As the Anglican Communion strives to find new resources for building unity and listening to one another across theological and cultural differences, leaders at General Seminary are participating in the Continuing Indaba project. Indaba is a Zulu word meaning a gathering for purposeful discussion. Common to many African ethnic groups, Indaba involves a process by which participants listen deeply to one another toward discovering new insight into a topic or issue and convergences that might hold people together across differences of opinion, experience, theological perspective, and cultural context. An Indaba acknowledges that there are issues needing attention in order to foster on-going life together, but that decisions and reconciliation of differences cannot happen until everyone has a voice. Through the Indaba process, the participants grow, learn and come to understand not only the topic for discussion, but also one another.
Kim Robey, Executive Assistant to the GTS President and Associate Dean, participated in the Anglican Communion's first three-day Indaba on March 1-3, 2013 in New York City. Linked to the 57th session of the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women, the Indaba gathering was also the first specifically designed for women and the first addressing a specific topic—violence against women and girls. Eleven women came from across North America and Africa's Great Lakes region to listen to one another tell of experiences of violence in their local contexts. Robey is a former Executive Director of Anglican Women's Empowerment and a former Program Officer for Women's Ministries for the national Episcopal Church.
The Women's Indaba helped the participants to learn more about violence against women and girls throughout the world, equipped them with new approaches for addressing violence in their local contexts, and deepened their sense of relationship and communion with one another. "We are already hoping to meet again soon in Africa," Robey said.
To learn more about the Women's Indaba, click here for a story from the Anglican Communion News Service.
The Women's Indaba was one of several kinds of Indaba envisioned for Phase Two of the Continuing Indaba Project. The first phase, following the 2008 Lambeth Conference, consisted of five Continuing Indaba Conversations throughout 2009-11. Each Conversation involved three dioceses from different Provinces in the Anglican Communion. Participants included the bishops of the dioceses and women and men, lay and ordained, who were actively engaged in local mission. The purpose was to encounter each other’s mission context and engage in facilitated Indaba conversations across difference.
The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk, current Chair of the GTS Board of Trustees, was one of the participating bishops. The Episcopal Diocese of New York, which Bp. Sisk served as diocesan bishop until his recent retirement, was linked with the dioceses of Derby in the Church of England and Mumbai in the Church of North India. Similarly, the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, who is co-teaching the course "Unapologetic Religion" this semester at GTS, also joined a Continuing Indaba conversation. Her diocese, El Camino Real, was partnered with the dioceses of Gloucester in the Church of England and Western Tanganyika in The Anglican Church of Tanzania. As part of the process, representatives from the linked dioceses met together in each diocese, often for more than week, to learn about the mission work and local culture of each and to deepen their relationships.
To read more about Phase One of the Continuing Indaba Project, click here for an Episcopal News Service story. To watch a video about the Indaba work of the dioceses of El Camino Real, Goucester and Western Tanganyika, click here.
Looking ahead, the vision of the Continuing Indaba Project is for the Indaba process to become more widely used throughout the Anglican Communion, both within and across dioceses, to foster unity, mutual respect and common purpose across differences.
For Robey, a seminary is an ideal setting for Indaba. "The seminaries of The Episcopal Church are already bringing together people from different local contexts and with varying theological perspectives," she said. "Indaba is a careful process that requires trained facilitators. But once we have more leaders who can do this work, we could invite students into the Indaba process, both to enrich their experience of community during seminary and so that they can take Indaba into their future ministries."