The Cross

A research initiative in the Faculty of Divinity aims to train church leaders to convert the negatives of conflict into the positives of transformation.

Out of this has developed a multidimensional training package to enable senior church leaders to handle conflict better.

Vociferous debates, threatened splits, division and dispute are elements that can rankle, grow and ultimately undermine the future of any large organisation unless addressed in a constructive and holistic manner. Researchers in the Psychology and Religion Research Group (PRRG) in the Faculty of Divinity are combining psychological research and practice to look at conflict in the church and how this might be transformed. Out of this has developed a multidimensional training package to enable senior church leaders to handle conflict better.

‘There are various lines of conflict. Some echo debates between conservative and liberal interpretations of Scripture; these affect moral and social issues, with varying degrees of impact upon churches in different parts of the world. Other conflicts are more local, and may voice disagreements between those who wish to maintain traditional forms of worship and those who wish to develop contemporary, emerging expressions of church,’ said Dr Sara Savage, who has developed the project with Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan. The research was commissioned by the Foundation for Church Leadership with funding from the Henry Smith Charity.

The course, which has just been launched, will be road tested and assessed while being used to train senior representatives from the Anglican, Baptist, Church of Scotland, Methodist, Roman Catholic and United Reform traditions. Over the course of three training days, the participants will cover various topics and exercises designed to foster a positive attitude towards conflict as a holistic learning opportunity, while enhancing and adding to conflict transformation skills.

Pre- and post-assessment of the effects of the course will inform the research project, and the report and resources will be fed back to the key church denominational conferences in 2008. In time, the hope is that the programme will be used to train Christians at all levels to deal with dispute – whether it be a question of church-wide importance, a parish concern, or an inter-personal disagreement – as well as by other faiths.

For more information, please contact Dr Sara Savage ( or Dr Eolene Boyd-MacMillan (


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