Richard Dujardin of the Province Journal reported Sunday (free registration required) about a Lutheran pastor trained by a rabbi who is helping address conflicts between an Episcopal bishop and her priests. That's not the beginning of a joke, but the description of Peter Steinke's vocation. Steinke is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is a consultant to ELCA's Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. He studied under the late Edwin H. Friedman, a rabbi who shaped hundreds of clergy. (In a tribute published by the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, the Rev. William McD. Tully of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church cited a grateful pastor's bumper sticker: "Jesus saved my soul. Rabbi Friedman saved my ass.")
Steinke has helped not only Episcopalians in Rhode Island, but also the predominantly gay Cathedral of Hope (Metropolitan Community Church) in Dallas and Mennonites in the Chicago suburbs. (The photo by Jim Bishop shows Steinke teaching a class at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va.)
Like his mentor, Steinke applies theories of family systems to the relations of believers, whether at congregational or higher levels. Although Steinke's name often appears in relation to churches in crisis, he's also written nine books -- not all related to church conflicts.
In a 1997 interview with Leadership Journal (subscription required), he stressed that conflict is not a problem in itself:
For any system to be healthy, it has to be challenged; sometimes that challenge comes in the form of conflict. A healthy congregation is one that actively and responsibly addresses or heals its disturbances. It is not one with an absence of trouble.
If you're a leader and your people say it's time for a visit from Peter Steinke, your redemption (or at least your butt's redemption) may draw nigh.