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Anglican Primates: My Appreciative Way Perspective on the Conflict

Posted: January 27, 2016 by Rob Voyle

What are we to do about the Anglican Communion and our current conflict?

An appreciative perspective on conflict and collaboration.

For the past couple of weeks the news, social media, and church conversations
have been flooded with opinion and rhetoric about what the Anglican primates did
and didn't do, can and can't do etc. etc.

What has been missing in all the conversation is any practical understanding of
what to do next. Most of the conversation has been focused on who was wrong and
who was right. And trying to convince others that they are right while others
are wrong. The consequence is that both sides are more embittered and hardened
in their position.

One of the things that saddens me most about all church conflict is the level of
vitriol and hate that quickly arises on both sides, and the utter abandonment of
the core values and practices of what it means to be a Christian. And I am left
with the awareness that we really have little to offer a conflicted world, other
than adding our own conflict.

And so for the past couple of weeks I have been pondering, as a consultant, what
would I do to facilitate healing and reconciliation. What do I have to offer as
a follower of Jesus who is walking the Appreciative Way.

I view conflict as the result of competition for resources to live a sustainable
life. These resources may be material, but also include emotional resources such
as respect, acceptance, community, identity, love and also spiritual resources
such as a sense of purpose and an understanding of the nature of life and
existence that can control existential anxiety and dread.

I use an adaptation of Gregory Bateson's logical levels of learning to
understand how these physical, emotional, and spiritual resources are related
and impact each other. Not all resources are created equally just as not all
conflicts are created equally. The model also offers a way to understand the
role of anxiety in fueling conflict and the strategies required to resolve it.

I have posted a brief article: From Conflict to Collaboration on my website which you can download. It describes both the
nature of resources and conflict and also provides strategies to achieve

How would I use the model to create a strategy for transformation.

From my perspective the conflict in the Anglican communion is in the realm of
identity, the purpose of the communion, and the nature of God. These types of
conflict can only be resolved by divine intervention, such as Saul's experience
on the Damascus road. Every revival begins with a fresh understanding of the
nature of God.

Without transformed awareness all attempts at conflict resolution will be egos
grinding on egos. Typically in the midst of conflict we are not interested in
listening to God because we are too interested in telling other people what we
believe God thinks. Bible Studies and conversation are just opportunities to
convince people we are right and they are wrong.

The solution to such conflict is to return to the core charism or resource of
the denomination.

The core charism of Anglicans is common prayer, not common dialogue, not common
conversation, not common Bible Study, but Common Prayer!

In the light of common prayer I think it is time for the Primates

to stop talking to each other,
to stop listening to each other,

and start being in each others presence and the presence of God.

When we can't agree on words and their meaning then we need to be silent in the
presence of the One who is beyond words.

I wonder what God would have done if the primates had simply got together for
three days and:

Shared Eucharist from one of the prayerbooks of our communion
Ate together in silence
Shared morning prayer from another of our prayerbooks.
Sat in silence together
Shared noon day prayer
Ate together in silence
Did a walking meditation in silence
Sat in silence
Shared evening prayer
Ate together in silence
Sat in silence
Shared compline
And slept in the peace that comes from knowing it was never our church but

I wonder not what the Primates would end up doing after three day but what God
would have done in their hearts.

And I wonder what would happen to us if we surrendered our desire to change
others into the silence and simply beheld them in the light of God's Love.

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. I am still on my mission to "Teach the World How to Forgive" and am looking
for congregations to host one-day clergy and counselor training and one day
healing retreats. Please let me know if you would be interested in hosting a

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

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