Monday, 21 July 2008

Lambeth Conference – Indaba – the process

At the heart of this Lambeth Conference is Indaba. Indaba is a Zulu word for a gathering for purposeful discussion. It’s both a method of engagement and a process, and offers a way of mutual listening concerning challenges that face the Anglican Communion.

Each Indaba group - fifteen in all - will nominate one of their group to carry the views and the fruit of their discussion into the reflections process. Their ‘listener’ will join a Listening Group whose task will be to generate a common text which authentically reflects the Indaba. On four occasions the Listening Group will meet in open sessions where the bishops can comment on the developing text. The hope is that every bishop attending the conference will be given the opportunity to shape the reflections from what emerges.

I’m taken with this approach and find it helpfully expressed in this statement: ‘The thinking behind this is that in Indaba, we must be aware of these challenges (issues) without immediately trying to resolve them one way or the other. We meet and converse, ensuring that everyone has a voice, and contributes (in our case, praying that it might be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) and that the issues at hand are fully defined and understood by all.

The purpose of the discussion is to find out the deeper convergences that might hold people together in difference and come to a deeper understanding of the topic or issues discussed. This will be achieved by seeking to understand exactly the thinking behind positions other than our own.’

Bishop Alan makes these useful reflections:
Indaba demands full participation
Indaba is an emergent process
Indaba is driven by trust
Indaba requires working space
Indaba is an expression of respect
Indaba is an expression of faith
There’s a real world out there, far more important to God than Ecclesiastical navel gazing.

I’ve been inspired and influenced by the Mennonites, Bridge Builder approach to peace making and in particular conflict resolution, and the similarities are apparent. Bridge Builder’s premise is that conflict is natural. The challenge is how we handle it and learn to live with difference. And listening, deep listening, is crucial. And our Baptist ecclesiology, with its emphasis upon the gathered community discerning the mind of God through listening to one another in the presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, also finds resonance in the process.

Now for the experience.

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