Monday, April 6, 2009

Four Types of Substantive Conflict

A post that I have had in the “hopper” for a while comes from the book I was posting on last December: William Willimon’s “Preaching on Conflict in the Church”

Willimon quotes Speed Leas & Paul Kittlaus in Church Fights: Managing Conflict.  They state that within the area of substantive conflict,there are four different kinds:

    1. Conflict over the facts of a situation. Is there enough money to pay for the new roof? image
    2. Conflict over the method or means of achieving a solution to the problem. Should we take up a food collection for the poor in town or lobby the town council to take action on decent housing laws?  
    3. Conflict over ends or goals.  Should this church be involved in direct political action or is this a matter of concern for Christian individuals alone?
    4. Conflict over values.  Values are the source of our goals and the means by which the church gains direction.  Values tell us which goals are worth adopting and what means of achieving these goals is appropriately Christian.  Should Christians ever be engaged in confrontation and agitation or should we always be reconcilers and peace-makers in every situation? 

I think that the key word in Leas/Kittlaus’ list is the word “substantive.”  Earlier, Leas & Kittlaus note that substantive conflict is only one of three kinds of conflict.  I blogged about that here. (As a reminder there are intrapersonal conflicts and interpersonal conflict as well as substantive conflicts. See the previous posts about the definitions of each type.)

I find that substantive conflicts are often less vitriolic than interpersonal conflicts. But preaching on conflict can take place in all three kinds of conflict.  Perhaps (and only perhaps) substantive conflict is easier to address.  What do you think? 

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