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Dissenting in Peace
So You Disagree . . . by Ron Kraybill, Dave Brubaker, Barbara Date, and Arlene Kelly, Mennonite Conciliation Service, $45
Reviewed by Martin B. Copenhaver, pastor, First Congregational Church, Burlington, Vermont
A line in The Music Man says people in Iowa can "stand nose to nose for days and days and never see eye to eye." How often this describes life in a church! The source of conflict can be anything from a point of doctrine to the color of new drapes. Whatever the cause, conflict can devastate a church, because accompanying such disagreements is the uneasy feeling that conflict does not belong in the church.
This helpful study kit with audio cassette tapes is produced by the Mennonite Conciliation Service (21 South 12th Street, Akron, PA 17501-price includes postage). It challenges the notion that a church can or should be free from conflict. The very title recognizes its inevitability. The presenters point out that the Bible is shot through with examples of God's people in conflict; disagreement has been part of the church from the beginning.
Those who avoid church conflict at all costs, they say, discover the cost of avoidance is high. Evading conflict usually means pushing it to the shadowed edges of a church, where it will grow in virulence. The effective approach is not to avoid conflict but to learn how to fight. An odd prescription, but the speakers persuasively contend that conflict can be an opportunity for increased understanding if it's confronted skillfully. This tape series can provide many of the needed skills.
When You Disagree . . . grew out of the experience of the MCS in mediating conflict within scores of local churches. As a result, the material has explicitly biblical roots. As strange as it may seem, many books about conflict-even conflict within a church-fail to include the biblical perspective. Here, an entire unit brings it center stage, and the perspective is present throughout.
The series is also practical at every step. ...