Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Inquisitions, Mobs and Conflict resolution

Written by: on March 5, 2024

The Inquisition: Fact vs. Fiction - HubPages

The challenges associated with the Identity Trap make leading a faith community increasingly tricky. We see increased tension when we add the complexity that the Bible is often at odds with popular societal thinking. In 2013, the Telegraph printed an article in which Amber Dillon writes, “I can’t help thinking that some of the Bible’s teachings are irrelevant to modern day life and I feel that it is time for Christianity to move on, and that Christians should accept the Bible as a product of its time”[1]. To say something Biblical contrary to popular opinion is to run the gauntlet that ultimately leads to the new inquisitor’s chair. The inquisition into the faith community is more than an external threat; the threat also comes from within. Increasingly, new members raised in a society steeped in Identity politics find themselves at odds with contemporary thinking and conservative theological teaching. A new generation of internal inquisitors has arisen, keeping faith leaders in check. Consequently, there is more identity politicking in leadership circles within faith communities. How does a faith leader navigate the difficulty of leading a generation of inquisitors?

I wish I had read this book in 2020. The book’s academic insight and historical context in the identity trap make the book compelling. The challenges in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020 and the ensuing global outrage were fuelled by the injustice of the moment and the perfect storm associated with the growing popular appeal of cultural Marxism and identity synthesis.

The church I lead has 103 nationalities in it. Throughout the challenge of 2020, the church that had journeyed with my wife and me, and us with them over the years, cultivated a strong foundation of trust. However, just prior to 2020, I also became the national leader of a church movement that had historically been a majority-white movement. While it still is majority white, 33% of our ministers now represent a non-white demographic. In 2020, the problem within the movement was that I needed to build more trust with the group because I had only been in charge for a year. Navigating our many varied churches through that season was difficult. Thankfully, my master’s degree had prepared me academically for 2020. However, the emotional pressure of leading in 2020 resulted in burst blood vessels in my right eye, subsequent surgeries and 70% loss of vision.

While attempting to hold a clear line of thought that gently defied the CRT propositions, including the long walk through the institutions[2], the challenge, though real, was evident.  Yes, we should always show empathy and understanding to those facing trauma[3], but we should not bow to the bullying tactics of the media and the baying mob. When it comes to moments of mass awakening by the population on social issues, I am often reminded of the mob in Acts 19: 32 “The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there”. Recent marches with the chant “From the River to the Sea” are highly contentious, and I expect the majority would be horrified if they knew what the chant meant. Perhaps they “do not even know why they are there?” It is encouraging to know that “only a small number adopt extreme views.” [4]

Parallels are drawn between issues associated with Identity Politics and the Inquisition of the 12th Century, which was established to identify and destroy heresy in the Catholic Church through the use of persecution, culminating in torture and execution. Madeline Grant says, “The mob requires “sinners” to confess their crimes, and preferably to perform their shame and penitence publicly. Of course, no one is burnt at the stake, but lives and reputations can be irretrievably destroyed in contemporary witch-hunts – and the punishment is often utterly out of proportion to the crime in question” [5]. She adds, “This new morality-by-mob phenomenon, then, mirrors religion – only without any of the charity and forgiveness we might associate with faith” [6].

The Identity Trap speaks into the mob culture/inquisition with great aplomb. The Author’s concluding chapter entitled “How to Escape the Identity Trap” provides helpful, practical steps for countering the Identity Trap, which he says will lead to continued exacerbation and ultimately failure[7]. Perhaps this is where Mounk’s encouragement for “reasonable people to stand up” [8] speaks to the church. In keeping with Mounk’s practical steps, Lily Arasaratnam suggests a framework of six helpful keys in framing conflict navigation[9], which may prove useful for those leading faith communities.

Firstly, maintain contact. The natural desire for many to withdraw from conflict negates humans’ core expression of attaining peace through communication. The challenge with identity politics is the blurring of lines between relational and content communication.

The second key is to Assume Best Intentions. Arasaratnam suggests, “It is good practice to first assume that the behaviour was the result of a cultural misunderstanding rather than malicious intent”[10].

Thirdly, provide a safe platform. Arasaratnam rightly states that while “you may not have control over someone else’s insecurities, you do have control over how you treat their moments of vulnerability”.[11]

The fourth step is to involve a mediator. Shared needs and interests enable those in conflict to find common ground and enjoy continuing dialogue. An effective mediator can use commonality as an anchor in conversation.

Fifthly, consider the relationship. It is questionable whether it is possible to win an ideological battle whilst retaining a positive relationship with the losing party. The challenge is the blurring of relational and content communication. If maintaining a relationship with the contending party is the optimum priority, then an obliging, compromising, or integrating approach is desirable.

Lastly, consider moving on. Arasaratnam contends, “Moving on might involve obliging, abounding, compromising beyond what you had initially hoped or merely letting go of a relationship if it is the cause of prolonged and destructive conflict”.[12]

In summarising the principal flaw of Identity synthesis, Mounk says its vision is neither realistic nor desirable.[13] I must agree. Any ideology with “post-modernism, postcolonialism and critical race theory”[14] as its starting point will inevitably have a complex life itself.

[1] Dillon, Amber. 2013. ‘Christianity Is Not the Problem. The Bible Is.’ The Independent. 10 February 2013. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/christianity-is-not-the-problem-the-bible-is-8487636.html.

[2] Mounk, Yascha. 2023. The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time. New York: Penguin Press. 97.

[3] Ibid, 283.

[4] Ibid, 276.

[5] Grant, Madeline. 2018. ‘In the New Politically Correct Religion, Being Male Is the Original Sin and Forgiveness Is Impossible’. The Telegraph, 8 September 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/08/new-politically-correct-religion-male-original-sin-forgiveness/.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mounk, 239.

[8] Ibid, 272.

[9] Arasaratnam, Lily A. 2011. Perception and Communication in Intercultural Spaces. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. 51.

[10] Ibid, 61.

[11] Ibid, 62.

[12] Ibid, 64.

[13] Mounk, 252.

[14] Ibid, 76.

About the Author


Glyn Barrett

I am the founding, Lead Pastor of !Audacious Church in Manchester, England. I was born in Manchester, but moved to Australia at the age of two. My wife and I were married in Australia and began married and ministry life in England 28 years ago. After serving as youth pastors for 12 years, we moved to Manchester to pioneer !Audacious Church. As a church we now have 7 locations. 3 in Manchester, Chester, Cardiff (Wales), Sheffield, and Geneva (Switzerland). In 2019 I became the National Leader of Assemblies of God in Great Britain. We have over 600 churches in our movement and have planted 50 new churches since May 2022 with a goal of planting 400 new churches between May 2022 and May 2028. I am the European Lead for MM33, which is the church planting ministry for Assemblies of God Global and also chair Empowered21 Western Europe. I'm happily married to Sophia, with two children, one dog and two motorbikes. I love Golf, coffee and spending time with friends. Looking forward to meeting you all, and creating new friendships.

10 responses to “Inquisitions, Mobs and Conflict resolution”

  1. mm Ryan Thorson says:

    Thanks Glyn! Another great post and I appreciate your transparency in sharing how the important leadership roles you are in are impacted by Mounk’s work and the political and cultural pressures of the past 5-10 years.

    As you’ve built trust within the church you pastor and the 103 nationalities that make it up, what are some ways you’ve resisted Identity Synthesis and cultivated kingdom practices in your multi-ethnic church?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hey Ryan. We really love celebrating our national backgrounds, i.e., we have an international Sunday annually to encourage people to dress up in their “national” dress, which tends to mean the country they were born in or their parents/grandparents. However, we reiterate regularly that we are not trying to build a multicultural church but a church with Kingdom principles in England. I will often state that God looks at us as his sons and daughters before anything else. While some factions of society encourage us to divide the church according to ethnic background, we refuse to by simply acknowledging sons and daughters. In this way, we attempt to avoid the arguments/issues that pertain to identity politicking, which seems to divide so many. We also state that our worship and ministry style is not colour/race-centric – we are doing church the !Audacious Church way. “If you love it, come back next week, if not, there are 1700 other churches across the city you can attend.” That last statement is not said in a defiant abrupt way, rather is a recognition that there is a DNA / GENE that is our church, that is not based on what society is trying to define it as,

  2. Adam Cheney says:

    I appreciate the way you have led both organizations with a non-anxious presence. I remember you sharing about your eye surgery, but I forgot it was due to the stress of leading during COVID. I live an hour away from Minneapolis and I remember the riots, and post-riots clearly. I volunteered up there a couple days after the death of George Floyd. It was an intense time. One thing I still really remember though was a group of black men standing around a dozen ice chests and grills along the main street that was destroyed. They were homeowners in the neighborhood and they had started to BBQ food for all who were helping cleanup. This was during the first week when riots were still happening at night, but people were trying to cleanup during the day. Their kindness to all who came to help their neighborhood was memorable. Identity differences were being put aside and a new identity in the community was being formed. Through all the tragedy, there was beauty in the way churches came together and Jesus was being proclaimed.

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Wow, thanks Adam. Amazing story during a very difficult season. For clarity, there was a disease in my eye that I was waiting for an opportune time to reveal itself, and the pressure associated with leading during that season caused the worst-case scenario to happen.

  3. Graham English says:

    Glyn, I talked to a group of younger leaders this week and said, “Ministry not going to get easier in the next 10 years.” What you have hit on in your blog is part of the increasing challenge and complexity of church ministry in the years to come. The six keys for navigating conflict is also helpful. Thanks for these!
    As a leader, how do you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and understand the cultural perspectives, while not getting drawn into these issues to the detriment of the larger mission?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Thank you, Graham. I agree with your insight. I draw encouragement from King Solomon’s timeless wisdom: “There is nothing new under the sun.” If our forefathers could overcome challenges, so can we. Keeping our focus on Jesus through daily Bible devotion and prayer is pivotal. He is the cornerstone of our actions. Commencing each day in prayer helps maintain my alignment with Him; He is both the beginning and the end of my journey. This practice has been ingrained in my adult life.

      Navigating cultural complexities poses greater challenges. I’ve found that broad reading and a commitment to scrutinizing societal narratives against biblical truths are essential. My guiding principle has always been: “What does the Bible say?” Additionally, I’ve learned to probe deeper by asking, “What are the underlying causes behind the issues we see in society today?” It’s easy to get caught up in surface-level analysis of symptoms without addressing root causes. I genuinely, albeit perhaps naively, believe that anchoring our identity primarily in Christ can profoundly impact everything.

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Glyn, Thank you for your post. It was a good reminder for me that confusion has been around for a very long time. My question to you is how does Mounk’s steps for breaking the trap impact your churches?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Thank you. Mounk’s insights on breaking the identity trap offer practical wisdom that resonates across a wide spectrum of churches within our movement. Each point has its relevance, tailored to various situations and contexts.
      Among the many valuable points, I particularly resonate with point 3, “Remember that today’s adversaries can become tomorrow’s allies.” This statement embodies grace in its fullest sense, acknowledging God’s transformative power in any circumstance for His glory. Throughout my own journey, I’ve realised the importance of this truth. There have been instances where my determination to win a debate overshadowed the value of maintaining friendships. It’s a regrettable consequence. Grace allows for silence, forgoing the need to triumph in arguments and, in doing so, claiming the moral high ground (Point 1). Indeed, grace always stands as the moral high ground. Perhaps we should all strive to extend more grace in our interactions?

  5. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Glyn. As much as I hate to say it, it seems like Inquisition thoughts are starting to rear their ugly head in some segments of our society again.

    What was the biggest challenge you faced taking over leadership in your national leadership position?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Thanks Chris. Hmmmm, of the many and varies challenges, I think that navigating the challenge of shifting from traditional patterns of thinking and behaviour towards embracing something new can be daunting. As Isaiah 43:19 states, “See, I am doing a new thing,” yet the difficulty lies in our ability to “perceive it.” Teaching and modelling a new paradigm, particularly within the context of the Identity Trap, holds significant importance in facilitating change within our movement. It requires openness to discerning and embracing the new direction that God may be leading us towards, even if it challenges our familiar ways of thinking and acting. As long as we hold true to the Bible, we should be prepared to change.

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