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A stubborn mind 2

Here’s another thought about what can help us clergy with our stubborn minds.                       Part one is here

Allow yourself to start with the assumption that you are to be obedient. And the starting place for that is to do the daily office for 20 years.

Our minds are nudged, reshaped, challenged by that pattern of prayer in which we join with the whole church, the quick and the dead, in the adoration of God. We say the psalms until the phrases of righteousness, justice, care for the poor and God’s acceptance of our human limitations and sin, become our own. We hear the scriptures again and again until we have inwardly digested God’s ways. And we pray the Lord’s Prayer and the collects, so they might orient us to Reality – forgive us as we forgive, justice and truth, keep watch, your immeasurable love, awareness of your mercies.

Managing conflict

I’m focusing on conflict for two reasons. First, our stubborn minds are likely to bring on conflict. Our stubbornness generates resentment. It causes us to lose the opportunity to deal with matters when they are relatively simple irritants.

Second, conflict is a part of life toward which most of us take an unproductive stance. We avoid, or we get our-back-up too quickly. The scriptures and tradition may offer more details about what we need to do in conflict than about dealing with poverty and justice or celebrating the Eucharist. Yet we have become very good at side-stepping those norms.

I’ve seen too many rectors behave in one of these ways when faced with conflict. 

  • They place the canons on the table in front of them.
  • They announce that they have spoken with the Bishop (who agrees with them).
  • When asked by their adversaries to meet, they refuse or put it off.
  • They send an email explaining how they had a right to do it and how what they did was the right thing to do.
  • They obsess about something the adversary said or did. Something that shows how confused or bad the adversary is.
  • Add your own.

Stubborn minds. 

Four phases 

I see four phases for managing conflict in the Scripture. The same elements appear in the early church fathers, writers on the spiritual life, and the behavioral science approaches to conflict management.

Timely and quickly

      "Come to terms quickly with your accuser" and "do not let the sun go down on your anger"

Face-to-face and one-on-one

       “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”

Involve others

      “take one or two others along with you"


     “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”


Don't be a literalist with all this. It all needs to be part of your inner life; accessible in the time of need. And, in that time, you will need to adapt, navigate, reflect, consult and decide.

You can learn the phases and norms by reading a bit or going to a conflict workshop. If you’ve done the daily office for twenty years, you’ll have had the wisdom come at you again and again. Frequently, that will happen during a time when you’re busy avoiding or putting on your armor.

Combine that prayer life with workshops that help you understand both a few conflict management models and your own emotional reaction when in conflict. That adds the needed “Reason” element to Scripture and Tradition.

        Use the Search element above to find articles on "conflict" on this web site


One more thing

One more thing. You have to decide to take a stance that orients you to act in obedience. Being the rector of a parish, and doing parish development, isn’t a university discussion group or you offering a few pieces of wisdom. Our mulish and willful minds are to give way to receptivity, humility and responsiveness.

It will come more easily if we decide now to be obedient – timely, face-to-face, witnesses, and kindness.