Q: How is a peace process initiated?
A: The peace process is initiated when the Minister, any member of the Board, or a congregant contacts the Director of Peace Skills & Transitional Ministry Support and demonstrates a need for peacemaking. This need is usually determined after extended conversations with several involved parties.
Q: Who pays for peace process?
A: The church is responsible for all costs associated with the peace process (some regions provide funds for peace to their member ministries). Expenses include transportation, lodging, meals, and fees for the peace worker/transition consultant. Since financial concerns are likely linked to conflicts in a church, it is important that the leadership consider the costs and consequences of delaying assistance. Experience has demonstrated that when a community makes an authentic commitment to the peace process, the benefits far exceed all costs.
Q: What happens if the minister or the board does not want the peace process?
A: One sign of high level conflict in a church is when one party, the minister or the board, resists attempts to initiate the peacemaking process. When this is the case, the Director of Peace Skills will assist the leadership of the church in working through whatever concerns or resistance exists regarding the peace process. Because the peace process is voluntary and non-punitive, it is necessary that all parties agree to the request for assistance.
In the event that one party remains unwilling to participate in the process, the bylaws of the church enable the minister or board to call a special membership meeting to resolve this issue.
Occasionally, it is the congregation that wishes help while the minister and board feel that assistance is not warranted. In this case, the congregation may request assistance subject to applicable provisions included in the bylaws of the church. A request for assistance does not always guarantee that assistance will happen, however. The Director of Peace Skills will evaluate the request and determine if peacemaking is the most beneficial course with which to address concerns or issues underlying a request.
Q: Who gets to talk to the peace worker?
A: People often feel the need to share information with the peace worker, especially when they have been deeply affected by the events and circumstances associated with a conflict. While hearing a person's story or receiving information is a very important part of the peace process, this usually does not happen in the beginning. The first steps of the process are about creating a spiritual context within which all stories and each point of view can be valued and heard without being defended.
Q: Are peace workers/transition consultants primarily ministers?
A: At present, lay peace workers/transition consultants who are also professional consultants are available to serve.
Q: Does the peace worker/transition consultant determine whether or not the minister should stay?
A: The peace worker/transition consultant helps conflicted parties identify, understand, evaluate, and address problems in the church so the community can move forward. They assist everyone in making healthy choices based upon organizational integrity and spiritual principle. When questions arise concerning the minister's tenure, they will help create a process for determining whether or not the minister should stay, but they do not make this decision for the church. This process often involves the entire congregation. However, it is the policy of the Unity Worldwide Ministries to not intervene in a Board's decision to release the minister (See Position Statement).
Q: Does the peace worker/transition consultant make recommendations?
A: The peace worker/transition consultant primarily serves to create a process that assists the entire church community in transforming interpersonal and organizational difficulties into opportunities for growth and positive change. Our focus is on healing and reconciliation as a precursor to problem-solving. When the client requests that recommendations be made they are generated out of agreements made between the minister, board, and church community to take ownership and responsibility for the issues facing the church. The peace worker may assist the ministry in strategic planning, visioning, and goal setting. They will not make written recommendations or provide the ministry with a written report.
Q: Why isn't a written report made to the congregation?
A: Many aspects of peace skills development are grounded in education, process consulting, mediation, and healing. No report is made as an evaluation of the client's situation because peace processes are not substantive. The peace worker does not evaluate competence or affix blame. However, for administrative purposes, an Activity Report stating the ministry's name, dates and types of processes implemented, and the peace worker/transition consultant's comments is submitted to the Director of Peace Skills & Transitional Ministry Support.
Q: Can the church use an outside mediator instead of Unity Worldwide Ministries?
A: Yes. While the Department of Peace Skills & Transitional Ministry Support also provides mediation services, experience has demonstrated that outside mediation has not always been successful in Unity churches when the level of conflict is high and affects the congregation at large. As is often the case, conflict in churches is complex and driven by family systems issues. Our peace process model is adapted specifically to Unity and New Thought organizations and is grounded in Truth principles. The use of outside mediation or conflict management consulting can be an expensive and frustrating option.
Q: How long does it take for the entire peace process to be implemented?
A: Each case varies depending upon the size of ministry and the complexity of the issues to be addressed. The implementation of the entire process over three to five on-site visits can take on average four months to six months.
Q: How quickly is a peace worker/transition consultant able to begin working with a ministry once an official request for assistance has been made?
A: It can typically take several weeks to make arrangements for the first on-site visit. Peace workers/transition consultants are either full-time ministers or professional lay consultants that have to manage cases amidst their already busy schedules.
It is Unity Worldwide Ministries' policy not to intervene in matters relating to a minister's tenure. However, most churches bylaws require a ministry to cooperate with Unity Worldwide Ministries' liaison/conflict management/peace process prior to the release of the minister. Cooperation does not necessarily mean engaging in a peacemaking process. The following is offered for clarity:
When there is conflict or interpersonal difficulty between the minister and the board, and when these tensions place the minister's tenure in jeopardy, assistance and support from Unity Worldwide Ministries should be immediately sought. The peacemaking services of Unity Worldwide Ministries are intended to assist Unity leaders and church communities in identifying the interpersonal, organizational, and systemic issues underlying conflicts and disputes. Once issues are identified, our focus is on healing and reconciliation as the precursor to problem solving. We do not affix blame, nor do we evaluate ministerial or board competence. Our services are voluntary and non-punitive. We help spiritual communities and their leaders work together in good faith to embrace conflicts as a means of discovering the missing links in their own intention to create authentic community.
While a church's bylaws may require the ministry to seek assistance from Unity Worldwide Ministries prior to considering the dismissal of the minister, this does not necessarily mean an engagement of Unity Worldwide Ministries peace processes. The Director of Peace Skills & Transitionial Ministry Support determines whether or not an on-site mediation or peace process would benefit all concerned.
It is the position of the Director of Peace Skills & Transitional Ministry Support that the spirit of the bylaw's provision requiring cooperation with Unity Worldwide Ministries has been fulfilled when:
The minister and board each has communicated their concerns, issues, and positions to the Director of Peace Skills & Transitional Ministry Support or the Vice President of Organizational Services prior to an action to release the minister.
Parties have attempted to implement any suggestions and/or recommendations offered to address issues.
Unity Worldwide Ministries does not intervene in disputes surrounding the minister's tenure. As a general rule in tenure disputes, the peace process is not warranted when:
Disputants lack the capacity or the willlingness to work together in good faith, or when there is not desire to pursue an amicable resolution of differences, for whatever reason.
Ultimately, both the minister and board are accountable to the church membership. It is up to the membership to hold its leaders accountable to whatever is highest and best for all concerned.