Frequently Asked Questions
What is Christian Conciliation?
Christian Conciliation is a process for reconciling people and resolving disputes out of court in a Biblical manner. The process is conciliatory in nature rather than adversarial - that is, it encourages honest communication and reasonable cooperation rather than unnecessary contention and advocacy.
Christian Conciliation may involve three steps. 1) One or both parties may receive individual counseling on how to resolve a dispute personally and privately using Biblical principles. 2) If personal attempts are unsuccessful the parties may submit their dispute for mediation, a process in which one or more mediators meet with them to promote constructive dialogue and encourage a voluntary settlement of their differences. 3) If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties may proceed to arbitration, which means that one or more arbitrators will hear their case and render a legally binding decision.
The term "conciliator" is used in this document to describe someone who is serving as a conflict counselor, mediator, or arbitrator.
May I use Christian Conciliation even after a lawsuit has been filed?
Yes. If the other party is willing, the two of you may agree to postpone further legal proceedings while you attempt to resolve your differences through conciliation. If conciliation is successful, you may file a stipulation with the court to close the case.
Can Christian Conciliation result in a legally binding agreement or decision?
Yes, if you and the other party so desire. Agreements reached through private negotiations or mediation may be documented in legal contracts or stipulations. Arbitrations are legally binding and can be enforced as a judgment of a civil court.
Doesn't conciliation always result in compromise?
No. Christian conciliators take justice seriously, and they will do all they can to help people live up to their responsibilities, even when doing so is unpleasant and costly. Although some disputes are properly resolved through compromise, conciliators should not encourage the parties to "split the difference" merely to get the matter settled.
What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
Mediation is a relatively informal and voluntary process in which mediators facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties. Mediators are as concerned with reconciling the parties as with helping them to settle their substantive differences. If the parties do not reach an agreement on their own, they may ask the mediators to issue an advisory opinion, which is not legally binding but is often accepted by both sides. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties may decide to quit the process, or they may agree to submit unresolved issues to arbitration.
Mediation/Arbitration is a process that begins with mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties are legally obligated to proceed to arbitration. Christian mediation is usually so successful that most cases do not need to go to arbitration.
Arbitration deals primarily with the resolution of substantive issues. Arbitrators act as fact finders and judges, and their decisions are legally binding. Going directly to arbitration is usually not advisable, unless there are no personal issues to be resolved and there is no need for reconciliation between the parties.
The mediation/arbitration option, which requires both parties to stay in the process until the matter is resolved, usually affords the greatest opportunity for reconciliation and a resolution of the dispute.
May I withdraw from the conciliation process once it begins?
Not necessarily. If you have committed yourself only to mediation, any party may withdraw at any time. But if you have committed yourself to either arbitration or mediation/arbitration, all of the parties are legally obligated to proceed with mediation and, if necessary, arbitration, unless all of the parties agree to cancel the conciliation agreement.
How are conciliators appointed?
ARS will suggest possible conciliator(s) to the parties involved. Both parties will agree on who will serve as their conciliator(s).
How can I be sure the conciliator will understand technical issues involved in our dispute?
The ARS conciliator may request the privilege of having a technical advisor who will also serve as a prayer partner. If a technical advisor is used both parties shall agree on the person who will serve.
Can I use the services of my attorney in mediation or arbitration?
Yes. If the other party agrees, you may ask your attorney be present for the conciliation process. Or you may request time to consult legal counsel before you sign the conciliation agreement.
What types of disputes can be resolved through Christian Conciliation?
The following are only a few examples of the many kinds of disputes that have been resolved through Christian Conciliation.
- Disputes over construction contracts
- Disputes over termination of employment
- Disagreement over the dissolving of a business partnership
- A claim that a publisher had broken his contract with an author
- A family dispute over a deceased parent's estate
- Two property owners fighting over a right-of-way
- A husband and wife struggling over an impending divorce
- A purchaser of a business believed that the value of the business had been misrepresented
What will Adventist Reconciliation Services provide?
Train pastors for Biblical conflict resolution
Train teachers to present and use conflict resolution in the classroom
Provide consultation services for congregations in severe conflict
Provide "Responding to Conflict Biblically" seminars
Provide personal conciliation services for members considering litigation
Develop a registry of trained SDA mediators
How is ARS funded?
The services of ARS are based on a daily consultant fee in addition to travel and lodging. Conferences often share the expense with the local church.
ARS is also funded by tax deductible donations from organizations and private parties.
Are the services of ARS available to individuals or organizations of any faith?
ARS is available to work with any individuals and/or organizations providing they understand that the mediation/arbitration services will be conducted from the Biblical context.
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