Seely's work and passion for peace brings "mediation and conflict resolution" training to Memphis Conference
Linda Warren Seely
As a practicing attorney, Linda Warren Seely deals with a certain amount of conflict.
But her Christian faith calls her to help people settle disagreements outside the legal process where possible and in ways that might be more satisfying and sustaining for all parties.
Peace With Justice
Seely has a passion for peace and to that end serves as the Peace and Justice Advocate for the Memphis Conference of the Methodist Church.
It’s a position she has held for three years and takes seriously.
The $2,500 grant, one of 18 awarded to “Peace with Justice” ministries, is being used to help fund a “Mediation & Conflict Resolution Training” program through the Conflict Resolution Center of West Tennessee in Jackson, TN.
Seely is serving as director of the program which she believes helps fulfill the church’s commitment to social justice and peace.
Aug. 20 Workshop
The training program’s first half-day workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20, at 9 a.m. at the former St. Andrew UMC in Jackson. It is open to all churches in the Memphis Conference (West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.)
As an Attorney at Law and Rule 31 Listed Mediator in Tennessee, Seely is uniquely qualified to lead the workshop and plans to offer it once a quarter going forward.
The four-hour agenda will provide laity and clergy with a basic understanding of the concept of mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), including ways it can be used, said Seely.
Editor's Note: Click HERE to read article and see photos of this event.
Mediation solves problems
Trained mediators are not judges, she explained. They are impartial participants who work with the disputing parties to help them reach a mutually-agreeable resolution.
Mediation is a voluntary process sometimes required by courts or agencies to prevent costly litigation.
Paying an attorney to put together a case to resolve a problem can be pretty expensive, said Seely.
“Mediation is faster, less expensive and allows the parties to make their own decisions,” she said.
Referencing her work with elder and family law, Seely said, “The legal process is absolutely fabulous to help certain kinds of problems get resolved. Litigation is … a great tool in certain settings. However, the court system is not set up for helping individuals deal with family situations and family matters. It’s set up as a win-lose process."
For families, especially, Seely said both parties need to “win,” as much as possible and not be left with more problems.
Mediation is an option for parties who want to have “ongoing relationships,” said Seely.
Seely hopes the Aug. 20 workshop will help educate people about mediation and motivate them to become volunteer mediators in their communities and local courts.
As a resident of West Tennessee, she called it “awful” that “no real community mediation” in her area.
Mediation helps churches
Trained mediators also can be of great help to churches that sometimes find members or groups embroiled in conflict, said Seely.
Rev. Joy Weathersbee, Jackson District Superintendent, agrees that mediation can help churches challenged by tension or discord.
“Church families are sometimes like a larger, more complicated version of the families with whom we are related,” said Weathersbee. “Communication breaks down; misunderstandings occur; and painful divisions happen within the body. Sometimes our churches are even crippled by unresolved conflicts that have been carried for decades, limiting our openness to God’s Spirit among us.”
Through “careful communication” and “intentional listening,” Weathersbee said healing can happen and healthy relationships (in churches) can be restored.
Weathersbee encourages – “wholeheartedly” she said – pastors and laity to attend the Aug. 20 workshop.
“This is an opportunity for churches of the Memphis Conference to benefit from the support of our larger denomination,” she said.
About Seely’s credentials, Weathersbee said, “(Her) expertise as a trained Rule 31 Mediator (in Tennessee) has been invaluable to congregations where she has been invited to help resolve conflicted situations within the church family.”
Rule 31 refers to the Tennessee Supreme Court rule setting forth the standards and procedures that apply to court-ordered and court-affiliated ADR proceedings in Tennessee.
Mediators are neutral
Those who come (to the Aug. 20 workshop) and agree to be volunteer mediators will have completed 25 percent of requirements to serve, she said.
No legal or other special training or education is required to attend the workshop.
The right people to serve as mediators, said Seely, understand they are not judges. They know to set aside their own feelings, be neutral and have open minds.
“A strong commitment to peacemaking and problem solving” is the most important requirement to be a good mediator, said Seely, who described the process as being willing to listen and not necessarily agree, empathizing with where (the parties) are, and being willing to work toward a solution.
“(Disputing parties) want to feel have been heard by a neutral person and that the process afforded them respect and dignity,” said Seely. “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is (for mediators) to be able to deeply listen.”
“Christ calls us to be peacemakers,” said Seely who envisions a willing and active “cadre of professional mediators” from the church, all trained and ready to serve their communities.
Click HERE for a brochure with more details about the workshop and info about how to register by Aug. 15. The cost is $15 per person.
Click HERE to read about other ministries that received 2011 “Peace with Justice” grants.
By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference, The United Methodist Church