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Anglicans from three dioceses gather for talks

By Carolyn Purden

At the end of May, 16 Anglicans — eight from Jamaica and eight from Hong Kong — are coming to the Diocese of Toronto to participate with eight local Anglicans in the Continuing Indaba Process. Organized by the Anglican Communion Office in London, England, the indaba process encourages deeply listening to one another to understand how and why decisions are made.

Groups of dioceses from across the Communion have been invited to gather together to learn from one another. As the delegations from Jamaica and Hong Kong arrive in Toronto on May 30 for eight days of talks, other dioceses from around the world will also be meeting in groups of three or four to hold discussions. There will be five of these groupings all together, and the Diocese of Toronto is the only Canadian diocese involved in these first experimental gatherings.

The local Anglicans participating are Canon Robert Falby, the Rev. Canon Stephen Fields, the Rev. Dan Graves, Christian Harvey, Suzanne Lawson, the Rev. Heather McCance,Bishop Linda Nicholls, and Peter Tovell. Among the topics for discussion are youth alienation , cultural and religious differences around homosexuality, and social justice advocacy.

The agenda for the meeting is still being planned, but the three groups will initially meet at St. John’s Convent in Toronto from Monday to Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, June 2, each local member will take one from Jamaica and one from Hong Kong to their own parish, where they will be billeted until Sunday afternoon.

Following Sunday worship, the delegations will return to the city, where a facilitator will help them draw together what they have experienced.

“The indaba process is meant to immerse the participants in the life of the diocese, so they understand the context in which we make decisions as we make them,” explains Bishop Nicholls.

In a diocese as diversified as Toronto, this is a significant task, she adds. “The cultural experience of Canada in the context of Toronto and in the context of the Diocese of Toronto is what we’re going to have to try to convey to our partners from Jamaica and Hong Kong,” she adds.

There will also be sensitivities, she says, and it will be important while showing the city’s attitude toward homosexuality not to push the visiting delegates past their comfort level.

“It’s important not to force anything but to allow things to emerge,” says Bishop Nicholls. “We don’t want people to be so uncomfortable that it’s not possible to be part of the conversation.”

The indaba process will continue in September, when Anglicans from Toronto and Jamaica meet in Hong Kong for eight days, and in February 2012, when Jamaica will be the host. At the end of that gathering, there will be a three-day meeting with facilitators of the Anglican Communion Office for a debriefing on the entire indaba experience.

The indaba process was introduced at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and Bishop Nicholls knows from experience that it can be a painful and difficult process. But, she adds, listening is the only way to really begin to understand one another, and the deep listening that comes from living together is part of that.