Adapted from Gavin Drake’s report for ACNS:
The Rev. Canon Phil Groves, who for the past 10 years has led the Anglican Communion’s Continuing Indaba conflict transformation and reconciliation ministry, is to leave his post at the end of July to return to parish ministry.
Groves will become associate rector in the Diocese of Oxford’s Wychert Vale Benefice, which combines the parishes of Haddenham, Stone with Dinton and Hartwell, Cuddington, Kingsey, and Aston Sandford.
“My wife needs me to stop traveling,” he joked as he explained why he was taking up his new role. “I have done 10-and-a-half years in the Anglican Communion Office and we need a new focus and a more settled part of life.” Groves said he has “missed not being part of parish evangelism and how we nurture and disciple people of all ages.”
Groves described the move as the fulfillment of “a real call to return to parish ministry” but said he will continue “writing and thinking on areas of reconciliation and conflict transformation,” in a parish as well as a global context. He hopes to continue serving as a member of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network.
“Phil has been an enormous asset and blessing not just to the Anglican Communion Office but across the Communion as a whole,” said the Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion. “His expertise and enthusiasm have been vital to the success of the Indaba project and have won him many friends around the world.”
Groves said the work of Continuing Indaba was not so much about creating safe spaces but leading people to dangerous places safely.
“It is like asking somebody to climb a mountain and offering them a rope so that if they fall off they are caught,” he said. “That is the safety we have been offering. We have been offering a route into a quite dangerous place.”
A frustrating aspect of the work was “when people become afraid and return to the safety that they know and go back to managing a conflict because in managing it it was okay.”
“Westerners are really good at managing conflict: our football grounds are well managed into segregated areas,” he said. “But the conflict isn’t transformed so that people of different football clubs can sit side by side and enjoy the competition. They still have to be kept apart.
“That is conflict management, but it isn’t conflict transformation.”
Through Continuing Indaba, Groves said, he had seen “with joy” the breaking down of barriers and walls when “people are prepared to make remarkable journeys to greet people who are perceived as enemies.”
“I have seen the excitement in people’s eyes in discovering how, when they read the Scriptures, they are reading the story of reconciliation,” he said. “And that in following that way, they can find reconciliation even in the hardest of contexts.”