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November 27, 2013

Continuing Indaba Process and Terminology

by Admin

The theological hubs in East, West and Southern Africa displayed a clear understanding of Indaba in the context of African worldviews. There is different emphasis in different cultural contexts, but most African cultures emphasise community and prioritise relationships. It has been harder to explain the concept to Western audiences.

Other processes are more common in Western cultures. The most common is a parliamentary process of debate with decisions made by voting that brings clarity, but polarises opinion. Such processes have great value, but can be destructive in that they destroy diversity or set up an endless battle where a lost or won vote is only a stage to another victory of loss.

Here are some alternative processes:

Consensus Process

People with diverse views are enabled to find a consensus on areas of agreement (common ground) and disagreement.


  • The people may find that the common ground is so substantial that the difference is less significant than they thought.
  • It is especially good at clarifying areas where the different use of language has created perceptions of division.
  • Clarity is gained as to what the conflict is really about (e.g. it is actually about how we use scripture, how we hold tradition, our concept of culture, etc).


  • If the conflict is not regarded as insignificant, it leads you nowhere.
  • Once difference is clarified it lends itself to groups then defending their ground – reinforcing arguments.
    • It can be isolating for those who do not see significant common ground.

Conflict Mitigation

Building on consensus to emphasise agreement and isolate those who are extremists. This is the most common Anglican reaction understood as the ‘middle way.’


  • It is essentially rational carrying majority support
  • It is the best way to a parliamentary majority and can result in the passing of resolutions


  • Devalues those with passionate concerns.
  • Energises lobby groups focused on one issue.
    • Encourages the need to disrupt governance process.

Facilitated Conversation

This can mean many things, but then so can other titles. It is normally a conversation between two individuals and groups to enable them to resolve differences.  Philippians 4:2-3 is a typical facilitated conversation. It enables structure to change a dialogue from recrimination to mutual repentance and restores relationships.

Facilitated conversations are a significant part of conflict transformation.


  • Creates structure and enables listening in safe space.
  • Offers a way out from conflict without either party loosing face.
  • Enables repentance.
  • Can have a concrete result in a common statement.


  • Can imply that there are only two parties.
  • Rely heavily on the skills of the facilitator.
  • Require investment in facilitation and time.
    • Rely on the parties being ready to repent.


This is a negotiation between two significantly divided parties. It requires facilitation as often the two groups will not sit in the room together. It can be a consensus process in that differences are clarified, but often the two groups will not even be able to agree on what it is they are arguing about and will have a very firm but completely different description of the history that led them to where they are now.


  • Stops the escalation of violence – even verbal violence.
  • Enables a negotiated settlement and a peaceful separation.


  • Results in the construction of strong barriers – physical or metaphorical.
  • Results in permanent or semi-permanent division.
  • Is vulnerable to perceived infringements by either side in the future.
  • Places trust in legal frameworks and not in one another.


Conflict Transformation

Prioritises relationships, values the diversity and difference and is not frightened of healthy conflict within a community. Failed states are those that not accept deviation from an agreed line. According the Archbishop of Canterbury, failed churches are the same. This is the consistent core of Archbishop Justin’s reconciliation message.


  • Seeks to include all.
  • Achieves harmony while retaining diversity.
  • Treats people as individuals in communities and beaks down simple defining barriers.
  • Places the common good above being right.


  • Excludes those who want a single answer to a specific question.
  • Makes it difficult for the community to speak with clarity. (If the Anglican Communion is asked its view on marriage and divorce it does not have one – it has many. The same goes for the nature of the Sacraments).
    • Can become an interminable talking shop with no resolution.

Continuing Indaba

Continuing Indaba is best understood as a process of Conflict Transformation that incorporates the strengths of a Consensus Process and uses facilitated conversations. It seeks to enable honest conversations and so to avoid conflict mitigation. It is not a process of mediation.

The process begins with the establishment of relationships as a journey that can incorporate elements of consensus processes. Areas of agreement and disagreement are clarified as participants seek to learn the world views and language used.

However, it refuses to mitigate conflict and by prioritising relationships and celebrating diversity it holds to the key elements of conflict transformation. The creating of safe space for honest conversation allows genuine anger to be expressed within the family of Christ. It is a place where repentance can be present and attitudes can change without the requirement to conform to a unitary view. It is a place where diversity is still valued. It enables complexity of relationships to develop.

The incorporation of facilitated conversations enables conversation to move to planning for common action, without there always being unity on every aspect or issue. It engenders trust and leads on to a future journey.

Continuing Indaba – What is in a Name?

The name Continuing Indaba can be a cause of confusion as it is a word they are not familiar with. This page sets out why the name was chosen and then goes on to describe its basis in Scripture and the Anglican understanding of Church as Communion.

Why the name ‘Indaba’

The name ‘Indaba’ was chosen because it signifies a move from Western processes that have been associated with conflict mitigation and mediation to African processes of conflict transformation that are more in line with Pauline theology and successful models from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The term came into use in the planning of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and was adopted at the recommendation of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba as an alternative to polemical western style parliamentary debating that have no precedent in Scripture.

Archbishop Makgoba understands the principles of Indaba in this way:

  • Scripture speaks of us living as the Body of Christ, as one, but with many different members (1 Cor 12:12).

Indaba calls community members together to share news of developments or discuss concerns that affect the life of the community or individuals within it.

  • Scripture says that God has so arranged the body that the members may have ‘the same care for one another’ (1 Cor 12:25).

Indaba is predicated upon a strong sense of shared well-being, experienced on a reciprocal and mutually supportive basis.

  • Scripture says that when one part of the body suffers, ‘all suffer with it’ (1 Cor 12:26).

Indaba necessarily entails a degree of acknowledged interdependence, even vulnerability, towards one another.

  • Scripture says that the members of the body that are ‘weaker are indispensable’ (1 Cor 12:22).

Indaba says leaders must work for the well-being of the entire community, especially those in greatest need, and the ‘haves’ must provide for the ‘have nots.’

  • Scripture says that the less respectable should be treated with greater respect (1 Cor 12:23).

Indaba promotes an egalitarian ethos, in which everyone should be encouraged to grow into a productive and contributing member of the community.

  • Scripture says that to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).

Indaba says debate is conducted through everyone being allowed to have their say, contributing their own perspective, so that the fullest picture can be drawn, and from it an outcome that is as consensual, and as ‘win-win’ as possible, can emerge.

  • Scripture says that, notwithstanding all this diversity, when living as God intends, there need not, there should not, be dissension (1 Cor 12:25).

Continuing Indaba is based upon an understanding of church as a community in communion with the Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit, and so in communion with one another. This ecclesiology sees institution as an essential framework, but does not see institution as defining church. It understands the Christian faith to be a journey of following Christ as individuals in a community.

Indaba is a word that reflects Scriptural values and church as a communion with Christ and one another. For more on the name Continuing Indaba click here.

Read more from Indaba

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