Faith in Conflict Conference
'Faith in Conflict' Conference - Coventry Cathedral - 26 to 28 February 2013
Two hundred people from around the country gathered at the end of February for the sell-out Faith in Conflict conference at Coventry Cathedral. The Reverend Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the Fields in London, addressed the conference as the first keynote speaker.
"There’s no such thing as silence", Dr Wells began. "What we call silence is a selection of which noises we choose to hear. One of the joys of silent meditation is that we become aware of sounds that would usually be drowned out or ignored."
"In the same way there’s no such thing as peace, if peace is taken as the absence of conflict. There’s only the selection of which kinds of tensions, differences and disputes we choose to regard as significant, and the degree to which they are harmonious, constructive or suppressed."
He noted that the mood of conflict among Christians is often characterised by exasperation and impatience. Exasperation, because the parties to the conflict, along with reconcilers, tend to be of the view that "if all were faithful, there would be no conflict; thus the enemy must be either stupid or perverse”; and impatience, because all sides (and observers) lament that "this conflict is taking up huge amounts of energy and delaying the work of the kingdom that is the true call of discipleship."
Dr Wells went on to explore the theological issues behind these two moods of exasperation and impatience. He grounded these in the three most decisive parts of the Christian story: creation, salvation and eternal life.
He pointed out that "creation is, by its very nature, the inception of difference. God is pure essence; but when that essence is translated, by a process we call creation, into time-bound and contingent existence. Then out of nothing comes diversity. And at once we have the dynamic that underwrites everything that follows: will that diversity be harmonious…" (which brings forth joy) "…or will there be tension, conflict, disharmony and discord."
Dr Wells concluded that "peace isn’t the absence of conflict, but the transformation from destructive tension into dynamic creativity. …The good news is that reconciliation is the gospel."