Shared Conversations – Resources from around the Anglican Communion

One of the great strengths of Fulcrum is the breadth of vision from people with experience of the wider Anglican Communion. As the Church of England embraces ‘Facilitated Conversations’ as a new approach to difficult issues it is part of a great movement.

The last Anglican Consultative Council stood to applaud Continuing Indaba at its final session in Auckland 2013. The theology behind Indaba is a challenge to churches used to Western methods, but many churches around the world are embracing the change and finding new life in a new way of being.

There are two interconnected websites and one book that can help you get to grips with the theology that underpins the reconciliation agenda of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Living Reconciliation builds on a Foreword by the Archbishop and develops the great themes of reconciliation to offer a vision for the local and global church. This is a book for all Christians and it is accompanied by a Study Guide so it can be used in house groups. The book is backed up by a website with a growing number of resources.

The Continuing Indaba website offers greater depth and practical resources. You can go there to engage with theologians from around the Communion. If you want theology go to the Theological Reflection Series and find your way around. You will find a Kenyan theologian calling us to dance to a new drumbeat, a Chinese reflection on the value of harmony, and the dream of a Communion united as never before from Ghana. There is so much more.

Theologian after theologian consider conflict through the lens of the Scriptures and draw upon the cultural resources of their peoples. For many, civil war and internal strife is part of their life. They declare that in Christ there is another way. If the cross of Christ becomes the lens through which we see the world then we hope for a future of reconciliation. This reconciliation is between individuals and God, but it is also – according to the Ephesian vision - between human beings. We can declare that Christ broke down the walls that divide humanity.

Indaba is a Zulu word. It is the living out of the Ubuntu world view and contrasts with Western individualism. It is a challenge to the philosophical vision that we have assumed to be Christianity but is actually European philosophy that regards dominating power as the final end of all. Indaba takes seriously Max Warren's discovery that ‘only the whole world knows the whole truth’ and that partnership can offer a different vision of how power can be shared. It is the vision that inspired Andrew Walls to write his great essay ‘The Ephesian Moment.’

The Continuing Indaba website offers another resource. This is a step by step guide to using the process in your parish, deanery and diocese as well as how to apply the methods to stand alone events.

The underlying theme in all these resources is that Christ came into the world to reconcile us to God and to one another. In Christ we are one body and have one hope.


8 Responses to Shared Conversations – Resources from around the Anglican Communion

  1. Phil Groves November 4, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Phil – apologies for delay in reply.
    In answer to your question I would like to know what you think.
    When you read the papers do you understand the authors to share your key test of faith?
    For myself, I am fearful that your test is not sufficient. I would suggest that your key article of faith – we are all ‘facing God’s wrath and condemnation’ – in itself lacks hope. I would want to also consider that if Christ if for us who can be against us and that we are more than conquerors through him.
    I suspect that the Ubuntu is about as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

    • Phil Almond November 6, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      Phil Groves
      Just as a preliminary I would like to draw your attention to the first half of my post of 30 October 2014 at 11.16 am on the thread ‘The Progressive Evangelical Package’. This summarises my view on disagreements between those who regard themselves as Christians.

      You have stated that Indaba is the ‘living out of the Ubuntu world view’. Articles 1-18, 31, especially 2, 9, 10, 11,17 and 31, also set out a world view on the condition of man and the great work of salvation that God in his grace, love and mercy has worked out and is working out in those whom he has brought and is bringing to submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience and fear. I was trying to discover from you what common ground there is between these two world views. When I first came across the world view of the Articles it was a most traumatic, humbling and agonising experience, although out of it came an experiential conviction of the love of God. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I sense from your reply that you may be new to this whole controversy, so I am reluctant to continue this discussion until I am sure that you are really open to be challenged. Just three points in this post:
      1. When Paul writes, ‘What therefore shall we say to these things? If God on behalf of us, who against us?’, the ‘us’ are those whom he describers in verse 30 of the same chapter, whom God has foreordained, called, justified, glorified.
      2. What Paul means in 1 Corinthians 15:22 would be one of the things we might discuss.
      3. The emphasis of Indaba is reconciliation. But when it comes to the truths of Christianity there are some things where reconciliation is impossible. For instance, either all people are faced with the just wrath and condemnation of God merely by being born into a fallen race, or they are not. We can debate the strongest arguments for these two mutually exclusive alternatives and we may be persuaded that one view or the other is right and the other wrong, but the two views cannot be reconciled. And it is the same with the same-sex disagreement. Does the Indaba process leave open the possibility that we end up by disagreeing?

      I am sorry that I have not time to study the material you have pointed me to, I have will have to rely on your view if you care to give one. And I am unclear where your emphasis on ‘power’ fits into this.

      Phil Almond

  2. Phil Almond October 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Phil Groves – thanks for your reply. Perhaps I have misunderstood the paragraph from which I quoted, or did not frame my question in a clear way. Let me try again. I was trying to ask to what specific doctrines of the ‘philosophical vision that we have assumed to be Christianity’ the challenge of the Ubuntu world view is directed. Presumably this philosophical vision is some version of Christianity which we (who is the ‘we’?), wrongly in your view, assume to be Christianity, and it has some doctrines. What are those doctrines, please?

    Phil Almond

    • Phil Groves November 4, 2014 at 10:29 am #

      Sorry my last response was in reply to your other question – although I do hope that in reading the works referenced you may find the answer rather than through me.
      I am not sure it is doctrines that are questioned in quite the same way as you are putting them, but how we live together in the way of Christ. How does power work and how should it be experienced. Are our churches in Africa – as Mkunga Mtingele would argue – ordered in a way that reflects colonial culture? How could they better reflect the way of Christ and his doctrine of servant leadership? Does the way power work in the churches of the West (the we here) reflect our cultural values or the values of the Gospel?
      Read the articles and see what you think.

  3. Bowman Walton October 22, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    This is not quite wisdom, but it is experience of the experimental sort: those with the most polarised opinions about politics often underestimate their ignorance about the causation in the subject at hand.* Where the processes at the heart of a topic are only vaguely understood, stereotyped thinking divides us into the stereotypical camps.

    When that happens, then in reality, as in the lab, it can be helpful to ask the most opinionated to elaborate on their own assertions about causation. “You were saying just a minute ago that enforcing a no-fly zone in Northern Syria could contain both ISIS and our involvement. Please help us to visualise the steps by which the enforcement leads to the containment.” It’s not an unfriendly question to ask, and the answer is worth having. It allows the most partisan to discover their overconfidence for themselves, rather than through a challenge likely to be deflected. It opens group discussion to alternate scenarios how things might actually happen.

    Could discussing mechanisms also help discussions about religion? Probably not, when the discussions are purely about the senses and meanings of received texts. There is no causation there to discuss. Probably so, once the talk turns to things that happen or change in the observable world. These things have causes leading to effects. As it happens, the most contentious religious topics are often a blend of the two.

    Discussions of That Topic, for example, take up not only the senses and meanings of the Six Texts, but also the causes and effects of disoriented sexuality. “Sexual orientation is caused by biology, and there’s nothing that you can do about it, so it cannot be a sin.” “Same sex marriage will not only hurt the family but weaken the commitment to children of society at large.” In polarised discussions, these opinions tend to be taken on intuition by one side and discounted as absurd by the other. Yet we cannot conceive of any realistic consensus that has not thoroughly engaged both of them. When one thinks through the causal linkages they imply, moreover, more nuanced views of the whole topic can emerge.

    Would more nuanced views be a good thing? One could object, I suppose, that a whole palette of views is even less in agreement than two poles of opinion. And who is to say that the truth might not be at one of the extremes of debate? But the two poles in many disagreements in many cultures around the world are actually the same two poles over and over and over again– poles that reflect well-understood variations in human personality rather than the realities that we need to confront. That procrustean polarity is an artifact of human psychology, not reality- based thinking. When that is the root cause of our conflicts, then consensus will arrive, not by reconciling our extremes or adopting just one of them, but through the emergence of fresh insights at the centre that rearrange the field. Articulating the causal links in the stories that divide us is one way of helping those insights to surface.


  4. Phil Almond October 22, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    ‘Indaba is a Zulu word. It is the living out of the Ubuntu world view and contrasts with Western individualism. It is a challenge to the philosophical vision that we have assumed to be Christianity but is actually European philosophy that regards dominating power as the final end of all’.

    To what specific doctrines of ‘Western individualism’ and ‘dominating power’ is this challenge directed?

    Phil Almond

    • Phil Groves October 24, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Hi Phil. Dominating power is a phrase of Bertrand Russell in Power: A New Social Analysis this formed the starting point for Max Warren’s proposition of Partnership as an alternative. Dominating power is seen in the attractiveness of the ‘war on … ‘ narrative – whether that be on terror or drugs. it is the idea that there will be a dominant winner. Western structures of governance play to a myth of a win for one side over another. An alternative current is individualism. The idea that anything is acceptable so long as it does not affect anyone else. The Ubuntu understanding is communal, seeking a common way. Ephesians – as understood by Walls in his essay ‘The Ephesian Moment’ sums that up. The desire of the designers of the 2008 Lambeth Conference was for a new way reflecting alternative options. Victor Atta-Baffoe contrasts the 2 in The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality in his look at individualistic and communal world views (Chapter 5)

      • Phil Almond October 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

        Having thought some more about this I ask a sharper question, because when debating disagreements about faith and life among followers of Jesus Christ, whatever the process of debate, it is important to clarify, before the debate starts, what common ground exists.
        Does the Ubuntu world view include the conviction that because of the sin of Adam all human beings since then (with the sole exception of Jesus Christ) are born spiritually dead, guilty sinners, of their own nature inclined to evil, and facing God’s wrath and condemnation?

        Phil Almond

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