The ghastly Indabas return

by Andrew Carey, CEN

I had hoped that the ghastly invention of so-called ‘Indaba’ might have disappeared from the counsels of the Church with the
retirement of Rowan Williams. You will remember the system of ‘indaba’ at the last Lambeth Conference in which groups of about 20 bishops undertook a never-ending dialogue without seeking to reach a conclusion or make any decisions. And in the Anglican Communion more widely a process of ‘Continuing Indaba’ is under way.

At the Lambeth Conference the obsession with ‘Indaba’ meant that the entire emphasis was placed on having a ‘good’ process at the expense of decision-making and truthfulness. So-called Indaba disguised differences but did not ameliorate the divisions in the Anglican Communion merely making it easier to hide them under a veneer of civility.  Liberal western bishops felt good about
themselves because they were appropriating the consensus decision-making meetings of African villages. They ignored the
fact that genuine Indaba is about coming to a decisive conclusion.

In that sense the small groups operating at General Synod on Saturday at least had a purpose – to decide legislation on women
bishops which can carry assent through the General Synod process. But it’s difficult to see what these kinds of structured exercises in reconciliation actually achieve when the final decision-making is still enacted through an adversarial process of stand-ing orders, voting and politicking.

In fact, only 48 hours after these small groups a series of amendments intended to improve provision for traditionalist consciences were being voted down one by one. Speaker after speaker stood up to assure their opponents that they wanted them to be a full part of the Church while at the same time defeating every measure that might have given them some space for flourishing.

These sorts of small group-driven conversations, Indaba and attempts at reconciliation provide the illusion that a real conversation has taken place and people have listened to each other. In reality, they merely substitute process for truth-telling.

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