Continuing Indaba – solver of problems?

We had an interesting and important debate today about whether or not Continuing Indaba can be expected to resolve difficult issues.

Continuing Indaba is a means of developing honest conversation – honest conversation across difference. The ultimate purpose is to strengthen and enhance the mission of the church – energy expended in living with unresolved difference becomes available for mission.

But I don’t think that resolving issues can be a primary purpose. Indaba isn’t mediation. Nor is it debate. Nor about negotiating compromise. I believe that it is about giving primacy to relationships rather than to issues. Part of what has caused difficulties in the life of the Anglican Communion has been our habit of doing the opposite – attempting to deal with difficult issues without having invested time and goodwill in developing strong relationships of mutual respect and understanding. And many of the issues which we face are not resolvable by debate or by win/lose votes.

But of course we hope that Continuing Indaba will help us to reach a point of deep understanding of one another that it will become possible to address and resolve difficult issues.

It’s just that, if we burden Continuing Indaba with a primary responsibility for resolving difficult issues, we end up back where we started – giving primacy to issues and not to relationships.