Christian mediation has a foot in two worlds: the peacemaking role of the Church, and the typical legal process for resolving legal disputes short of trial. It can be both spiritually healing and a cost-saving way of approaching problems.
Most serious Christians understand that the Bible gives authority to the church (in various possible forms) to resolve disputes between Christians. Christians still file a lot of lawsuits! Why is this? The cynical answer is that Christians ignore Scriptural commands when it affects their business or personal interests. But it may be that Christians don’t necessarily understand the possible role of Christian mediation, or don’t have spiritual leaders who know how to resolve complex conflicts.
By far the majority of lawsuits in the secular world resolve, or get settled, before they go to trial. This is often through a mediation process, where a trained mediator meets with the two parties. The mediator hopefully understands something about the law driving the case, and is able to bring parties to a point of agreement. Sometimes this is a purely business transaction, and occasionally there is a degree of healing as well. The parties don’t have to settle. It is their choice, and if they don’t, the litigation goes forward.
So what is Christian mediation? Sometimes people think that Christian mediation is only for church disputes or disputes about spiritual issues. But Christian mediation can be used to resolve any form of dispute. Like the more commonly-used mediation mentioned above, it can be used during a lawsuit—or even before. Christian mediation is different because it focuses on Scriptural principles and on spiritual healing. It doesn’t just try to resolve the legal or financial issues, but also addresses the spiritual and emotional issues. When the Christian mediation process works well, the healing of relationships can be greater than is likely in a secular setting.
But my pastor doesn’t know anything about mediation! It’s true that unless a church is very sophisticated (and some are), it may be difficult to get help within the church for mediating complex legal or relational issues. If this is the case, an outside organization like Peacemaker® Ministries may be a good option. While not all mediators in an organization like this are attorneys, many of them will be, for the cases where an attorney is needed. Other options may be to use a trained mediator or judge who is also a Christian, or enlist an attorney from a group like the Christian Legal Society.
If your organization is committed to the idea of Christian mediation, consider including Christian conciliation clauses in your contracts. This means that the parties to the contract agree up front that they will abide by Christian mediation (or arbitration) and will not sue each other. I often recommend these clauses in contracts where both parties are believers. Peacemaker® Ministries has provided a couple of its sample clauses, below, and free permission to use them.
If you are a Christian individual or organization in a legal conflict, you may want to select an attorney who is willing to explore Christian mediation. At our law firm, Telios Law PLLC, we believe we are called to do what we can to make peace before going to court. Whether our clients share our spiritual beliefs or not, mediating a case early in some way comfortable for the client is almost always best, and clients appreciate it. So in addition to seeking justice and litigating hard when that is necessary, we seek peace and pursue it.
Conciliation Clauses from Peacemaker® Ministries
Conciliation Clause Option A
The parties to this agreement are Christians and believe that the Bible commands them to make every effort to live at peace and to resolve disputes with each other in private or within the Christian church (see Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Therefore, the parties agree that any claim or dispute arising from or related to this agreement shall be settled by biblically-based mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker® Ministries (complete text of the Rules is available here). Judgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in any court otherwise having jurisdiction. The parties understand that these methods shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising out of this agreement and expressly waive their right to file a lawsuit in any civil court against one another for such disputes, except to enforce an arbitration decision.
Conciliation Clause Option B
Any claim or dispute arising from or related to this agreement shall be settled by mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration in accordance with the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker® Ministries (complete text of the Rules is available here. Judgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in any court otherwise having jurisdiction. The parties understand that these methods shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising out of this agreement and expressly waive their right to file a lawsuit in any civil court against one another for such disputes, except to enforce an arbitration decision.
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