Seminary short course offers congregations tools for engaging conflict

Betty Pries, Ph.D., a conflict management specialist based in Waterloo, Ontario, provides mediation, coaching and consulting services for businesses, nonprofit organizations, governments and congregations. For six weeks each year, she also leads an online short course of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, USA, as a sessional instructor.

In that course, Transforming Congregational Conflict and Communication, Pries and her students draw on biblical, theological, practical and spiritual sources in examining difficult experiences that pastors and lay leaders encounter while in ministry. While conflict can be painful, Pries teaches that courageously engaging in differences within congregational life builds congregational cultures that nurture the tender balance between honesty and kindness, which in turn generates faithfulness and joy.

“We explore models to help us understand conflict more clearly and reflect on how we can meaningfully engage the conflicts in which we’re involved,” she says. “We also explore how Christian spirituality offers a unique foundation that deepens and strengthens the models found in conflict transformation theory.”

A Chartered Mediator, Pries has worked with conflict transformation, congregational renewal and organizational change since 1993, both nationally and internationally. She received much of her early training, including a Diploma in Mediation, through Mediation Services in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition, she holds several theology degrees, which helps to ground her work with congregations.

Pries, who notes that differences are a natural and necessary part of human life, says she enjoys meeting with people who are sorting out together “what it means to live faithfully amidst the complex reality of human relationships.”

“None of us is perfect at managing conflict,” she reflects. “This makes the course a wonderful meeting ground where each of us is on a learning journey.”

While AMBS is known for its Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degree programs, the seminary has also offered online short courses since 2012. These six-week discussion-based courses offer participants an opportunity to deepen their understanding of Anabaptist history, thought and witness as a source of inspiration and guidance for daily life and ministry.

Pries’ short course will be offered again April 15 – May 26, 2020. Other AMBS short courses include Understanding Anabaptist Approaches to Scripture: What’s Different and Why?, with Loren Johns, Ph.D.; Exploring Peace and Justice in the Bible, with Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., and Drew Strait, Ph.D.; and Exploring Anabaptist History and Theology, with Jamie Pitts, Ph.D. See: ambs.edu/shortcourses


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