ARE THERE BIBLICAL ALTERNATIVES TO LITIGATION?
Yes! Although civil litigation is sometimes the only way to resolve certain legal issues, the Bible teaches that Christians should first seek to settle their differences through biblically grounded mediation or arbitration (see Matt. 18:15-20 and 1 Cor. 6:1-8). Today this faith-based process is often referred to as “Christian conciliation.”
As these Scriptures indicate, disputes that are primarily relational or that involve simple legal issues can often be resolved with the assistance of spiritually mature believers in the local church. Disputes that involve more complex legal, relational or spiritual issues may require the assistance of Certified Conciliators who can provide biblical, professional alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services.
Ever since the Christian Legal Society trained the first Christian conciliators in 1982, this process had been used to resolve a wide spectrum of conflicts, including: contract, business, employment, family and divorce, negligence, probate, intellectual property, sexual misconduct, church divisions and wrongful death (see actual case descriptions on this page).
This process has been used and affirmed by Christians and non-Christians alike, and conciliation decisions have been upheld by both federal and state courts.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT CHRISTIAN CONCILIATION?
The Handbook for Christian Conciliation provides detailed information about Christian conciliation, including frequently asked questions, rules of procedure, a standard of conduct for Christian conciliators and a model conciliation agreement. Additional information and guidance on specific situations can also be found at the ICC website or you can contact one of the conciliation ministries listed below.
HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE A CLIENT TO CONSIDER RESOLVING A CONFLICT THROUGH PERSONAL PEACEMAKING OR CHRISTIAN CONCILIATION?
If time allows, encourage your client to read The Peacemaker, A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, which is the most widely used book for training Christian conciliators. A Personal Application Workbook can be downloaded at RW360 Downloads. These simple resources have helped countless Christians to resolve conflicts through their own personal efforts.
If personal efforts are not appropriate or successful but you believe that your client’s dispute might be successfully resolved with the assistance of his or her church leaders, you could encourage those leaders to apply the principles and processes set forth in Guiding People Through Conflict. Church leaders can use the Conciliation Hotline to request free advice on how to implement these processes.
If a case may require professional conciliation assistance, you can provide your client with a copy of the Handbook for Christian Conciliation. If necessary, you could also schedule a conference call with one of the conciliation ministries listed below to address any questions or concerns your client may have.
Note: if you have an emergency situation with exigent circumstances (such as domestic, child or spiritual abuse), we advise you to contact one of the ministries listed below and appropriate civil authorities before attempting the above suggested steps.
WHERE CAN I FIND A QUALIFIED CONCILIATOR?
The Christian Legal Society recommends the services of three well-established conciliation ministries, all of which include CLS members, among others, who have substantial training and experience in conflict coaching and conciliation:
- The Christian Conciliation Service, a division of RW360 (Conciliator Directory)
- Crossroads Resolution Group (Conciliator Directory)
- The Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Ambassadors of Reconciliation (Conciliator Directory)
- Peacemaker Ministries
If a conflict involves a contract with a conciliation clause (language that says disputes must be resolved through Christian conciliation, see below), special rules may apply. Be sure to mention the presence of a contract and conciliation clause when you contact one of these ministries.
WHERE CAN I RECEIVE TRAINING AS A CONCILIATOR?
If you would like to improve your relational skills or be certified as a conflict coach or conciliator, you can find excellent training resources through the following links:
- RW360 Training and Certification Program
- Crossroads Resolution Group Equipping and Training Services
- Ambassadors of Reconciliation Reconciler Training
- Peacemaker Ministries
If God has given you a heart for peacemaking and you would like to see others benefit from this type of training, you could use these ministries’ resources for professional development training for your entire staff, which can produce major benefits for your firm. You could also encourage your church to use these resources to establish an in-house peacemaking team that serves your entire congregation.
CAN CHRISTIANS ADD CLAUSES TO CONTRACTS TO ENSURE THAT THEY RESOLVE FUTURE CONFLICTS THROUGH CONCILIATION RATHER THAN LITIGATION?
Yes. Information about legally binding conciliation clauses may be found on the following webpages:
- RW360 – Conciliation Clauses for Contracts and Wills
- Ambassadors of Reconciliation – Conciliation Clauses
Each of these clauses incorporates the Rules of Procedure of their respective organization (RW360 or AOG). These two sets of rules are nearly identical, with one significant difference, which has to do with whether RW360 or AOR has the default power to name a case administrator if the parties themselves are unable to mutually agree on an administrator (compare RW360 Rule 5 and AOR Rule 8).
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