Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Transforming Conflict into Connection

Workshop Number: 
Karen Reixach, Stuart Bartram, Hugo Lane
Who may register?: 
Open to All
Experiential Activities: 
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

Participants who want to help their meetings – and themselves – grow less fear-driven and more whole will explore the nature of conflict and the conflicts that arise in our meetings and then gain tools for transforming conflicts, including an introduction to circle processes for strengthening community.

Workshop Description

The goal of this workshop is to invite Friends to see conflict as a doorway to deeper communion with the Spirit and with each other. Although our commitment to peace may make Quakers prone to avoid addressing conflict among our own groups, Quakers also have particular gifts to draw on in working through conflict.

When conflict reveals itself, it often feels like both an institutional and a personal crisis. Quaker groups (meetings, committees and other organizations), like any other organism, can become paralyzed by fear and distrust when conflict occurs, whether openly or in the background. We may respond with worry, hyper-vigilance, hand-wringing, and confusion. It's not unusual to blame and shame ourselves and others. Frequently, we try to ignore or smooth over the ruffled feelings, only to find the conflict resurfacing in unexpected ways.

Caught up in our reactions, we often forget that conflict is a normal and integral part of all dynamic organizations and relationships. It can be an indication of people feeling safe to be authentic and to take risks. Addressed creatively and confidently, it can be transforming. The practice of skillfully addressing conflict is grounded in the experience of the divine: that we are meant to love and be loved in our entirety, to see and be seen with compassion, complete with the parts that ache for healing. The practice expresses the truth of the transforming power of God in our lives.

This workshop is for people who are ready to help their Quaker groups – and themselves – grow less fearful of conflict and more whole.

Participants will begin by exploring the nature of conflict and the conflicts that arise in Quaker contexts. Issues of power and authority are often in play.

Gospel Order offers insights into how individuals in conflict can restore relationship. We will explore each of the four steps in Matthew 18:15 (look at your own role, approach the other individual, take an elder, bring it to the “church”) and also address the assumptions behind Gospel Order and how these assist or inhibit conflict transformation.

Conflicts often ripple outward, engaging more and more energy. One approach that has been helpful in a wide range of settings, including Quaker contexts, is listening circles. Circle processes have ancient roots in human history. They are used for many reasons--to celebrate, to grieve, to tell stories, to acknowledge harm, to address conflicts, and more. Circle processes are in harmony with Quaker faith and practice. They provide a structured way to follow our practices of deep listening and of seeking connection through that of God in ourselves and others. Participants will get a taste of the possibilities offered by this ancient and contemporary resource.

  When a community can draw on and trust its own inner resources to discover the validity of a new paradigm, the community is liberated from bondage to old, embedded, fixated ways of being in the world. The community is then able to embrace the creativity of chaos, the possibilities of dreams. People are empowered to imagine new ways of being, to problem solve on a deep level. In this way a community can truly take hold of its future—and its past. Together, the gathered people can soar with their dreams, weep over their losses, and be free to gather together beyond differences of opinion.” (Rhea Miller, Doing Democracy in Circles, Living Justice Press, 2010, p.13)

Leader Experience

Karen Reixach, clerk of the NYYM Committee on Conflict Transformation, has co-facilitated conflict transformation workshops since 2015--FGC Gathering in 2015 and 2017; Woolman Hill 2015 and up-coming in 2019; and a number of other venues. Following training with Kay Pranis, an expert in circle processes, Karen has been part of the team conducting listening circles to address conflict within meetings and Yearly Meeting.  She has facilitated AVP workshops in prisons and communities since 1980.

Stuart Bartram is a seasoned AVP facilitator, having facilitated workshops in a number of prisons and in the community.  His work is an expression of his faith and he brings a gentle, calm, persistent, and loving presence.  He is a member of NYYM Conflict Transformation Committee and has facilitated a listening circle, following training with Kay Pranis.

Pierre Douyon has been a member of the Committee on Conflict Transformation since 2013 and has co-facilitated CTC workshops at meetings and other venues.  He brings a keen mind, and an ability to hone in on issues that others may overlook.  He has trained on circle process with Kay Pranis and co-kept a listening circle on a complex issue.

Hugo Lane is a member of the Committee on Conflict Transformation and has been a part of a circle process in his meeting. He has trained on circle process with Kay Pranis. He has studied conflict on a macro level, looking at national conflict in Austria-Hungary.  He is a teacher and brings a lively curiousity to the work.