This issue of the Anglican Theological Review is a work of collaboration with Trinity Institute's 2006 annual conference titled "The Anatomy of Reconciliation." The two lead essays of this issue were presented at the conference and the third was presented at a follow-up event in the summer of 2006.
It is no surprise, in our present context, that reconciliation was the chosen theme for Trinity Institute, and that it seems urgent to sustain this theme in the ATR. Polarization in our church, in American culture, and globally are the open wounds of our day. These are social and systemic divisions beyond our personal agency. One may wonder how we, as persons, can affect the deep resentments festering in the Anglican Communion, the differences in political visions empowering some and disenfranchising others, or the perceptions of Western imperialism and Islamic terrorism shaping policy and determining the future. How are we to effect change in environmental practices which today express alienation in the relationships of self, public life, and natural world?
These essays do not begin with the social-systemic symptoms of our brokenness. Rather, the implicit assumption in each seems to be that attention to the dynamics in personal relationships is the place to begin. In personal conflicts we find elements analogous to those at work in larger scales of conflict. And we may discover the mutual informing which occurs between persons and systems. There is no domain untouched by the need for reconciliation.
Reconciliation is a central goal of moral life and relationship once one is drawn into the vision of God's creative and purposive action of uniting all things in Christ. But in the conditions of nature and history, we find the path toward reconciliation complex and difficult. It involves a change of heart, serious self-examination, the painful task of breaking habits of action in our relations and establishing new ones, and letting go of false certainties. As William Temple states, it is all part of the movement from self as the center of value to a God-centered life. We recognize what is at stake but this makes the quest for healing and renewal of relationship no less wrenching.
From various angles our authors write about reconciliation, drawing on theological wisdom, insight from depth psychology, and years of experience in mission and ecumenical relations. The essays are varied but complementary.
James Alison, known for his theological treatment of René Girard, centers on the transformation of one's orientation which comes with resurrection hope. Through stories, he invites the reader to imagine reality outside the constraints of lifelong habits and perceptions of scarcity and conformity that lead us into relationship of rivalry and alienation. Faith in God's resurrection of Jesus from the dead is itself the radical re-orientation-the recognition of God's grace and abundance-that constitutes the deeper reality beyond our finite personal and socially constructed perspectives. Thus, reconciliation in the Christian context springs from renewal of heart and mind by the radical grace represented in the resurrection. There is no power to break down deeply entrenched aggressiveness and self-concern except exposure to grace and imitation of the way where it leads. The hope in things made new, the transformation of human desire, and the life and ministry of reconciliation all begin in this fundamental recognition of God's abundance and its power to re-orient our lives.
Miroslav Volf includes the reader in his memory of a personal experience of persecution and humiliation suffered in his youth in the former Yugoslavia. He examines with breathtaking honesty and detail the emotional and relational entanglements he discovers in this victim-perpetrator relationship. How will relationship with one's former oppressor, in his case a military office from whom he could not escape, be restored? Volf presses this central question with relentless realism, leaving no aspect of this memory hidden from view, nor condition of relationship unexamined. …