Candler’s Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Conflict Transformation Ellen Ott Marshall and Postdoctoral Fellow Kyle Lambelet have won a $45,000 Collaborative Inquiry Team Grant from the Louisville Institute. With this funding, the two will co-direct a team of pastoral and academic researchers in exploring how the church and academy form Christian conflict workers theologically and practically. Included in their work will be a study of the effectiveness of the formation and recommendations to improve it.

To fully address the question on the formation of conflict workers, the team will follow a three-phased process of conducting interviews with conflict workers, building a map of current formation practices, and reporting in-depth case studies on specific episodes of ecclesial conflict.

The project emerged from conversations between Lambelet and Marshall, his faculty mentor for the postdoctoral fellowship. “Dr. Marshall and I are both interested in bridging peace studies and Christian ethics in our scholarship, and we both have longstanding commitments to research that serves the church,” says Lambelet. “This project seemed an opportunity to bring all those commitments together.”

The project team includes conflict workers from The United Methodist Church (UMC) and The Episcopal Church, both denominations that have experienced highly public conflicts in recent years over inclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the life of the church. Joining Marshall and Lambelet on the team are Heidi Kim, former staff officer for racial reconciliation for The Episcopal Church and now director of the Melrose Center for Servant Leadership at the Breck School in Minnesota; Shandirai Mawokomatanda, pastor of Wesley UMC in Worcester, Mass.; Molly L. Shivers, director of conflict transformation ministries for the North Carolina Conference of the UMC; and Candler alumna Kimberly S. Jackson 09T, an Episcopal priest whose experience as a conflict worker includes helping to de-escalate tensions between police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri.

Louisville Institute’s Collaborative Inquiry Team (CIT) program supports teams typically of four to eight pastors and professors who propose projects to strengthen the life of North American Christian congregations. Teams must have a balance of pastoral and academic researchers who will spend from 18 to 36 months exploring together a living question currently confronting church and society. $45,000 is the top CIT award granted.

When Marshall and Lambelet’s project is completed in May 2021, it will provide resources for forming conflict workers who are theologically and practically prepared to respond to conflict not “as a problem to be managed or solved, but rather a means of God’s grace and an opportunity for constructive change,” says Lambelet.


About the Louisville Institute Collaborative Inquiry Team Program

The Louisville Institute Collaborative Inquiry Team program supports teams of pastors/ministers and scholars/professors who propose projects to promote the flourishing of North American Christian communities. A Collaborative Inquiry Team grant enables each Team to spend an extended period of time exploring together a question of vital importance for the thriving of Christianity in North America. Louisville Institute, based at Louisville Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky), is funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Institute’s fundamental mission is to contribute to the flourishing of North American Christianity and encourage the revitalization of its institutions by supporting those who lead and study religious institutions, movements, and expressions by funding focused programs of research and study, and by bringing together church and academy, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.