contradicting I Corinthians 6:1-7 (“How dare you sue one another?”), she and the church could have looked to one of several biblical peacemaking ministries to assist them, such as Peacemaker Ministries, ICC Peace, or Ambassadors of Reconciliation. These organizations have trained Christian mediators in Michigan (including me) who would’ve been happy to help.

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.


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