Church Conflict Resolution

Disputes in Arkansas churches often follow the common stages of conflict escalation

Churches and other religious organizations are like any other institution and the individuals who work for them. They need honest, aggressive advocacy when involved in a dispute. At the same time, the attorneys who represents them needs to understand the ecclesiastical context that is involved when dealing with a religious entity.

When disputes arise involving a religious organization, Wilson & Haubert, PLLC, has experience in representing the organization as well as individuals involved in the church. Dennis K. Wilson has more than 20 years of experience as a Baptist ordained Pastor. Stefan K. McBride is also an ordained minister and a seminary graduate. Our attonreys use their unique knowledge and insight to provide exceptional service on behalf of their clients.

Advising Congregations, Church Employees, and Religious Entities

Wilson & Haubert, PLLC provides legal representation and advice to local churches in cases involving conflict between congregations and relationships between churches and their employees. Although churches generally operate like businesses, due to the intimacy and mission of the church family church disputes are often perceived and handled a little differently than disagreements within other types of entities. Some of the common areas of conflict include:

  • Internal Property Disputes
  • Employment of Clergy
  • Discipline of Members
  • Organizational Negligence
  • Church Goverment

Many church law issues involve the interpretation of the terms of the governing document. While disagreements over these terms can be resolved through negotiations, we are known for our litigation skills and are prepared to take on the contentious matters that require more aggressive intervention.

Church conflict stages

Recognizing the internal conflict within a church is the first step to effectively resolve the issue. Early recognition and knowledgeable guidance are keys to prompt and efficient solutions. Some situations, however, are blown out of proportion and the disagreements are dealt with too late for easy resolutions. The following are common stages churches often experience when conflict arises:

There is an uneasy feeling: General discontent or uneasiness among members is often the first indication that something is not quite right. Ignoring the feeling will not make the problem go away and careful attention should be paid to ascertain if a problem actually exists.

The problem is identified:  The conflict is identified – this is often the best time for the church to calmly and respectfully collaborate with members to address the situation. Churches tend to make the mistake of shoving the issue under the carpet, hoping it will dissipate on its own.

Someone is blamed: Members want someone to blame in the hopes that he or she can dispense with the issue without involvement by more people. Those upset by the conflict start avoiding the person or people perceived to be at fault and resentment builds as the conflict drags on. Peacemakers must now strive harder to help others see the varying points of view.

Members take sides: Members choose sides, resentment builds and a collaborative resolution is less likely. At this point, an unbiased mediator is usually necessary to help the factions see each other’s points of view.

A line is crossed: If the dispute is not resolved at an earlier stage, members perceive that a line has been crossed and an all-out battle can ensue. At this point, real damage can occur to the church body, its reputation and its future as a viable, loving church.

Seek the law firm you need for experienced assistance in conflict resolution

Wilson & Haubert, PLLC, can provide assistance in resolving church conflict. Whatever stage of the conflict process, an experienced church dispute lawyer can help. Whether the conflict is internal, or with people or entities outside of the church, seek a lawyer knowledgeable about the intricacies and discretion required for successful resolution of church disputes.