A Question of Time

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As convener of the conflict resolution group for Tabernacle Ministries you receive this report from Pastor Green, a retired pastor who was called in by members of the Redwood Tabernacle Church to help with problems in the  church. Pastor Green has no formal training in Conflict Resolution and so he feels out of his depth. He is a good listener however and drafted this report based on his conversations with the concerned group and with the leadership. THE VIEW OF THE CONCERNED GROUP The concerned group is a group of members of Redwood Tabernacle Church who have organized themselves into a pressure group in order to express their opposition to the proposed move by the leadership to change the morning worship service from 10h30 to 09h00. They object to the way in which the decision has been made without consultation. They are all people who are dependant on public transport to get to church and the 09h00 start will mean that they will have to catch the 07h00 bus to church as buses run once every 2 hours and the next one is at 09h00 (this would mean that they would be a half an hour late for church. The cost of a taxi on a Sunday would be double the bus fare and they cannot afford this. 80% of the concerned group are members of the gospel choir and together they make up more than half of the gospel choir. They believe that the leadership have exceeded their authority as the congregation’s constitution states that any decision to change the times of services requires a simple majority vote (50%+1) of all members of the congregation. Members of the concerned group want to be part of the congregation but they feel that the leadership are pushing them out. They related how that last Sunday, Mary Albertyn, the leader of the concerned group, had explained to John Abrahams, the convener of the leadership team, that if the time of service was changed, they would no longer have enough money to give to the church and they may not even be able to attend church. It was a fairly heated exchange and voices were raised. Mary Albertyn reported that John Abrahams had walked off mumbling to himself that the concerned group would be sorry if they tried to blackmail the leaders and that they would be under God’s judgment.  The concerned group feel that their pleas to the leaders have fallen on deaf ears and that the pastor, James White, seems unwilling to take a firm stand one way or the other (although the group confided that they believe that he was the key mover for the change of time). The group has affirmed their commitment to take action and bring an end to what they regard as the insensitive and high-handed behaviour of the leaders. THE VIEW OF THE LEADERSHIP TEAM The leadership team of Redwood Tabernacle is concerned about the decline in church membership and attendance. This had led to a decline in income for the church and it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance the budget. They did not want to cause alarm in the church and so they had embarked on a plan to cut down on costs and look for additional income so that they could make it through the slump. They are confident that if the church can survive this short term financial crisis, then more energy can be devoted to rebuilding the congregation.  The leadership under the chairmanship of John Abrahams believes that recent developments appear to be confirming that God is opening a way for more finances to be released. Eastridge Tabernacle congregation, their sister church located 20 kms from them, can no longer afford a fulltime pastor. They have asked the Redwood Tabernacle leaders if Pastor White can lead their worship services which start at 11h00 each Sunday. Eastridge Tabernacle has also been approached by the True Evangelical Church next door (which is experiencing rapid growth) if they can use their buildings for Sunday school classes between 09h00 and 10h30 each Sunday. The True Evangelical Church is willing to pay R5000 per month for the use of the building. Eastridge Tabernacle is willing to pay this R5000 per month over to Redwood Tabernacle if they can have the services of Pastor White on a Sunday morning for their 11h00 worship service. R5000 is the exact amount of the monthly shortfall in Redwood Tabernacle’s income. All that the Redwood leaders believe they have to do is to shift the times of their services and their short term financial worries will be resolved.  The leaders feel deeply hurt by the attitude and behaviour of the concerned group. They have acted in contravention of the church’s constitution that expressly prohibits the formation of groups in the church without the approval of the church leadership. They see the concerned group as a group of reactionary people who want to hold onto the past no matter what. They have explained to the congregation that the decision to change the time of the worship service has been made prayerfully and in the best interests of the church. The leaders have chosen not to give details because they don’t want to feed into the spirit of despondency which is already in the church and want instead to move forward in the power of the Lord. The leaders feel that despite their reassurances the concerned group appear to have continued to undermine their leadership and question their integrity. They related a recent encounter in which John Abrahams had been confronted by Mary Albertyn the leader of the concerned group. According to John Abrahams she had behaved aggressively and had threatened to withdraw all members of the concerned group from the choir and to withdraw all their financial support from the church. The leadership regard this as the last straw and are now determined to take action against the concerned group.   TASK 


  1.  Analyse the conflict

  2. Develop a conflict map

  3. Read (interpret) the map

  4. Identify the way in which the parties could move towards a power based or rights based approach and how best you could ensure that they move in a needs based direction 

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