Christian Contract Clause Could Help

Reports that recently-terminated Calvin University President Wiebe Boer is suing his former employer bring sadness: another lawsuit among Christians. This dispute could have avoided court altogether if the parties had included in their employment contract a clause to that effect. The Institute for Christian Conciliation has long promoted its contract clause for that reason: it signals parties’ intention to resolve any future disputes privately, within the church. It’s possible that such a dispute resolution clause is in the contract, and Dr. Boer either missed it or believed it did not apply. That would give Calvin a chance to point that out, and the court would likely enforce the clause, directing the parties to resolve their dispute in accordance with the contract clause. In the published cases where courts have had opportunity to evaluate the ICC contract clause, they have consistently enforced it, as indicated on the website page about the clause.

Help for Pastors in Conflict

The bad news — according to a recent survey discussed in an article by David Roach posted yesterday in Christianity Today — is that more pastors are leaving their ministry due to conflict. The good news is that God can bring healing out of conflict, and He is using ministries like Peacemaker Ministries to bring that about.  The article leads with the story of a church in California experiencing serious conflict that saw lasting reconciliation after my colleagues from Peacemaker Ministries spent a weekend with them last year.

Peacemaker Ministries has developed a line of resources through our former CEO P. Brian Noble, called “The Path of a Peacemaker,” and God is working through these resources to reconcile relationships on every level, from marriages to workplaces to congregations. This is but one example. I feel justified in touting Peacemaker Ministries because I’m the chair of its board of directors; we have a strong board, and a dynamic, visionary CEO, Laurie Stewart. May God continue to bring peace and healing in His church!

More Pastors Are Leaving Ministry Over Church Conflict

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.