Therefore, if you have disputes…appoint as judges (arbitrators) even men of little account in the church!–I corinthians 6:4
Arbitration is a voluntary* method of dispute resolution in which the parties present their contending positions on an issue or issues to an impartial arbitrator they choose to decide the matter for them. Peace Advocates serving as arbitrators do not engage the parties directly to facilitate a negotiated outcome. Instead, arbitrators serve as private judges who conduct private hearings — governed throughout by applicable biblical principles—in which the parties present evidence and witness testimony. Based on the facts presented, the arbitrator decides all issues submitted by the parties. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on the parties, enforceable in a court of law and generally not subject to appeal. An arbitration often follows a mediation in which the parties were unable to resolve all disputed issues.
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Sometimes, Christians simply need someone to make the determination as to how the matter should be finally resolved so they can put the matter behind them and get back to the life of ministry to which they have been called. In these types of situations, arbitration is the appropriate method to consider. Arbitration is about rights, responsibilities and justice. Arbitration may produce outcomes that promote spiritual maturity, edify the Christian Community, and glorify God, but it does not have the same potential to do so as does mediation.
Arbitration is always final. Arbitration results in a final and binding outcome with which the parties must live. An Arbitrator generally has the authority to grant any remedy or relief that the arbitrator deems to be just and equitable so long as it falls inside the scope of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate. The arbitrator’s decision is also final and binding and may be entered as a judgment in a court of competent jurisdiction. Arbitration awards are not generally subject to appeal.
Arbitration is usually cheaper and faster than going to court, but it can still be expensive. Arbitrators control the amount of time spent in arbitrations. They have extremely broad, discretionary power to manage the process as they see fit. This includes the authority to determine how much time parties will be given to prepare, whether a preliminary hearing will be held, the date and time of the evidentiary hearing, how many days the hearing will last and whether requests to postpone the hearing will be allowed. Second, arbitrators generally charge an hourly fee for all time spent on a case, although some charge a daily rate. Arbitrator compensation varies, but in cases with especially thorny, complex issues or involving multiple parties, it can be significant. However, well-trained, conscientious arbitrators who diligently work to efficiently resolve the disputes before them help keep the total cost of the process reasonable. Christians can proactively reduce the cost of arbitration by carefully crafting the agreement that commits them to use arbitration.
Compared to litigation, arbitration is more informal and flexible and, therefore, is often less stressful. The emotional toll in arbitration can, however, be quite high, especially if the material issues are particularly contentious or if personal issues such as integrity, honesty, competency, and decision-making are involved. Even when such issues are not central to the dispute or conflict, the hearing can be emotionally draining for the participants if their case presentations are extremely adversarial.