Responding to adaptive challenges: Conflict transformation

December 10, 2014

By Ruth Willis, RMC Conflict Transformation Team

In the early stages of the Conflict Transformation Team (CTT), I became a member of the RMC Lay Missional Team led by Rev. Youngsook Kang, which was formed to learn and experience adaptive leadership.

All eight of us were already leaders in our districts and/or the conference, yet learning what adaptive leadership meant, took our group of technical leaders several months of sharing and learning. Then we were asked to create an ‘experiment’ of leadership using adaptive methods. Our response was “what?”

Slowly, each of us developed our experiment or challenge. Mine became, “As there is known conflict within the churches of our RMC and the bishop and cabinet have asked for a team to be formed and I have been asked to co-chair that team: therefore my adaptive challenge is:

  • Resourcing a training team of clergy and laity to go out into the conference area sharing with congregations and clergy an understanding of the basics of conflict, ways of dealing with conflict, the importance of responding early to signs of destructive conflict, and sharing resources.
  • Besides the Prevention work, the team would provide intervention work if needed and if we were sufficiently trained.
  • Working cooperatively with a small planning group composed of three clergy and one lay person and finding ‘my voice’ in the midst of clergy’.

Three-plus years later, we now have a functioning CTT, which has 20 members both clergy and lay. We recently drew up a guidelines document for how our group can interact with a local church and that district’s superintendent. Our emphasis is now intervention rather than prevention, and we have been called to help several DS's.

The planning group developed a newsletter this December that will connect our team, provide information and hopefully inspiration. We will continue to have professional trainings yearly to prepare and educate us for future ways of helping our UMCs in this conference.