Responding to Conflict in Meeting

There are times in the life of every meeting when our differences create conflict. In fact, if we are an inclusive and welcoming community, meetings should experience conflict quite regularly. Yet Friends are very often challenged to demonstrate the loving concern we have for one another by facing our differences squarely.

Responsibility for addressing conflicts in meeting is usually the charge of the oversight and/or care and counsel committee, those Friends providing pastoral care to meeting members. The dilemma of whether or not to confront a conflict in the meeting is a difficult one: If we avoid the problem things could get worse; if we address it we could risk hurting someone in ways which were unintended and the relationship might suffer.

However, either approach could leave the meeting feeling split with Friends taking different sides on the issue. These situations, in turn, can lead to feelings of mistrust among meeting members and a loss of faith in Quaker process. For these reasons, addressing conflicts in ways which are grounded in Friends traditions and practices is vital. They foster unity and show us the way forward.

Attached you will find three editions of the PYM Pastoral Care Newsletter (PCN) which offer guidance on facing conflict in the meeting. Two of these articles appear in the book-length anthology of PCN articles entitled, Grounded in God: Care and Nurture in Friends Meetings, an important resource for pastoral care providers (available at www.quakerbooks.org).

Pastoral Care That Is Both Loving and Firm by Patricia McBee explores when it is appropriate for Friends to have behavioral expectations and limits for others within the meeting comunity.Grounded-in-God-Cover

One Meeting’s Response to Conflict and Abuse by Friends in Portland (ME) Meeting provides a model for responding to difficult situations as an occasion for deep corporate searching about who we are as Friends and what God requires of us.

Dealing with Difficult Situations by Arlene Kelly offers suggestions for responding in a constructive and caring way to situations that often impede a meeting’s functioning and contribute to a lack of unity among Friends.

Creating a framework for reconciliation when differences arise should be the response of Friends to conflicts in their meeting. Yet, sometimes all such endeavors fail to bring disputing members together to work out a resolution and third party would be helpful in resolving the issue. In such cases, Friends are advised to seek help from other sources including the Yearly Meeting.

If you would like to learn more about mediation services and support available through PYM, please contact George Schaefer at gschaefer@pym.org or by calling 215-241-7068.