The origins of the Anglican Peacemaking Institutes

Alastair McKay

20 May 2019

I can date the origins of the API idea precisely to 29 May 2015. It was a Saturday morning. I had just woken up. I found that I had this fully formed idea in my mind. Over the next hour, I typed it up on a laptop, with some mind-mapping software. Although it’s been through modifications, looking back at those notes, the essential concept remains unchanged.

It’s no accident that, at the time, I was participating in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Virginia, USA. SPI is a summer school that’s been held at EMU for the past 25 years. It brings together participants from across the world, especially from situations of intense social conflict, to resource them for peacebuilding work. I first participated in 1998. And later returned to co-teach a couple of seminary courses linked to SPI – as I was doing in May 2015.

A vital ingredient of SPI was the relationship-building that happened outside the classroom. I therefore knew that the locations for any Anglican Peacemaking Institute would be important. A small campus-like setting where participants could mingle outside the formal training sessions; and where we could incorporate fun and gentle community-building activities. Small retreat centres are ideal. Hence, we’re using the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in London, and Launde Abbey in Leicestershire for the inaugural API in Europe in July 2020. And the College of the Transfiguration in South Africa for part of the inaugural African API in January 2021.

It was also no accident that I had stepped down from Bridge Builders earlier in 2015, after heading the service up for nearly 20 years. This meant I now had the space to envision something new. For several years, I had pondered how we might take what Bridge Builders had developed in the British Isles and offer something internationally. The plan for Anglican Peacemaking Institutes was what now emerged.

Why focus on Anglicans at this point? Two main reasons. First, in thinking about offering something across the globe, it helps to have a target group that limits the scope. The whole Christian community is too large and too disparate. The Anglican Communion is a pre-existing community which, despite its many differences, is held together by some unifying strands, most notably by being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Incorporating Anglican worship into the API programme is therefore one of the obvious ways to bring participants together from the outset.

A second reason is that I was preparing for ordination in the Church of England, in July 2015, and so I was investing myself more fully in the Anglican tradition. Thus, it made sense to focus on the community with which I was now most closely connected. At the same time, it’s the influence of the Mennonite tradition which has shaped my ideas about peacemaking. And it’s largely Mennonite trainers and mediators who have equipped me with the resources for helping others to learn about the practices, skills and processes that make for peace. That’s what I want to offer to Anglican Christians through the Anglican Peacemaking Institutes.

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