Saturday, 17 December 2016


Whilst there is much that we hold in common, we cannot deny the presence of dividing factors within the church, and what to do about that is a frequent and large question.  Categories are always dangerous and difficult, and there are many who try to avoid them.  However, to use such a stance as a means of avoiding the challenge of dealing with the disagreement is ultimately helpful.  It is far better to embrace the difference, but to discover ways of doing so creatively. 

Groves and Jones suggest:

Good and loving disagreement is a potential gift to a world of bitter and divisive conflict. What can be more radical than to disagree well, not by abandoning principle and truth, but by affirming it with respect? Acting on it and yet continuing to love those who have a different view?[1]


Living Reconciliation does not mean putting aside our beliefs. It means something far more threatening; it means recognising that the person you believe to be completely wrong on some issue of significance is on a journey with Christ and with you. It means trusting God together and not seeking to overwhelm the person with the force of your argument. It does mean being open to change, but to a change of heart and a desire to understand more fully your own walk with Christ.[2]

The work by Groves and Jones on living reconciliation originates in a project within the Anglican Communion initiated by Archbishop Justin Welby.  The ‘Continuing Indaba’ process is a form of consensus, but involving a deep degree of commitment to walk together, even when that is difficult and differing perspectives threaten to overwhelm the process.  Fundamental to it is the building of relationship.  It is fairly easy to demonise an idea or a concept with which we disagree, but far more difficult to totally reject the person who has become my friend, but who I now discover holds that view that I have been considering untenable.  As Welby himself says:

Entering conversation on areas of deep disagreement is not safe, for anyone.  There is risk and vulnerability.  A safe space is one where this cost is recognised and the space is entered and used respectfully.  Diversity and difference cannot be wished away, even when their breadth makes us uncomfortable and at times unsafe.[3]

We need to find ways of walking together that, at times, will allow us to hold diametrically opposed views with integrity.  That is good disagreement.

Continuing Indaba is a Zulu concept.  It begins with the establishment, and building up, of relationship.  It is not something to be hurried, and includes worshipping and studying the Scriptures together.  Often Indaba has simply meant a gathering or meeting, but what is crucial is a willingness to listen. 

John Mark Oduor uses the similar Kenyan concept of Baraza to describe the kind of approach to encounter that is needed when we are faced with dealing with disagreement.  He uses the notion of our dancing to the drumbeat.  Problems emerge when we start dancing to the wrong drumbeat. 

[1] Phil Groves & Angharad Parry Jones, Living Reconciliation, SPCK, 2014.
[2] Groves and Jones.
[3] Justin Welby in Preface to Groves and Jones.

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