Frequently Asked Questions
What is Christian Mediation?
Mediation is essentially a structured dialogue, led by a third person of faith (usually called a third-party neutral or Mediator), who will help the parties to a dispute identify their issues, explore options for resolution, and talk about what is important to them in a productive way. Mediation is a voluntary process designed to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the issues in dispute. Mediation emphasizes “problem solving” and “consensus-building”, and differs from other conflict resolution methods, such as Court litigation or Arbitration where a resolution may be imposed on the parties.
What is the Biblical Context for Mediation?
The Biblical support for conflict resolution is tremendous, as there are numerous scriptures that admonish us as Christians to resolve conflicts and practice forgiveness in our actions with others. The Bible itself is based on concepts and principles of forgiveness and reconciliation.
As Christians, we are all called to be Christ-like in our relationships with each other and Christ himself tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Also, consider the following passages:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3).
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18).
“Live in peace with each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19).
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14).
These passages call for all Christians to be peacemakers and consequently, we are charged with an obligation to reconcile our disagreements.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of support for mediation in the Church is found in Matthew 18:15-20;
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the Church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Why Try To Resolve Conflicts?
As members of a Christian Congregation, all parishioners have an interest in positive relationships in the Church, even for those not directly involved in a dispute. You might expect that you will have an ongoing relationship with other members that will continue for some time into the future. Unresolved disagreements can be destructive to a Congregation if ignored. In this context, all members of the Congregation benefit when disputes among members are resolved amicably. Successful mediations help strengthen or renew relationships based on trust and respect between the parties; or may even terminate relationships in a non-adversarial manner. By participating in mediation, the parties have an opportunity to determine the outcome of the dispute. Mediation may not be the ideal solution for every dispute, but it is a good process to help reconcile differences and disagreements in a Christian way.
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation is a way to resolve disagreements between individuals or groups when all parties agree that a neutral third-party Mediator may be able to help. The parties involved in the dispute meet with a Mediator that is trained to facilitate communication and to assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. Most mediations will involve joint meetings with the parties, along with separate individual sessions with each party at the discretion of the Mediator. As a rule of thumb, the process of mediation can take one hour or longer to reach resolution, depending on the nature and complexities of each case. Before the session begins, the Mediator will explain the process, describe the expectations toward resolution, and answer any questions.
How Can Mediation Help?
Mediation can take the “heat” out of the dispute, and provide an opportunity for you to hear the other person’s side of the disagreement. This cannot always be done when people are angry at a particular moment, but the mediation process provides a “cooling-off” period that allows the parties to relax and approach a structured mediation conversation with reason, and a “referee” (Mediator) to keep things on track. Mediation helps preserve and build positive relationships, which is important to the Church and provides a Christian response to conflict.
What is the Role of the Mediator?
The Mediator serves as a facilitator and will help the parties with a structured conversation on the issues that gave rise to the disagreement. The Mediator does not evaluate who is right or wrong in a dispute and remains impartial and neutral on the issues. The Mediator does not give any legal advice or make any judgments about the matter, but will help the parties identify potential resolutions. The Mediator does not have any authority to dictate how disagreements must be resolved.
Is Mediation Confidential?
Yes. By ensuring confidentiality, the mediation process can make it safe for members to raise sensitive issues of concern in a safe, private setting. The mediation process requires confidentiality in order to ensure that the integrity of the process is preserved. Moreover, CMS Mediators are bound by Biblical precepts and recognized Standards of Conduct which help to guide the process.
At the same time, Mediators try to maintain a balance between open communications and legitimacy of the process where all parties will trust the process and will be encouraged to reach agreement on resolution of the issues.
What if the Other Party Doesn’t Want to Mediate?
Mediation is completely voluntary, and can only be successful when both parties are willing to give it a try and are committed to the process involved in resolving the dispute. As noted above, the benefits of mediation to all parishioners are tremendous. In many situations, the other party may not be aware that a conflict exists, but will be willing to participate in mediation if they are aware there is a problem. Inasmuch as relationships between parishioners are likely to be long term, most members of a Congregation will be willing to attempt resolution to the problems.
If you are interested in mediation, but are not sure of the other party’s interest, you may first want to consult with your Church leadership or Pastor to determine if they feel the dispute is appropriate for mediation. Also, you may want to determine if any financial support for mediation is available through your Church. If you have already discussed the disagreement with the other party, you may already have an indication of whether the other person or group is willing to participate in mediation.
How Do I Get Started?
If you wish to pursue mediation, you may first want to determine if your Church already has a conflict resolution program in place. If not, you may discuss the issues with a CMS Associate who will first talk with you to gain an understanding of the issues, and discuss your options. Following this, the CMS Associate (Mediator) will talk with the other party and will explain the process and potential benefits of mediation, and help the other party consider whether they will participate. At the end of this conversation, the other party may decide not to participate in mediation. If both parties agree to participate, the CMS Associate (Mediator) will work out a convenient time, date and location for the parties to meet to begin the process. It is important to have the support of your Church if mediation session will take place on Church property. [For private counseling sessions, space away from the Church property will be used].
Once you have the initial discussion with a Mediator, some disagreements may be resolved without the more formal mediation sessions. In other situations, the parties may write an agreement for resolution with the help of the Mediator. Since this is a voluntary process, written agreements are not legally binding, but if a written agreement is produced, both parties are expected to abide by the agreement.
If you wish to pursue mediation, you may contact a CMS Associate by calling, (202) 349-3949, or contact us at