It is a fractious time in the life of the Anglican church, both in Canada and in the world, but even as the Communion struggles to overcome pernicious divisions over issues such as human sexuality or the ordination of women, it is also turning to the tradition of the scriptures and the indigenous wisdom of its diverse membership to find potential ways forward.
Living Reconciliation, a new book published jointly by SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) in the U.K. and Forward Movement in North America, tries to use the resources that exist within the church to explore more peaceful ways of handling disagreement.
The authors, the Rev. Canon Phil Groves, director of Continuing Indaba for the Anglican Communion, and Angharad Jones, former communications and resource manager for Continuing Indaba, understand reconciliation to be one of the foundational principles of Christian doctrine. The Christian story, they suggest, is fundamentally about how God reconciles his people to himself through Christ, which means that a faithful response to this story must be one that places reconciliation at the heart of Christian ministry.
Living Reconciliation is not, however, an academic look at the function of reconciliation in the Christian tradition. The book is meant to help individuals, parishes and communities as they try to learn how to walk together in difference. Divided into eight chapters, it uses examples from the scriptures and the stories of the faithful to illustrate different ways in which reconciliation can be lived out. It is very much rooted in the process of Continuing Indaba, an initiative of the Anglican Communion that seeks to build stronger relationships between members of the Communion, energize mission and enable better communication across differences.
Bishop Sue Moxley, the former bishop of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island who is currently serving as convenor of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, has been involved in the project from the very beginning, and spoke to the Anglican Journal about the book’s “timeliness.”
“I think it is a resource we really need at this point,” she said. “We sent out a survey asking what people are doing about reconciliation, and what people are doing to follow up on the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions…We’ve had 20 or so responses back, and basically people are saying, ‘We know we need to do something about it, we just don’t know how to start.’ ”
Moxley said that the reconciliation process advocated by the book has arisen from the experiences of Anglicans working to hear each other and find common ground.
“The stories are from places or groups of people who had a serious difference of opinion about sexuality, and they sat down to use the listening process…and to do that in a way that they were building a relationship that says we respect each other’s differences of opinion. We’ve made huge progress by using that process.”
The book can be purchased online through living-reconciliation.org. A free study guide and supporting videos can be found on the website as well.