Saturday, February 14, 2009

the fine art of mediation

I’ve spend the last three days learning about Mediation. Hosted by Resolve, and led by David Newton one of Australia’s top mediators. He’s done over 1000 cases, so had an amazing breadth of experience and life skill to pass on.

Long days, 8:30-6 pm. So practical, with opportunity to actually mediate and negotiate our way through a range of “real life” situations – redundancy payouts, construction dispute, parents meeting to repair the damage of a child badly hurt in an accident, marriage breakups, medical ethics.

What a breath of fresh air – to watch someone else teach, to be offered a range of skills that work in so many areas of life (parenting to lecturing, being married).

What was particularly refreshing was to be in what was for me a very gospel environment, yet one that so rarely discussed church. (Although David did suggest that the most difficult places to mediate in, from his experience, where religious communities. Him and I had a long lunch chat about that, and he began to see a different side of church as I talked about the linkages between change, life, health and conflict as essential in a positive way.)

So often I am part of conversations about how to change church, wheras this was about how to restore, how to speak truth, how to enhance compassion for the other – all deeply gospel and deeply part of church. But great to come at them from such a different angle.

It reminds me of the story of Ruth. In Ruth 2:12, Boaz prays a blessing on her: “May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Then in chapter 3, Ruth goes to see Baoz, asking him to spread his cloak over her. The word she uses (kanaph) is exactly the same word as is translated “wings” in chapter 2. I wonder if Ruth is challenging Boaz to ground his theology. He can pray good prayers and speak fine words. But she is still hungry and so is her mother-in-law. Will Boaz make his prayer practical, actual do something and live different. Or will he just keep praying fine words. That is the challenge of mediation for the church, to actually put legs on faith and make reconciliation not just a prayer word, but an action word.

Posted by steve at 09:20 PM


  1. Steve – thanks for blogging the update on your mediation course. I think that mediation/conflict resolution is one of the “thin spaces” in our world. Conflict resolution principals are profoundly biblical in nature, most everyone buys into them and yet there is no need of labeling them with religious language. [kind of reminds me of Susan Howatch’s writing in the Anglican series (my terms) where she explores the language of psychology and theology to name the same things]. Your posts on this mediation training are provoking me to think about my work from a missional perspective. thank you!

    Comment by Lisa — February 19, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  2. that’s great lisa.

    much of this has come from my wrestling last year with Deuteronomy (and thus Ruth) and Amos, and my book project during my sabbatical, realising how these texts so reframe notions of what God is interested in.

    can i apologise if the church has not yet previously provided you with these sort of frameworks.


    ps i love susan howatch’s work.

    Comment by steve — February 19, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.