More Information
ISBN: 9781783688098
Imprint: Langham Monographs
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 17
Publication Date: 30/11/2020
Pages: 320
Language: English

Interpersonal Reconciliation between Christians in a Shame-Oriented Culture

A Sri Lankan Case Study


Interpersonal conflict is one of the greatest threats to the health and growth of the church worldwide. Yet despite their best intentions, Christian leaders often discover that the cause of recurring conflict remains unclear and prescribed techniques for conflict resolution are ineffective in their communities.

In this Sri Lankan case study, Dr Mano Emmanuel examines the specifics of interpersonal conflict within a shame-oriented culture. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, she incorporates cultural anthropology, missiology, and communication studies into her analysis, identifying seven aspects of culture that must be addressed if reconciliation is to be fully experienced in the Sri Lankan church. Highlighting the parallels between contemporary honor-shame cultures and the honor-shame context of the New Testament, the author provides specific suggestions for experiencing biblical reconciliation while maintaining cultural sensitivity and protecting the honor of those involved.

Author Bios

Mano Emmanuel

MANO EMMANUEL is Head of Academic Advancement and former Academic Dean at Colombo Theological Seminary, Sri Lanka, where she lectures in Ethics, Systematic Theology, and Biblical Studies. She has a PhD in Peace Studies from the Asia Graduate School of Theology, Manila, Philippines, and has written extensively on the topic of reconciliation.


The inability to deal properly with interpersonal conflicts is causing havoc in the South Asian church today. Christians with bright prospects of usefulness in the kingdom are destroying their futures, and vibrant churches are facing God-dishonouring splits. A major reason for this poor showing in the church is an inadequate understanding of the biblical dynamics of conflict resolution and an inadequate reckoning of the cultural features that hugely influence our behavior. This learned study discusses these issues with a deep sensitivity to both these areas. Reading and learning from this book would be a health-giving antidote to much that ails our church.

Ajith Fernando
Teaching Director, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka
Author, Discipling in a Multicultural World

In this informed and engaging work, Mano Emmanuel takes us deep into important cultural issues in her context of Sri Lanka. Noting how rarely Western literature on relationships and conflict considers the challenges of those who operate with different cultural modes of shame and honor, Emmanuel provides a biblically informed, theoretically aware, and research-driven approach that tackles head-on issues of conflict with the lenses of face, honor, and shame. Based on her deep engagement with Scripture and current literature in anthropology, missiology, and face and facework theory, Emmanuel calls for the church to contextualize notions of “shameful” and “honorable.” This important volume adds to the growing literature of culturally specific engagement with issues of face, honor, and shame. Scholars and practitioners alike will find in this helpful work valuable resources for navigating issues of conflict in the church.

Christopher Flanders, PhD
Associate Professor of Missions,
Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA
Assistant Editor, Missio Dei Journal
Member of the Executive Leadership Team, Honor-Shame Network

In this eye-opening book, Mano Emmanuel writes with the eye of an insider, an objective examination of Christian cultural thought on reconciliation in her country, and good academic research. The book can be an excellent asset for missionaries, teachers, leaders, and social workers engaged with people who view and understand their identity and their relationship with others in terms of honor and shame.

Alemayehu Mekonnen, PhD
Associate Professor of Missions,
Regent University, Virginia Beach, USA

Mano Emmanuel’s Sri Lankan case study on interpersonal reconciliation between Christians uses a novel cross-cultural approach to conflict resolution. She introduces the concept of conscience orientation based on shame and guilt, its relationship to cultures, worldviews, and values, and its influence on the perception and management of conflicts. However, Mano Emmanuel not only bases her research on the social sciences but also on the Bible. This comparative approach permits the author to arrive at practical conclusions and make detailed recommendations for conflict resolution in a shame-oriented culture.

Dr. Hannes Wiher
Professor of Missiology,
Faculté Libre de Théologie Évangélique, Vaux-sur-Seine, France
Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, France
Université Shalom de Bunia, Bunia, Congo, DRC

Table of Contents

  1. List of Figures
  2. List of Tables
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Abstract
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    1. Overview
    2. Purpose Statement
    3. Research Question
    4. Significance of the Study
    5. Assumptions
    6. Research Methodology
    7. Definition of Terms
    8. Delimitations
  6. Chapter 2 Honor and Shame in Culture
    1. Culture, Worldviews, Shame, and Honor
      1. Defining Culture
      2. Culture and Worldview
      3. Cultural Values and Norms
    2. Understanding Guilt and Shame Cultures
      1. Defining Shame
      2. Defining Honor
    3. Characteristics of Shame-Oriented Cultures
      1. Dynamics of Shame
      2. The Dynamics of Honor
      3. Summary
    4. Dynamics of Conflict in Guilt and Shame-Oriented Cultures
    5. Conflict Resolution in Shame-Oriented Cultures
      1. Identity of Self and Group
      2. Style of Communication
      3. Conflict Resolution Style and Process
      4. Status and Power Distance
      5. Relativistic Morality
      6. Extreme Reactions to Being Shamed
      7. Summary
    6. Positive Aspects of Shame-Oriented Cultures
    7. <
      1. li>Catalyst for Transformation
      2. Desire for Harmony
    8. Conceptual Framework
  7. Chapter 3 Field Research Design and Implementation
    1. Research Design Rationale
    2. Instrument Design Rationale
    3. Ethical Considerations
    4. Data Collection Procedures
      1. Sampling Rationale
      2. Interview Protocol
      3. Case Studies
      4. Table of Characteristics
    5. Data Analysis Procedures
  8. Chapter 4 Field Research Findings
    1. Cultural Characterization
      1. Sri Lanka’s People, History, and Religions
      2. Basic Collectivistic Values
      3. Values Directly Related to Conflict Resolution
    2. Field Research Findings: Interviews
      1. Source Demographics
      2. Main Causes of Conflict in the Church
      3. Shame-Oriented Dynamics of Interpersonal Conflict
      4. Application of Christian Faith to Conflict
      5. The Role of the Church
    3. Field Research Findings: Case Studies
      1. Goal of Conflict Resolution
      2. Identity of Self and Group
      3. Style of Communication
      4. Conflict Resolution Style
      5. Status and Power Distance
      6. Relativistic Morality
      7. Extreme Reactions
    4. New Insights from Field Research
      1. The Fragile Nature of Identity
      2. Trust Can Be Fostered with Time and Intentionality
      3. Low Value of Relationships
      4. Differing Cultural Norms
      5. A Neglected Topic in Church
      6. Lack of Recourse to Bible or Prayer
  9. Chapter 5 Interpersonal Conflict in the New Testament
    1. Honor and Shame in New Testament Culture
    2. Direct Approach to Conflict among Church Members
      1. If Your Brother Sins (Against You)
      2. Go and Point Out Their Fault, Just between the Two of You
      3. If He Listens You Have Won Back Your Brother
      4. But If He Does Not Listen Take Witnesses
      5. If They Still Refuse to Listen, Tell It to the Church
      6. If They Refuse to Listen, Treat Them as You Would a Pagan or a Tax Collector
      7. Hand This Man Over to Satan (1 Cor 5:1–5, 6–13)
    3. Direct Approach to Conflict among Leaders
      1. Rebuke False and Divisive Teachers
      2. Challenge an Erring Leader
      3. Rebuke an Elder Publicly
    4. Lessons from Community Conflicts
      1. Acts 6 – Inter-ethnic Conflict
      2. Acts 15 – Doctrinal Conflict
    5. Lessons from Interpersonal Conflicts
      1. Euodia and Synteche
      2. Peter and Jesus
      3. Paul and Barnabas
      4. Philemon and Onesimus
      5. Overall Attitude Toward Those Who Need Correcting
      6. Values and Virtues for Honor
      7. Summary
  10. Chapter 6 Recommendations and Conclusions
    1. Major Discoveries Emerging from the Study
    2. Recommendations for the Church
      1. Goal of Conflict Resolution
      2. Identity of Self and Others
      3. Style of Communication
      4. Conflict Style
      5. Status Orientation
      6. Relativistic Morality
      7. Extreme Reactions
    3. Using Positive Aspects of Shame
    4. Theological Resources
      1. Re-envisioning the Cross
      2. Redefining “Honorable” and “Shameful”
    5. Recommendations for Further Study
    6. Conclusion
  11. Appendix A Integrated Basic Values Model
  12. Appendix B Interview Protocol
  13. Appendix C Table of Characteristics
  14. Appendix D Case Summaries Compared
  15. Appendix E Case Studies
  16. Bibliography

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