There is an acrimonious climate in the Anglican Communion and opinions differ about precisely why and how the relationship was damaged. Many factors contributed, including the formation of the Anglican Mission in the American Anglican Council in the United States, the irregular consecration of bishops in Singapore and Colorado, and many other actions that widened the schism. In 2003, the Consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop in the U.S. and the decision to bless same-sex marriages in the Diocese of New Westminster were seen as deeply divisive by some in the church.
Archbishop and Mrs Colin Johnson’s official visit to the Church of Uganda, accompanied by Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa. Welcome in some dioceses, shunned by others.
(May) Archbishop Johnson sends Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa to several African provinces to visit several dioceses with a message of friendship and a desire to begin a conversation in spite of the hostile climate in the Anglican Communion.
(July) Archbishop Johnson hosts a fringe event at the 2008 Lambeth Conference at which more than a dozen African bishops meet with a group of Canadian bishops, to share stories of mission challenges and triumphs. An invitation is extended and several African bishops agreed to start a theological dialogue between Canadian and African dioceses on the subject of human sexuality.
Groups of theologians in nine Canadian and African dioceses begin exchanging reflections on the subject of human sexuality. The conversation assumes a debate format with little chance of coming to agreement. Bishop John Chapman suggests a meeting of the bishops of the diocese involved in the conversation. A tentative model is developed for an ongoing consultation of bishops whose dioceses were involved.
The Anglican Consultative Council approves a proposal for the Continuing Indaba Process, designed to bring about the healing of relations within the Anglican Communion. The ACC directs the Anglican Communion Office to implement the process. Phil Groves takes up this responsibility.
The Communion Office consults about the Canadian initiative. Phil Groves and Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa spend considerable time exchanging ideas and discussing models including the possibility of incorporating the Canadian initiative into the Continuing Indaba. In the end (partly because the Canadian initiative was ready to go and was on a considerably much smaller scale) the two processes would develop separately.
The Canadian process is named the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue.
The first Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue is held in the Communion Office, London UK. There is a great deal of apprehension on all sides at the beginning. But the story-telling, story-sharing model of the process quickly brings the group together. The bishops begin to recognize that they are all called to the same mission but in different contexts and that they all had in common a commitment and faithfulness to their calling. We meet briefly with Archbishop Rowan Williams.
The following were the key observations the group named for itself:
- The need for joint theological reflection
- The need for continuing dialogue
- Listened – engaged in holy listening
- Learned better one another’s contexts, in terms of mission priorities and their decision-making processes.
- Linking with the Continuing Indaba process
The group agrees 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, is about bringing different conversation groups (that spontaneously developed after Lambeth 2008) to come together and share experiences in cross-cultural engagement in a climate of hostility with the Anglican Communion. At least two other conversation groups join the consultation. There is further recognition that there is a positive shift in relations within the Anglican Communion. Participants emphasize the importance of continuing conversations like this one. They agree to meet again, this time in North America as a gesture of the continuing healing of relations.
The bishops release “A Testimony of Grace” to the wider church and issue a press release about their experience.
The third Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue takes place, in Pickering, close to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They issue a statement, “A Sacrament of Love: Our Continuing Testimony of Grace.”
The fourth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue takes place in Cape Town, South Africa. Reconciliation emerges as an important guiding theme for reflection and discussion. A Testimony of Hope was issued.
The fifth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue takes 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. The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the Consultation. 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 takes 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.
The seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue takes place in Accra, Ghana, an important hub in the 19th century Atlantic slave trade. The Consultation will study the traditional Ghanaian concept of Sankofa in continuing to reflect upon and testify to God’s reconciliation. The Consultation was introduced, by the Most Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante, to Sankofa: “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.
The Eighth Consultation is hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, June 14-18, 2017. Canon Francis Omondi introduces the concept of Haraambe, “to pull up together, join hands to build up, especially in times of community need when resources are scarce.” It arose at a time of political and social fragmentation in Kenya. The 22 bishops present consider the cumulative experience of this Consultation and offer A Testimony of Mutual Commitment and Pulling Together – Haraambe declaring their intent on deeper dialogue through:
- Faithful courage to trust and share
- Work in smaller groups for better sharing and greater personal contacts between meetings.
- Personal testimonies so a greater breadth and depth of beliefs and opinions are heard
- Deeper exploration into our different contexts and how context shapes theology, leadership and ministry
- Engagement with local parishes and communities
The Ninth Consultation of Bishops in Dialogue gathers in London, Ontario, Canada to ponder how this Consultation and all that is done in the church helps join God’s yearning for reconciliation. Dr. Todd Townshend provides theological reflection on how sharing the Christian narrative through words, actions, and silence, must lead to new revelations of God. 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.
The Tenth Consultation of Bishops in Dialogue meets in Liverpool, England, the third leg of the infamous Triangle of Despair of the slave trade (see Richmond and Ghana, above). With a theme on “Human Freedom in Jesus Christ”, reconciliation is again a focus along with principles for intercultural dialogue. We spend part of a day with Archbishop Justin Welby. The Rev. Dr. Robert Heany provides theological reflection on unity, authority and ecclesiology in a post-colonial Anglican context as the bishops prepare for Lambeth 2020. He proposes that grappling with diversity and resistance to uniformity have always been core elements of Anglican experience.