Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. C. S. Lewis
Church conflict appears to be on the rise in 21st century Christendom, and it seems that hyper-authoritarianism is a major contributing factor. Interestingly, the art of “peacemaking” is definitely in vogue, especially among those whom we label as “Calvinistas”.
A couple of times this summer my daughter and I have visited a local used bookstore which sells, among many other things, Christian books. I had no idea that peacemaking had grown into a cottage industry until I saw and purchased the following books: The Peacemaker (Ken Sande), Peacemaking for Families (Sande), and The Peacemaking Pastor: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Church Conflict (Alfred Poirier). I just bought the third volume today, and inside the front of the book was a pamphlet published by Peacemaker Ministries called “The Peacemaker: Responding to Conflict Biblically”. Although Ken Sande didn’t write the third book, he endorsed it by writing:
“Pastors serve on the front lines of the spiritual war that engulfs this world. All too often their greatest battles take place within the church itself, where they are caught in the crossfire of personal, theological, and congregational conflicts. The endless skirmishes leave many pastors – and their families – so exhausted and wounded that they lose their joy for ministry or leave the pastorate altogether. This book provides a gospel-centered strategy for equipping pastors to be highly effective peacemakers who can lead their flocks safely through conflict while building a culture of peace in the church.”
Among the endorsers of Sande’s The Peacemaker is R. Albert Mohler, Jr. who wrote the following:
“This generation of believers is called to authentic Christian peacemaking and reconciliation. Ken Sande shows the way in The Peacemaker. All pastors and Christian leaders should read this book.”
How about the ‘priesthood of ALL believers”, Al? Why are you encouraging just pastors and Christian leaders to read Sande’s book?
Here’s my question. How many Christians outside the pastorate have ever heard of Peacemaker Ministries? Dee and I only became aware of this ministry a couple of years ago when Ken Sande contacted Kris over at SGM Survivors regarding the Noel and Grizzly saga. Kris responded to Sande with an Open Letter which she published on her blog. Why was Kris contacted by Sande in the first place you might wonder. Well, it appears that he has had close ties with C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries for years. In fact, Sande spoke at Covenant Life Church just yesterday morning. You can listen to his message here. http://www.covlife.org/modules/listen-online/3950799 At the end of his message, I found it interesting how Sande manipulates CLC members who are comtemplating leaving the church.
I decided to read the revised and updated edition of The Peacemaker (copyright 2004), and I found Sande’s description of himself interesting: “As a lawyer and full-time Christian conciliator…” Yes, Ken Sande’s credentials are his engineering degree and his law degree. How did he become a Christian conciliator?
Mark Dever also endorsed Sande’s book with these words: “Here is wisdom both biblical and practical. You can tell it was written by a man who has lived out these principles as a lawyer in practice, and as a leader in his church. We are in his debt.”
Not everyone shares Dever’s sentiments regarding lawyers. In fact, it is Sande’s legal training that most concerns me about his peacemaking tactics. As I understand it, those who engage in Sande’s peacemaking process must sign a non-disclosure agreement before the peacemaking commences. The Peacemaker pamphlet includes this mission statement on the back: “The mission of Peacemaker Ministries is to equip and assist Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. We provide conflict coaching, mediation, and arbitration services to help resolve lawsuits, family conflicts, business disputes, and church divisions. Our training services include seminary, the national reconciler Training and Certification Programs, and custom training for denominations, seminaries, and parachurch ministries.” (And don’t forget that Peacemaker Ministries is a registered trademark.)
As I read Sande’s book The Peacemaker, it is amazing how regimented he is in his approach. For example, here is a Peacemaker’s Checklist (also called The Peacemaker’s Pledge: (1) Glorify God, (2) Get the log out of your eye (3) Gently restore, and (4) Go and be reconciled. (pages 259-261)
Then here are peacemaking responses (published in The Peacemaker pamphlet):
Personal Peacemaking: Overlook an offense, Reconciliation, Negotiation
Assisted Peacemaking: Mediation, Arbitration, Accountability
Cindy Kunsman, whose critique of Peacemaker Ministries was featured last Friday, just sent Dee and me an e-mail with these “observations”:
“Everything is a formula. If we humble ourselves, God gives us grace. If we are proud, God resists us. Want grace? Be humble. Like some chick said over on True Womanhood, put in a quarter and get what you want out of a machine.
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
I hear him saying that this is a formula to get something.
This is what I hear, based on the way he talks about this.
Confess so that you can be forgiven, and the extra benefit of that is the cleansing. So if you want to be clean and pure, and that is your endpoint to be the perfect and the better Christian that is more highly evolved, the way that you get that benefit is through the act of forgiveness.
I think that listening to this sermon helped me put my finger on what is written in the book. It is all works.
You know where you are supposed to end up and what you're supposed to be like when you're done in this life. So rather than follow the Holy Spirit and hold His hand as you walk by faith as love for Him flows through you to Him and His love for you flows through you and changes you all the more, you follow a plan. Everything you want and every attribute has a Standard Operating Procedure that tells you how to get that attribute.
(That is an engineer and an attorney — all logic. The kind of perspective that tends to cause Calvinism appeal to an attorney and an engineer more than it does to a musician or a poet. Everything is algorithmic.)
It is all problem solving, and the Bible is a rule book that has remarkable principles in there that we can apply, if you just understand the principles. If you have a problem, you solve it by following the algorithm.
That's what I don't like about that book. It contains really nice ideas and principles and concepts. It isn't exactly saying a whole lot of stuff that's blatantly wrong. It's Scripture. But it's Scripture as an algorithm.”
As I read The Peacemaker, I couldn’t help but think about the tragic situations Noel and Grizzly and Wallace and Happymom faced. Does Sande address their plights in his book? As far as I can determine, he includes three paragraphs in his book that explain how to deal with abuse.
One of the most difficult offenses to address is one that involves an abuse of power or authority, such as physical or sexual abuse. In rare situations, a victim of abuse may have gained sufficient strength to go and talk directly to his or her abuser. In most situations, however, it is not wise or constructive for a victim to talk privately with the abuser. Many abusers are very adept at manipulation and intimidation, and they will use the conversation as an opportunity for further abuse. Therefore, it is usually best to involve others in the confrontation process.
If the abuser is a Christian, his church has a responsibility to confront his sin, promote genuine repentance and confession, support counseling, and require him to submit to necessary legal consequences. This involvement can and should be carried out in cooperation with actions that civil authorities must take to deal with the abuse.
At the same time, the church should be ministering lovingly and diligently to the victim of abuse. This calls for compassion and understanding, acknowledging any role the church may have played in failing to properly protect the victim, providing needed counseling, and changing policies and practices to prevent similar abuse in the future.” (The Peacemaker, pp. 156-157)
While I appreciate Ken Sande’s advice regarding sexual abuse, I wonder whether the SGM pastors ever read this little section of the book. Several weeks ago Mark Mullery confessed that using a “peacemaker model” in dealing with sexual abuse was inadequate. If anyone has an older version of The Peacemaker book, would you please let me know if Sande’s three paragraphs quoted above are in that edition.
Like C.J. Mahaney, Ken Sande is a name-dropper in his masterpiece The Peacemaker. Here is a list of those whom he quotes: J.I. Packer, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, David Powlison, among others. It seems obvious to me that Sande’s peacemaking principles are primarily intended for those who share his reformed view of Scripture.
There is so much more to say about the peacemaking principles Ken Sande and his colleagues promote. As we have discovered from Mark Mullery’s confession, one size DOES NOT fit all kinds of conflicts. Sadly, some pastors are misapplying Ken Sande’s peacemaking approach to resolving conflict with tragic results.
We are extremely concerned that the 21st century peacemaking process often favors pastors over congregants. Furthermore, we believe the non-disclosure agreements participants are expected to sign prior to engaging in the peacemaking process result in silencing the flock, whether intended or not. We cannot state this strongly enough to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please, please be extremely careful about signing any kind of covenant or agreement. Caveat emptor!
Lydia's Corner: 1 Kings 11:1-12:19 Acts 9:1-25 Psalm 131:1-3 Proverbs 17:4-5