The focus of this research is the study of unity in mission and coping with conflict as a way of being faithfully present. Researching unity in mission in a divided congregation is important because it may relate, not only to the congregation, but also, in a broader sense, to the experience in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) and other denominations. While the review of literature provided background information on the theology of faithful presence including the theologies of place and place presence, a further review was conducted on the theology of mission as reconciliation as a way of being faithfully present. The study addresses this gab in literature and research by investigating the role of mission in helping congregants cope with church conflict and staying faithfully present in their situation. To achieve this goal, congregants lived experience of their congregational life in the midst of conflict was revealed and analysed using phenomenology as the most suitable method for data gathering, analysis and interpretation.
Phenomenological approach was chosen simple because of its capability of providing congregants’ personal account of their experience. The question that needed to be understood was whether congregants still had time, space and motivation to be with the people God is sending them to. The primary goal is to understand congregants lived experience under the influence of conflict and how these congregants remained faithfully present in their situation. The secondary aim is to recommend ways and means of reconciliation most relevant to their situation particularly where subjects are not role players in the conflict. The researcher was interested in finding out if using mission as reconciliation can, in meaningful ways, move the reconciliation process forward.
The research found a direct correlation between conflict and the mission of the church. As the conflict continued to manifest, congregants developed a lack of trust in the leadership of the church, which motivated them to practice mission unilaterally outside the precincts of the church. As this unfolded, the congregation became irrelevant, its mission suffered and the congregational life became less meaningful. The congregation as a community of sent people, became too internally focused, losing its sting as a missional force in the neighbourhood.