Professor Tackles Congregational Conflict Head-On

A new book by a faculty member in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU provides understanding and techniques for dealing with change and conflict in a setting one might least expect – the local congregation.

David R. Brubaker

David R. Brubaker, associate professor of organizational studies at EMU, draws on more than 20 years experience in workplace mediation and organizational and congregational consulting in Promise and Peril: Understanding and Managing Change and Conflict in Congregations, published by The Alban Institute, Atlanta, Ga.

"Every successful congregation deals with change," Dr. Brubaker said. "If it doesn’t, it won’t survive."

Surviving Change

In writing the book, Brubaker said he "wanted to learn what kinds of change correlate with conflict and what kinds don’t." He also "wanted to know how congregational leaders, lay and clergy, could introduce change in ways that would be less likely to precipitate destructive conflict.

"The results surprised me," he said, "but offer hopeful lessons for congregational leaders who know their congregations must change and would personally like to survive the process."

Brubaker hopes his book "will help congregations avoid the pitfalls of poorly managed change and the resulting conflict and outline steps toward building healthy interpersonal relationships and congregational systems."

"Church conflict hurts. Conflict can be mean-spirited and devastating. But it doesn’t have to be," notes reviewer Rick Lemberg, pastor of Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, Oakhurst, Calif. "David Brubaker demonstrates that conflict can be redeemed and even bring positive growth. He gives insight into understanding the nature of conflict, explains how to manage it and provides strategies for preventing it from becoming destructive. All church leaders should read this book."

David earned a BS in business administration from Messiah College, Grantham, Pa., an MBA from Eastern University, St. Davids, Pa., and a PhD from the University of Arizona, where he specialized in the study of religious and organizational conflicts. He has trained or consulted with over 100 organizations, including in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

The 160-page paperback is available at the EMU bookstore and can be ordered on-line at or from