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Clerics speaks on settling disputes among brethren


Moses Adedipe

Although the Church is a spiritual place and worshippers are supposed to conduct themselves in a spiritual manner, the leaders and congregations are only human, and with different levels of spiritual maturity. As such, there is bound to be misunderstandings and squabbles once in a while. And when this happens, how should such disputes be settled? Is it by applying Biblical principles or querying the parties involved? Should the Church ever take its disputes to court? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

Query Can Be Issued, Particularly To People Who Err’
(Bishop Lawrence Osagie, Presiding Bishop, Powerline Bible Church, Worldwide)

Jesus set a standard for settling disagreements among the brethren. He said if you have any disagreement with anybody, you should go to the person, one-on-one and resolve the issue.

And if the person is not seeing things from your point of view, then, you can take one person to be a witness.

So, you are now three or more and can talk about the issue. If it is still not resolved at that level, then you take it to the church authority, where they would use Biblical standard to address the matter.

If the individuals involved are not seeing the light of the scripture, Jesus said such a person should be treated as an unbeliever. There are situations where you have to call people to explain themselves concerning matters at hand.

Many churches run offices; they have staff, workers and if they are not doing what they are supposed to do, you can issue query to them to explain why disciplinary measures should not be taken against them and wait for their response.

People should be given opportunity to explain themselves, and if they refuse to change, then you do the needful, as you can’t continue to harbour disobedient and unrepentant individuals to run the church.

Query can be issued, particularly to people who err and fulltime workers in the church. But members who are not workers can be issued query.

It is even difficult for churches to hold anybody accountable today, because if you call somebody to question simply because you want them to toe the Biblical line, majority just pick their Bible and move to the next church, and the pastor there will not ask them why they left their former church.

This situation makes for rebellion and very terrible characters to exist in the church.

But you have to meditate between two warring brethren, using the kingdom principles to settle aggrieved persons, and if they agree, fine!

You are not even allowed to send anybody away from the church. Before Christians head to court, they would have exhausted all available biblical means.

Maybe somebody did not listen to the church authority. There is absolutely nothing that the scripture does not cover. But majority close their hearts and the matter will drag until they go to court.

‘Unconditional Forgiveness Is First Option’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, General Overseer, Charismatic Renewal Ministries, Worldwide)

WHENEVER two or more people are involved, you cannot rule out occasions of dispute or misunderstanding requiring arbitration of some kind.

There are disputes in the church, which can be between members and sometimes between members and leadership. God knew that disputes will occur and went ahead to specify how they must be managed.

The first option is unconditional forgiveness, where one of the disputing parties decides to turn the other cheek.

Where this is not feasible, we follow the steps outlined by our Lord in Matthew 19: 15-10. “Moreover, if your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.

If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear take with you one or two more that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

The goal in managing dispute is not merely to condemn the guilty, but to win back and restore an erring brother.

Paul clearly warned against taking disputes among believers before unrighteous judges. He charged, “Dare any of you having a matter against another go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters” (1Corinthians 6:1-2, NKJV).

The position of the Bible is that believers should be able to settle their disputes within the precinct of the church and not resort to the courts. Paul even advised that it’s better that one bears the wrong done to him than go to court.

‘Church Can Institute A Panel To Investigate, Resolve Disputes’
(Bishop Moses Adedipe, General Superintendent of The Universal Christian Missions Int’l, Lagos)

THE Bible says offences must surely come, but when they do, what should be our attitude?

There could be differences in the way disputes are resolved in churches, but then, absence of the Holy Spirit in our lives makes matters to get out of hand. Brother Peter asked the Lord how often should we forgive ourselves when offences come?

In Luke 17, the Bible says ‘take heed to yourself, if your brother trespasses against you rebuke him; that is your brother. Anybody that is not ready to listen to simple correction is not your brother.

If he repents forgive him; and if he trespasses against you seventy times in a day and repents thou shall forgive him. Also in Matthew 18:21, the Bible says, ‘if your brother offends you 70 x 7, forgive him.

As a human being, how can somebody offend you 490 times in a day? Does it mean he has no other business to do in life?

What the Lord is teaching us is that we should be ready to forgive those who have offended us, even before they come to us to ask for forgiveness. They might not have known that they offended you.

I have often been aggrieved, when I see Christians or churches taking one another to court. It is a shame. Issues must be resolved within the church. For instance, if a brother or sister is involved, call him/her and point out the offences.

And if the person says, ‘I’m sorry’ then forgive. But if that person is not ready to listen or repent, report the matter to another person in the church, which will set up a panel made up of intelligent people to look into it.

If they still refuse to listen, count him or her as unbeliever. So, disputes in churches must be resolved within the church.

It must not escalate to the level of going to the court. Other ways of settling disputes in churches include issuing of query.

‘Some People Are Not Ready To Suffer Or Make Some Sacrifice’
(Bishop (Prof.) Iroelekanya Cyriacus Uwanaka, General Overseer, The Pentecostal Restoration Church, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos)

THESE days, spirituality is fast leaving the church and the devil is taking over so many people’s hearts.

Dispute in churches are in various degrees, but then, the Lord Jesus Christ has also provided internal mechanism or Biblical pattern for such matters to be settled, if we really want peace to reign.

The problem is just that some people are not ready to suffer or make sacrifice, which is why a matter can linger for a while and sometimes go to court, simply because aggrieved parties refused to listen.

Churches, however, have different doctrines and administrative settings. Any church that regards itself as a body of Christ, the Bible should be the standard.

There are still churches that come up with a constitution and guidelines, which spell out disciplinary measures to be taken whenever there is dispute.

The constitution of one church differs from the other, so it now depends on how they are able to resolve such internal disputes.

But whatever disciplinary measure a church deems fit must be in conformity with the Bible.

For instance, if someone errs, disciplinary measure is determined by what the scripture says and a committee is set up to investigate the matter, call the person and ask questions. If guilty, he or she is punished in accordance with laid down rules.

There are so many punishments that can be given, and these depend on the offence and category of people. It may warrant suspension, query, etc. If all the disciplinary measures are applied, then there is no need for the church to go to court.

The Bible frowns at Christians taking their matters to court. I know of churches that are in court trying to settle a matter.

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) handled the case, but one party refused to listen.

Any Christian that takes his brother or sister to court is not motivated by the Spirit of God; it‘s not wise. If there is a query in the secular world, the church first started it. It’s not as if the church borrowed methods of the world.

The Bible supports that when a brother wrongs another brother, the matter is taken to the pastor, who intervenes by bringing them together.

It is only when the devil comes to deceive brother A or B not to accept the church’s counsel that it goes to court. Disputes occur in the church, but 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, is the panacea to every misunderstanding.

‘We Counsel, Pray, Mentor, Carry Out Pastoral Visit To Such Members’
(Rt. Rev. Dr. Humphrey Bamisebi Olumakaiye, Bishop of Lagos Diocese)

WE follow Biblical principles, as well as our church guidelines. The guidelines have helped us to ensure that everybody behaves accordingly.

Aside that, we also have regular meetings and through that we counsel, pray and mentor those going astray and woo them back to the fold.

Some of them are adopted as godsons with the sole aim of bringing them up properly in the way of the Lord, and if after doing all these things and we still discover that the person is incorrigible, it is then that the constitution is applied.

The constitution spells out appropriate punishment that should be meted to lay people in the church, the clergy and the bishop.

So, we have yardsticks on how we manage disputes, but we would have exhausted the biblical principles before getting to that.

The Biblical principle is that you counsel, pray, mentor, preach, as well as carry out pastoral visit to such members. We want to make sure we do everything possible to ensure they remain on the path of salvation.

If any minister has done anything bad in his church, we have the Parish Council whose responsibility it is to resolve issues.

They will invite the people involved, find out what happened and find a way to resolve it. If the person shows penitence he/she is forgiven.

So, we have all these laid down rules in our church. Where query is necessary, we issue it. The basis of query is for correction, and not to destroy the person but to correct him/her.

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