- Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue 2008-2020 Participants by Province in Alphabetical Order
There is an acrimonious climate in the Anglican Communion. Opinions differ about why and how relationships have been damaged. Many factors contributed including the formation of the Anglican Mission in America (2000), the Anglican Network in Canada (2005), and the irregular consecration of bishops in Singapore and Colorado. The consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop in the USA (2003) and the decision to bless same-sex marriages in the Diocese of New Westminster (2003) were also deeply divisive.
Archbishop Colin Johnson makes an official visit to the Church of Uganda (2007), accompanied by his spouse and Canon Kawuki-Mukasa. The group was welcomed in some dioceses, shunned by others. Canon Kawuki-Mukasa travelled to several African provinces (2008) to visit dioceses with a message of friendship and a desire to begin conversation amidst Communion hostilities. Archbishop Johnson hosts a fringe event at the 2008 Lambeth Conference where more than a dozen African bishops meet with a small group of Canadian bishops, to share stories of mission challenges and triumphs. Several agreed to start theological dialogue (2009) between Canadian and African dioceses on the subject of human sexuality. Groups of theologians in nine Canadian and African dioceses begin an exchange of reflections. The conversation assumes a debate format with little chance of coming to agreement. Bishop John Chapman (Ottawa) suggests a less formal meeting of bishops for conversation. A tentative model is developed. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) approves (2009) a proposal for the Continuing Indaba Process, designed to bring about the healing of relations within the Communion. The ACC directs the Anglican Communion Office to implement the process. Canon Phil Groves takes up the responsibility. The Communion Office consults about the Canadian initiative. Phil Groves and Kawuki Mukasa exchange ideas and discuss models including the possibility of incorporating the Canadian initiative into the Continuing Indaba. In the end, the two processes would develop separately. The Canadian process was named the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue.
The first Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue was held in the Communion Office, London, England. There was much apprehension on all sides but the story-telling, story-sharing process quickly brought the group together. The bishops began to recognize they are called to the same mission but in different contexts, that all had in common a commitment and faithfulness to their calling. The group met briefly Rowan Williams, (then) Archbishop of Canterbury. There was agreement on the importance of theological reflection, continuing dialogue, holy listening and prayer. They learned about one another’s contexts in terms of mission priorities and about decision-making processes. They agreed their consultation was linked with the Continuing Indaba process. The group agreed to meet again after one year in Dar es Salaam. Developments at the All African Conference of Bishops in Entebbe, Uganda (organized by the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) affirm the value of continuing engagements within the Anglican Communion, like the Canadian initiative. African bishops reject a proposal to exit the Anglican Communion in order to form another entity anchored in African provinces.
The second Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, held in Dar es Salaam, brought together additional conversation groups following Lambeth 2008 to share stories of experience in cross-cultural engagement within the Anglican Communion. There was recognition of the importance of face-to-face discussions across different viewpoints and contexts. Participants acknowledged a positive shift in relations was beginning within the Anglican Communion. They agreed to meet again, in North America, toward the continued healing of relations. The bishops released “A Testimony of Grace” to the wider church and issued a press release about their experience.
The third Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue took place, in Pickering, close to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They issue a statement, “A Sacrament of Love: Our Continuing Testimony of Grace.” and produce a number of videos based on interviewswith participants. Bishops worshipped in local parishes on Sunday morning.
The fourth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue took place in Cape Town, South Africa. Reconciliation emerges as an important guiding theme for reflection and discussion. A Testimony of Hope was issued. It was agreed meeting local people and learning about local church ministry is invaluable for learning, dialogue, and reconciled relationship. Bishop worshipped in local parishes on Sunday and visited Townships’ ministries.
The fifth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue took place in Coventry, England, at the invitation of the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, one of the oldest religious-based centres of reconciliation in the world. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the gathering. A Testimony of Our Journey Toward Reconciliation was issued. Theological reflections on the testimony were later gathered and made available online as a resource to others.
The sixth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue took place in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was a focal point in the 19th century transatlantic slave trade comprising Britain, Ghana and the United States. The bishops issued A Testimony of Love: Bearing One Another’s Burdens. Theological reflections were again gathered and made available online. Bishops walked a portion of the historic slave trail, and visited the site of the largest slave market on the eastern seaboard in its day.
The seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue occurred in Accra, Ghana, a hub in the 19th century Atlantic slave trade. The Consultation studied the traditional Ghanaian concept of ‘sankofa’ in continuing to reflect upon and testify to God’s reconciliation – “that we must constantly monitor the present by going back to our roots in order to move forward.” In A Testimony of Unity in Diversity the bishops commended the lens of sankofa so that in the power of Christ our past informs our present and brings hope to our future. Bishops worshipped on Sunday morning in local parishes and visited the Cape Coast Slave Castle and diocese of Cape Coast Cathedral.
The eighth Consultation took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The Kenyan concept of ‘haraambe’ was introduced–‘to pull up together, joining hands to build up, especially in times of community need when resources are scarce.’ Haraambe arose at a time of great political and social fragmentation in Kenya. The bishops offer A Testimony of Mutual Commitment and Pulling Together – Haraambe. They declared their intent on deeper dialogue through faithful courage to trust and share, work in smaller groups, greater personal contacts between meetings, personal testimonies, deeper exploration into how context shapes theology, leadership and ministry, and engagement with local parishes and communities. Bishops worshipped on Sunday morning with local parishes, and visited a local wild game sanctuary.
The ninth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue gathered in London, Ontario, Canada to consider how this dialogue has contributed to God’s yearning for reconciliation –‘the focus, the true end of words today is reconciliation, a core ‘thesis statement’ of the New Testament. The bishops publish A Testimony of Constancy in Faith, Hope and Love, and worshipped on Sunday with local parishes.
The tenth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue met in Liverpool, England, the third hub of the infamous Triangle of Despair in the 19th century transatlantic slave trade. With the theme ‘Human Freedom in Jesus Christ’, reconciliation was again a focus along with principles for intercultural dialogue. Diversity and resistance to uniformity have always been core elements of Anglican experience. A number of presentations were made, including Living in Love and Faith. This initiative has helped the Church of England learn how human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture. Bishops met briefly with the Archbishop of Canterbury, worshipped in Liverpool Cathedral and visited local sights pertaining to the history of the slave trade and the global 20th century contributions of persons of African descent.
The eleventh and final Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue met in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Participants were introduced to the realities and challenges of Christian people and church mission in a predominantly Muslim island society, and to the history of Zanzibar in the east Africa slave trade from the 12th to 19th century. Bishops visited All Saints Anglican Cathedral, wherein the high altar rests over the site of the largest slave market on the African eastern seaboard in its day. The consultation reviewed and reflected upon the experiences of the past decade of meeting, listening, speaking, worshipping, breaking bread and sharing ministry together. Individual testimonies to learning, reconciliation, friendship and love in Christ were powerful and will resonate among participants and in the testimony to Lambeth for years to come. Video and text resources were reviewed for final preparations for Lambeth 2020, which was eventually postponed to 2021 because of the global pandemic by COVID-19.