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Spring 1990 · Vol. 19 No. 1 · pp. 133–34 

Book Review

Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict

Kenneth C. Haugk. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1988. 192 pages.

Reviewed by Marlin E. Thomas

Kenneth Haugk, pastor, clinical psychologist, and founder of Stephen Ministries for lay leaders, has done the church a great service in publishing this very important book.

Antagonists in the Church deals with defining, identifying, preventing, and dealing with those (primarily) personality-disordered persons who cause most of the grief in church conflict situations.

For purposes of this book, antagonists are identified as “individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others,” pp. 21-22.

Antagonists are divided into three different types, or levels. They are hard-core antagonists, major antagonists, and moderate antagonists. Hard-core antagonists are psychologically out of touch with reality, and cannot be dealt with by the traditional structures of the church. Moderate antagonists are negatively-oriented followers, and can be helped if they do not have a major antagonist to follow or a cause to defend. Major antagonists occur most frequently, and usually inflict more damage when disciplined than if left to themselves.

Much of the book deals with strategies for preventing overt antagonism from cropping up, and with managerial skills necessary {134} for dealing positively with expressed antagonism. Supportive relationships for church professionals are also discussed.

The next step, it would seem, would be to develop strategies for treating antagonists within the positive structures of a caring church. Such strategies should include relationships with specialists who could train, and assist pastors with the added stress relative to treating such persons. Also needed are techniques for using conflict creatively in bringing healing to personality-disordered persons within the context of the church, and educative and coping mechanisms for lay persons who must also deal with antagonists.

Marlin E. Thomas
Pastor, Ulysses Mennonite Brethren Church
Ulysses, Kansas

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