A church is a community . . .
To covenant with one another is to engage in the spiritual and everyday practice of loving better. Although this document expresses our written promise to each other, our true covenant lives and breathes in our actions. In times of growth we will use it to deepen our bonds with one another; during times when we are loving well, it will inspire us to love better; and in times of conflict, we will use it to guide us. We expect this covenant to be challenging, but we also expect it to inspire us to strengthen our relationships and deepen our sense of community.The spirit of the document and the specific examples of behavior come directly from contributions of the All Souls community. We commit to living and working with this draft covenant, adjusting the ideals, and expanding the examples to make it truly our own.
Our Ideals and our Living Practices, with Examples from the Congregation
Welcoming and Hospitality
We practice hospitality, welcoming all those who enter.
Greet people warmly; get acquainted with others; treat visitors as fellow worshipers; welcome newcomers into conversations; treat one another kindly outside of church as well as inside.
We work to foster a multicultural and multigenerational community that sees diversity in all its manifestations as a sign of our strength.
Engage with those who are different from us; challenge bigotry in all its forms; work to empower those who are disempowered; actively confront our assumptions through critical and studied examination of the forces that disadvantage some and privilege others.
Listening and Speaking
We listen with respect and attention and speak with care.
Assume that people have good intentions; listen intentionally and compassionately; encourage people to speak without blaming or judging them when they do.
Serving Our Church Community
We serve our church community with generosity and good humor, and we will acknowledge the service of others.
Honor all levels of service to the church; solicit the input of others; encourage people to make choices that balance their needs with the needs of others; invite others to join us in our activities; honor the right of others to say no.
Working with Conflict
We resolve conflicts directly, using openness and compassion.
Make every effort to settle differences directly and openly; stay engaged with each other through difficult conversations; hold ourselves responsible for hearing all sides.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation
We acknowledge our mistakes and shortcomings and are willing to forgive those of others.
Acknowledge our own and others’ imperfections; forgive ourselves and others; be accountable for keeping our promises; lovingly call each other to account for behavior that is hurtful to others.
Solidarity and Accompaniment
We support each other in times of joy and need.
Help each other in times of crisis; recognize each other’s talents; remind others of the spark of divinity within them; embrace our different cultural and faith traditions; challenge each other to grow.
What is the Committee on Right Relations?
The Committee on Right Relations (CRR) exists to help process conflicts between congregants and between congregants and the church’s staff, its executive team, and its board of trustees.
Is the CRR working with the Covenant of Right Relations?
Yes, the CRR is implementing the portions of the Covenant which state:
We resolve conflicts directly, using openness and compassion, and we:
- make every effort to settle differences directly and openly,
- stay engaged with each other through difficult conversations,
- hold ourselves responsible for hearing all sides.
We listen with respect and attention and speak with care.
We acknowledge our mistakes and shortcomings and are willing to forgive those of others.
How can the CRR help me?
The CRR has designed a conflict resolution process for disagreements between congregants, or congregants and staff, or committees/groups. Most conflicts can be addressed either by:
1. Parties involved work it out. Parties resolve differences themselves. They receive education/training and apply Right Relations Guidance Coaching – one or both parties may benefit from the help of a person experienced with conflict resolution to help them gain additional skills or techniques to resolve the situation themselves.
2. Facilitated discussion with the help of a Right Relations Team member. In some instances, parties may simply wish to have a third party lead a conversation for the purpose of assisting parties in understanding/mediation.
Contact Kathy Ferger (202-723-6320; solutions_CRR@googlegroups.com). Confidentiality is assured. The CRR will neither disclose the names of parties involved nor the content or substance of matters brought to it unless disclosure is reasonably believed to be necessary to avoid physical or substantial financial harm, or is required by law.
Conflicts arise naturally simply because we are different from one another. As Unitarian Universalists, we honor and celebrate differences but often struggle with how to manage them. Effectively managed conflict has many positive results. When people can disagree with each other and lobby for different ideas, our church is healthier.
Disagreements often result in a more thorough study of options and better decisions and direction.
It is the assumption of this policy and process that most conflicts can and will be resolved by efforts on the part of individuals and groups at All Souls to live up to the All Souls Church (ASC) Covenant of Right Relations and Unitarian Universalist (UU) Principles. It is expected that all congregants will use the ASC Covenant of Right Relations and UU Principles to inform their own actions and will treat everyone with compassion, respect and dignity.
The purpose of the All Souls Church (ASC) Conflict Resolution Policy and Process is to guide our church community towards a healthy approach to the management, resolution and transformation of conflict. In the spirit of the ASC Covenant of Right Relations and Unitarian Universalist Principles, this policy and process seeks to:
- Foster and maintain harmonious relations within the Congregation
- Mitigate conflict through education, facilitation and training for the Congregation and its leaders
- Establish a congregational process and structure for resolving conflicts
The guidelines that support this policy and process are:
Parties finding themselves in conflict should:
- Take responsibility upon themselves to resolve the conflict
- Use the conflict to mend relationships and provide healing
- Use conflict as an opportunity for spiritual growth
Persons asked to assist in resolving conflicts should:
- Respect and offer compassion to all of the parties
- Listen with an open mind
- Approach the matters raised with impartiality
- Explore the facts with care
- Recuse themselves from matters in which they have an interest
- Utilize best practices in dealing with the parties and their issues
- Offer the least intrusive intervention necessary to resolve conflicts
- Apply the least restrictive alternative
- Balance strict confidentiality and transparency with the safety of the parties in conflict and the Congregation
- Refer individuals to pastoral care, counseling or other services, as needed
The scope of this policy and process includes interactions of congregants with other congregants, groups, ministers, and/or staff. The scope also covers group-to-group conflicts.
The scope does not cover conflicts between staff, between ministers, and between ministers and staff, as these are covered in the ASC Personnel Policy.
This policy and process does not cover complaints regarding matters of church policy. Such complaints may be addressed to the Board of Trustees, per the All Souls Church Policy Governance Framework.
This policy and process does not supersede authorities given to the Board of Trustees and the Executive Team under the ASC Policy Governance Framework. If a conflict arises that the CRR considers beyond its purposes, scope or skill level, it may refer the matter to the Executive Team or Board of Trustees.
This Conflict Resolution Policy and Process document establishes the Committee on Right Relations (CRR), which is appointed by the Board of Trustees. The CRR has several authorities and responsibilities outlined below. One of the responsibilities is to recruit and oversee the Right Relations Team (RRT), which will assist the CRR in carrying out its mandate.
The CRR is a Board Committee appointed by the Board of Trustees to execute the ASC Conflict Resolution Policy and Process.
The CRR is composed of three members of the Congregation. The Board of Trustees will communicate to the Congregation the names of those appointed to the CRR. CRR members will elect a chair annually.
CRR members should each be members of the congregation who:
- Has been a member three years or more
- Is respected by the membership
- Has served in leadership positions
- Has exhibited good listening skills
- Has demonstrated the ability to remain neutral in disputes
- Has experience with best practices in conflict resolution or is willing to learn
- Has demonstrated a willingness to serve the entire congregation
CRR members will serve staggered terms of three (3) years with the possibility of renewing for one additional term. Terms start at the beginning of the calendar year. Vacancies that occur during a calendar year will be filled by appointment by the Board of Trustees. The Board will consult with the sitting members of the CRR in appointing new members.
- The CRR oversees the conflict resolution process outlined in Section V. It receives requests for assistance, determines what assistance and resources are needed, if any, and makes them available.
- The CRR oversees communication to the Congregation regarding the conflict resolution process and policy. The CRR also oversees education and training in conflict resolution for the Congregation and its leaders.
- The CRR recruits the Right Relations Team (RRT) of volunteers and assist in carrying out the policy and process.
- In the event that the first two levels of conflict resolution process outlined in Section V are unsuccessful, the CRR is empowered to make recommendations for resolution, consistent with the ASC Bylaws and Policy Governance. It is also empowered to refer any conflicts for which a resolution cannot be reached to the Board of Trustees for disposition.
- The CRR may also be called upon to mediate different perspectives and varying viewpoints within the congregation. In doing so, the CRR will work to ensure that all voices are heard and that the best practices of conflict resolution are applied. The CRR will encourage the framing of these kinds of conflicts as opportunities for healing and building community.
The CRR will:
- Respond to each request for assistance, exercising independent judgment and guided by the ASC Covenant of Right Relations, UU Principles, and the Guidelines presented in Section II.
- Recuse themselves from any issue to which they are a party or a stakeholder. Any CRR member may declare a conflict to exist for him/herself or for another member, and recusal will follow.
- Meet at least quarterly
- Report on activities to the Board of Trustees and Congregation at least annually
- Appear regularly and present at Church Council meetings
- Place materials regarding conflict resolution on the church website
- Submit an annual budget request to fund training, resources, and outside consultants
- Adhere to its Terms of Reference
- Develop additional procedures, as necessary
The RRT will be a team of volunteer mediators, trainers, and educators. This team will support the work of the CRR in educating, facilitating, and mediating when called upon.
- Promote knowledge and understanding of conflict resolution
- Provide leadership training in conflict resolution
- Serve as mediators/coaches/facilitators as assigned by the CRR
- Maintain communication with the congregation to promote awareness of the ASC conflict resolution policy and process
- Be available to ASC committees and groups that request support in such areas as interpersonal communication, listening, and dialogue
The conflict resolution process consists of three levels. When a conflict arises between groups or individual congregants, the process is to employ only as many levels as are needed to resolve the conflict. Throughout the process, all relevant persons, including members of the CRR, will be treated with respect and compassion consistent with the ASC Covenant of Right Relations and UU principles. In some cases, the CRR may determine that a structured process is needed and invite affected parties to submit a request.
Level 1. We Work It Out. The expectation is that the vast majority of conflicts will be resolved at this level directly by the people involved, without external intervention. In many instances, this will be achieved utilizing the knowledge, skills and abilities obtained through the CRR’s education and training efforts. Suggestions for how parties can resolve conflicts themselves are provided in the Appendix.
Level 2. We Need Help (Facilitator or Mediator Process). Assistance from the CRR may be requested.
- A confidential Request for Assistance Form may be submitted to the CRR. Methods for confidentially obtaining and submitting the Request for Assistance Form will be determined and made known by the CRR but could include a written request delivered securely, electronic submission to a secure e-mail address, telephoning a CRR member, or an in-person request to a CRR member for instructions.
- The CRR will review the request, determine if it is within the scope of this policy, meet with requestor, and where appropriate, conduct preliminary fact gathering.
- For each request received, the CRR will recommend next steps. Options include:
- Coaching – one or both parties may benefit from the help of a person experienced with conflict resolution to help them gain additional skills or techniques to resolve the situation themselves.
- Facilitated Discussion – In some instances, parties may simply wish to have a third party lead a conversation for the purpose of assisting parties in understanding each other and the issues, and potentially reaching resolution.
- Voluntary Mediation – Mediation seeks to focus on parties’ willingness to solve the problem rather than finding out if someone is guilty or at fault. Since it is a collaborative effort between the parties in dispute, the mediation process helps the parties clarify misunderstandings and improve communication. The parties themselves determine the resolution.
4. The CRR may assign a mediator, coach and/or facilitator from the RRT, depending on the recommended next steps presented above.
Level 3. We Engage in a Process Leading to a Recommendation. Either party may initiate a request for a CRR conflict resolution process leading to a recommendation. Both parties must agree before commencing with this process. In some cases, the CRR may determine that a more deliberative process is needed and invite affected parties to submit a request.
When the parties seek a recommendation, the CRR will:
- Send a written notice to request participation from all parties involved in the conflict.
- With the consent of all parties, conduct outside information gathering, which may include interviews, meetings, discussions and review of relevant documents.
- Prepare a written plan as to what the CRR believes should be done and submit it to all parties for consideration. The CRR will also meet with the parties and provide them with an opportunity to discuss the written plan.
Without the express approval of the all parties, the Committee, its facilitators, mediators and related aides shall not disclose the content or substance of matters brought to it unless disclosure is reasonably believed to be necessary to avoid physical or substantial financial harm, or is required by law. At the conclusion of a matter, the CRR is responsible for destroying referrals, notes, written reports, notes taken and any other documentation produced or received during the conflict resolution process, unless there is the possibility of legal matters, retention is expressly requested by all parties or required by law.
The ASC Board of Trustees and the CRR are jointly responsible for maintaining and upholding this policy and process. Amendments to this policy and process shall be recommended by the CRR and approved by the Board of Trustees.
Suggestions for Conflict Self-Resolution (Level 1)
- Talk directly with those with whom you are in disagreement
- Examine the roles of each party in the conflict
- Reflect on why the matter is important
- Acknowledge your role in the conflict
- Get a “reality check” from a trusted third party and compare perceptions
- Agree on a mutually acceptable time and place to talk in private as soon as possible
- Use “I” statements and active listening in discussions (e.g. “I felt that I was prejudged and anything I said was going to upset you.”)
- Seek to understand the perspective(s) of the other person(s)
- Consider putting thoughts in writing, if direct conversation is too difficult
- Listen actively and carefully to the other person(s). Tips for Active Listening include:
- Be with the other person, fully present and focused.
- Give the other person good eye contact. Don’t let your eyes roam around the room.
- Take some notes, but don’t look at other papers or reports. Don’t take such detailed notes that you are missing the overall message.
- Let the other person talk, and don’t worry about filling the lulls between sentences.
- Ask clarifying questions, as opposed to questions that contain a judgment
- Mentally put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Respond to what the other person is saying.
- Eliminate distractions, such as phone, pager, and email pings.
As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We celebrate diversity and welcome all individuals, being mindful that our congregation must maintain a safe atmosphere in order for such openness to exist.
The procedures of the All Souls Church, Unitarian, for dealing with alleged incidents of dangerous, disruptive, or disrespectful behavior are set forth below. These procedures may also be invoked if there is reason to believe that an individual may pose a danger to the congregation because of past criminal, violent, or threatening behavior. Even in situations that require the application of these procedures, affected individuals should be treated with dignity and respect.
- If it appears that an immediate response is needed to an unfolding, dangerous situation, a minister, if available, should initiate the response or, if a minister is not available, the leader of the group involved should The response may include (1) asking the offending person or persons to leave; (2) suspending the service, meeting, or activity until such time as it can be safely resumed; or (3) taking other reasonable actions that are deemed necessary. If the disruption poses an immediate threat of physical injury or death or damage to property, then the appropriate authorities shall be contacted. Whenever any of these actions is undertaken without a minister present, notification must be given promptly to the church ministers.
- A complaint alleging dangerous, threatening, disruptive, or disrespectful behavior for situations not requiring an immediate response may be sent to any minister or current member of the Board of When a complaint is received, the person receiving the complaint shall immediately notify the Senior Minister and President of the Board of Trustees.
- The Senior Minister and the President of the Board shall jointly determine whether the complaint should be referred to the Committee on Right Relations or to the Congregant Behavior Committee. The Senior Minister and President of the Board shall inform the Board of Trustees of their If the complaint is referred to the Committee on Right Relations, that committee shall handle it according to its Terms of Reference and the All Souls Conflict Resolution Policy.
- If the complaint is referred to the Congregant Behavior Committee, that Committee shall consider all available information provided and gather additional information, if needed, to gain a full and fair picture of the It shall then decide, with immediate effect, how the complaint is to be resolved.
- When the Congregant Behavior Committee has completed its action, it shall provide a report to the Board of Trustees and to the persons involved, or report to the entire congregation, as the Committee deems appropriate.
- Any person directly affected by the Congregant Behavior Committee’s decision may request, within 30 days, that the Board of Trustees reconsider the Committee’s decision and shall have an opportunity to present relevant The Board of Trustees shall determine what, if any, further action is appropriate and inform the persons involved.
- In evaluating the behavior in question and in choosing a response, the responsible parties should consider:
- DANGER: Is the individual the source of an actual or perceived threat of physical injury or death or damage to property?
- DISRUPTIVENESS: Is the behavior interfering with worship or other church functions? Are other people prevented or intimidated from participating in a congregational activity because of the disruptive behavior?
- DISRESPECT: Does the behavior fail to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each individual? For example, is the behavior harmful or abusive to others or to the community, including but not limited to racist, sexist, or homophobic comments or actions or the malicious spreading of untruths? The content of one’s beliefs and the exercise of the right of responsible dissent shall not be considered dangerous, disruptive, or disrespectful.
- CAUSE: Why is this situation occurring? Is it a conflict between an individual and others in the church? What other factors need to be considered (e.g., mental health, drugs/alcohol)?
- HISTORY: Have there been previous difficulties involving any parties in the current difficulty?
- PROBABILITY OF RECURRENCE: How likely is it that the disruptive behavior will occur again if no action is taken?
- Though resolution will vary depending upon the situation, the following actions might be used at any It is not necessary for these stages to be completed in order or for any lower stage to be completed before implementing higher stages.
- Level One: No further action is taken and the individuals involved are so informed.
- Level Two: The minister(s) meet with the individual(s) to communicate the distress and concern of the congregation and to provide other support or resources as appropriate.
- Level Three: An individual is excluded from participation in specified activities for a designated period of time when that individual’s behavior is believed to present a danger or disruption inconsistent with the All Souls Church Covenant of Right Relations.
- Level Four: An individual is excluded from the Church’s premises and/or all church activities for a designated period of time, with the reasons for the exclusion and the conditions of return stated in a letter signed by the minister(s) and the President of the Board of An individual may also be permanently barred from Church activities or parts of the Church’s premises (for example, from activities involving children and youth and from the Religious Education premises when such activities are taking place.)
The Congregant Behavior Committee: Formation and Functioning
- Annually, the Board of Trustees leadership team and Congregant Behavior Committee Liaison shall recommend a Congregant Behavior Committee with diverse membership composed of three congregants who have demonstrated the ability to work (1) in right relations with other congregants; (2) with discretion; and (3) with efficiency, integrity, and reliability. Candidates will have been a member of the Church for at least one year and will submit a statement of interest and experience. Trustees may ask for references. In assembling a Committee, trustees will strive for diversity. The committee shall meet as needed during the year to implement this Congregational Behavior Policy.
- The Congregant Behavior Committee shall select its Chairperson from among its members.
- Decisions of the Committee shall be made by a majority of its members.
- The Committee shall handle complaints referred to them according to the following guidelines:
- All complaints shall be given prompt and fair consideration.
- All parties to the process shall be free of coercion, restraints, interference, discrimination, or reprisal.
- The Committee shall act with sensitivity, objectivity, and fairness in handling these The Congregant Behavior Committee may choose to protect from disclosure the identity and personal information of the alleged disruptive person(s), the identity of the person(s) presenting complaints, and/or details of the allegations, when necessary, based on the nature of the disruptive behavior. However, the Congregant Behavior Committee may disclose this information to the Board of Trustees.