Brian Cox knows an identity-based conflict when he sees one. Cox has seen many such conflicts since 1990, when he began taking the message of reconciliation into east-central European nations such as Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Moldova, and Slovakia.
Since September 2000, he has taken the message into strife-torn regions of Kashmir and Sudan in work for the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, based in Washington, D.C.
But one identity-based conflict drawing Cox's concern is much closer to home: in the Episcopal Church, which he has served as a priest for more than 25 years.
In February 1999, Cox sent a 44-page study and reconciliation proposal to all bishops of the Episcopal Church. That paper, "The Episcopal Church Reconciliation Initiative," applied the principles of conflict resolution to Episcopalians' thorniest debates about their spiritual identity.
Citing authors Jay Rothman and Louise Diamond, Cox describes identity-based conflicts as "those which are rooted in people's collective need for identity, security, community and vitality."
"These are more intangible and existential concerns, as opposed to interest-based conflicts which are focused on claiming tangible assets or resources," Cox wrote in that paper. "Identity is the racial, ethnic, tribal, national, cultural or religious distinctiveness of a group. Identity includes recognition; the need to be known and affirmed by another, to be understood, seen, respected and valued."
Debates about homosexuality are normally center stage, but Cox also recognizes related conflicts about the uniqueness of Jesus, interpretation of the Bible, the nature of inclusiveness, and whether divided Episcopalians can or should remain in the same denomination.
"In the Episcopal ...1
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