Peacemaker Ministries Board

The Peacemaker Ministries board of directors met in Anaheim, California, last week. This was our first in-person meeting since I became chair of this wonderful group of individuals dedicated to biblical peacemaking. We hail from California, Texas, Michigan and Idaho, united in our desire to see people around the world reconciled to God and to each other.

At the center of the photo is our dynamic CEO, Laurie Stewart, who is currently overseeing the transition of the office to Anaheim from Spokane, Washington. We look forward to seeing how God will lead this ministry in the future!

Seminary Dispute Could be Resolved Privately

The former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Adam Greenway, is suing the seminary, as reported in The Christian Post and the Baptist Press last week.

Mr. Greenway became president of the seminary in February 2019, and resigned in September 2022. After he left, the Board of Trustees authorized a task force to investigate presidential expenditures; its “summary of findings,” issued last June, alleged several improper and excessive expenditures, including $1.5 million on the seminary’s presidential manor. Mr. Greenway alleges that the findings are defamatory.

The federal court is not the place to resolve these differences among Christians. There are several national biblical peacemaking organizations ready and able to address a dispute such as this, including Peacemaker Ministries, the Institute for Christian Conciliation and the Crossroads Resolution Group. It is sad that Mr. Greenway chose instead to file a lawsuit, and that the seminary, according to a statement, plans to “defend vigorously the institution.” In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “To have lawsuits among you means you are defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (I Corinthians 6:7)

It may well be both that Mr. Greenway spent money improperly, and that the board was lax in its oversight, allowing misspending to occur. These kinds of wrongs by and against Christians should be resolved within the church – no need to air the church’s internal disputes in the public court. And a biblical process could even restore some of the broken relationships here. I hope these parties dismiss this lawsuit and contact a peacemaking organization right away.

Book Review of “Changing Normal”

Does culture affect how we deal with conflict? Does culture affect how we apply biblical principles to conflict resolution? Dr. Jolene Kinser answers “yes” to both questions in her new book, Changing Normal: Break Through Barriers to Pursuing Peace in Relationships. As an American who spent decades living in China, she implies that it takes someone outside the culture to observe its impact on conflict resolution. She argues that, once cultural norms are identified, they can be screened through a biblical framework and modified – not necessarily rejected — to conform to biblical standards. (Full disclosure: I’ve known and worked with Jolene for years, including teaching with her in China.)

The most obvious relevant cultural norm observed in Asia is “face,” how a person perceives their reputation in the eyes of others. The need to save face can prevent a person from admitting mistakes, and can stifle subordinates from providing necessary correction to superiors – adding to conflict. Dr. Kinser notes that “face” is ultimately about where we get our identity, and the Bible makes clear that our identity comes from God. Once we see ourselves as the new creatures in Christ that Paul describes in II Corinthians 5:17, we need not look to others to define our self-worth. It becomes easier to apologize, and to confront gently, when one is seeking God’s approval, not humans’. Thus adjusted, the concept of “face” need not hinder people from making peace.

This is not simply an academic work. Dr. Kinser asked about 30 Chinese Christians to describe how they applied biblical principles of peacemaking to conflicts in their daily lives – their marriages, their extended families, their workplaces, their churches. So each of her points in the book is illustrated by direct quotes from people who lived them. People describe improved relationships after consciously thinking and behaving differently with regard to their conflicts.

People who don’t live cross-culturally will also benefit from this book, as it covers all the important aspects of biblical peacemaking in a refreshing way. Especially helpful are the prayers and reflection questions at the end of each chapter. Dr. Kinser’s book is a welcome addition to the small but growing library of books on biblical peacemaking.

Party Unable to Void Settlement Despite Allegation of Duress

The plaintiffs in a medical malpractice suit settled their case after mediation, then tried to get out of the settlement. When they couldn’t, they sued their lawyers for legal malpractice, claiming the lawyers settled for too low an amount and that their attorneys “had caused them to settle under duress.” The Appeals Court of Massachusetts denied their claim. Abdulky v. Lubin & Meyer, 102 Mass. App. Ct. 441 (Mass. App. Ct. 2023) Plaintiffs’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied this week.

The parents of a 5-year-old child brought the medical malpractice action in 2015 against a number of doctors and their hospital after the child’s arm was amputated below the elbow. The parents engaged in mediation and in settlement negotiations, after which they agreed to accept the defendants’ insurers’ offer of $6 million. However, at the settlement hearing, the parents indicated that they had reservations about the settlement. The judge had an off-the-record discussion with the parents about their reservations, then determined that the case was settled. The judge also asked the father if he felt “pressured” into a settlement; the father said no. At the next hearing, the parents attempted to reverse the settlement; the judge did not let them. At yet another hearing, the parents filed a motion to void the settlement agreement on grounds that the settlement failed to properly consider the costs of the child’s future prosthetic needs, as well as that the parents had entered the agreement under duress, due to their fear that a guardian ad litem would be appointed to evaluate the settlement.

When the trial court nevertheless enforced the settlement, the parents sued their attorneys for malpractice. The appeals court determined that the parents hadn’t produced evidence demonstrating that the settlement was insufficient to cover the costs of the child’s future prosthetic needs, so the attorney malpractice action was dismissed.

This case proves how difficult it is to get out of a settlement agreement once entered into; courts want finality and aren’t sympathetic to a party that changes their mind. It also illustrates the feeling of pressure or duress that a party may feel in the course of a mediation or settlement negotiations. Attorneys and mediators do well to note, and try to address, this feeling before it threatens to undo the settlement.

Soccer Captain Apologizes for Criticizing Fans

Lindsey Horan, the captain of the US women’s soccer team, gave an interview to The Athletic, published earlier this month, in which she expressed her frustration with American soccer fans. She observed that most of them “aren’t smart, they don’t know the game, they don’t understand.” Apparently she was widely criticized for those remarks, so today she issued an apology.

“First and foremost, I would like to apologize to our fans. Some of my comments were poorly expressed and there was a massive lesson learned for me. When I think about our fans, I love them so much, this team loves them so much, and I can’t begin to explain how much they mean to us … The soccer culture in America is changing so much in a positive way.”

She went on to say that the fans are her inspiration, and that it is an honor for her to represent the national team.

“The last thing I ever wanted to do was to offend anyone in that manner. So, again, I deeply, deeply apologize.”

This is a tactical apology, where the speaker says what they need to say in order to move on (as opposed to an apology from the heart, where the speaker is genuinely contrite). That her “comments were poorly expressed” sounds good, but that implies that she was trying to say something else and it just came out sounding like Americans fans aren’t knowledgeable. But isn’t that indeed what she really meant to say? It’s not that her thought was “poorly expressed,” it’s that she never should’ve expressed it at all, in any form. At least, not now, when the US soccer team is getting ready for the Olympics and needs all the fan support it can get.

She says she learned “a massive lesson,” without indicating what it was. It would’ve been a stronger apology had she specified what she learned – or exactly what she did wrong.

Better: “I made some critical comments about our fans that hurt them, and I deeply regret what I said. I love our fans, and they have made huge strides in understanding the intricacies of the game, so I never should have said that they were not knowledgeable. It’s an honor to play for them, and I have the deepest gratitude and admiration for them. From now on I want to emphasize that instead of what I said earlier. I hope our fans can forgive me.”