Growing Up In Our Understanding of How to Handle Conflict (8 of 12) by Rick White

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Growing Up In Our Understanding of How to Handle Conflict (8 of 12)
Rick White
1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Introduction: (The Tennesseean, Tuesday, July 4,2000)

Internal church fights once settled within the congregation are more often ending up in court as in the highly public rift at Olivet Baptist Church in June.

A group of deacons tried to kick the Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. out of the pulpit because of his new style of preaching. Some complained about the dancing, speaking in tongues and other actions Whalum describes as the Holy Ghost.

In their lawsuit to have Whalum removed, the deacons said the pastor tried to lock them out of the church and alleged mismanagement of church funds, though they did not spell out the alleged mismanagement.

Differences in worship styles and music are often behind the squabbles.

"People who are used to the traditional hymns get offended when they start bringing in drums and playing more contemporary music," said Bruce Strom, an Illinois attorney specializing in church law. "Sometimes it's other things. I had a church that split over the removal of the Christian flag from the sanctuary."

In the last five years, more than 150 churches have appeared on Shelby County court dockets. Most cases involve personal injuries, employment disputes and worker's compensation issues. But at least one in 10 cases involves feuding factions, according to court records.

"Most of these cases involve issues of accounting or whether or not the pastor should continue as pastor of the church involved," said Kenny Armstrong, clerk and master for Shelby County Chancery Court. He says he has seen church cases for 20 years.

Most of the battles boil down to a power struggle between the pastor and a church's governing body. Many involve disputes over money. And in the most divisive cases, the congregation splits, often with the losing side leaving to form its ...

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