Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In partnership with the Conflict Transformation Ministries of the NC Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Center for Reconciliation this fall launched a series of conversations on conflict transformation for the 2017-18 academic year. The goal of the yearlong Conflict Conversations series is to help the Duke Divinity School community understand the skills necessary to deal effectively with interpersonal, congregational, and other forms of group conflict.

Topics for the fall semester have included "Your Brain on Conflict" with Dr. Len White, "Understanding Implicit Bias" with Rev. Chris Brady, "White Supremacy Culture" with Dr. Tema Okun, and "Boundaries and Relational Covenants" with Rev. Beth Crissman.

Damon Williams M.Div ’20, who attended several Conflict Conversations this year, said the lecture on white supremacy culture was the most thought-provoking. “Dr. Okun discussed with us a robust idea of the roots, effects, and signs of white supremacy. She did so with remarkable awareness and carefully guided us in such a way that subverted many of the ‘statutes’ of white supremacy,” Williams said.

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, professor of theology, said the series was crucial in addressing the reality of conflict in churches. “Since conflict is inevitable in human relationship, conversations about conflict are deeply important for church communities,” she said. “My participation as a white woman in an interracial church group where discussions about race inevitably come from radically different experiences has opened me up to painful and sometimes surprising realities that are difficult to face.”

Williams also said the series made him think about his racial identity as a white male when considering the question of reconciliation—most notably that reconciliation was not “universal.”

“To say that reconciliation is not universal is to say that reconciliation is not white. In Dr. Okun's words—granting that she might not use the term reconciliation—it is about ‘moving toward the stranger on the stranger's own terms.’ As a white male, this is my lot: to accept the problem within and around me, and then to be led in terms I do not define,” Williams said.

The series will host four Conflict Conversations in the 2018 spring semester during the lunch hour:

  • "Living in to Matthew 18:15-20," Jan. 24, 2018: Rev. Molly L. Shivers, Director of Conflict Transformation Ministries, NC Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • "Active Listening," Feb. 7, 2018: Rev. Chris Brady, Wilson Temple United Methodist Church
  • "Negotiation for Christian Leaders," March 21, 2018: Grace J. Marsh, Executive Director, Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center
  • "Mediation for Christian Leaders," April 11, 2018: Grace J. Marsh, Executive Director, Elna B. Spaulding Conflict Resolution Center

The Hispanic House of Studies, the Methodist House of Studies, and the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative are also co-sponsoring the series. Registration is not required but is requested for the series, which is open to the public.