The most naive among us, believe that the Church is conflict free, or if there is conflict then it is minimal and quickly resolved. This is not the case.
It is sometimes the case that people will work in the Church and see the “other side” of things and decide to leave Church. Others are victims of the conflict within Church, and this is painful. Still others seek out Church conflict because there is something about the conflict that they are addicted to or get some need met by being a part of the conflict.
The truth is conflict is universal and unavoidable. There is not just the conflict we have between one another, but we also have internal conflicts. Conflict is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.
The Church understands that with conflict there is the chance to practice reconciliation, forgiveness, listening, compassion, mercy and justice. Without conflict the Church cannot practice these things. And like all other parts of our lives, the things that we do not use, atrophies and dies.
What is remarkable about the Church is that it sees conflict as a feature of the institution, and not a bug.
Some worry that too much conflict for too long will lead to a sort of war. The assumption is that war is the ultimate form of conflict. We have been taught to think this is the case. However, comedian Dylan Moran makes the point that war is not ultimate conflict but it is the inability to have conflict. Moran’s point is that waging war means you would rather have the other person dead than have conflict with them. War is not the ultimate conflict, it is our inability to have conflict.
What if by refusing to be in conflict we are not choosing peace. What if it means that we are choosing war? If we believe that it would be better (more peaceful) when the “other side” is gone, then are we engaged in a sort of ecclesial war?
Conflict is the feature we have in the Church that gives the chance to practice repentance, mercy, forgiveness and justice. Taking the conflict away may not lead us to the peace we say we desire. It may lead us marching into war.