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PROGRESS

My last chemo session a month ago lasted fourteen hours. I kept rejecting Rituxin and breaking out in hives. My breathing was affected and I had pain in my arms and shoulders. The next three weeks were also rather dreadful. For over two weeks I had a constant fever, neuropathy in my feet and hands, pain in my legs and arms and terrible weakness.

When Pat and I went to the Cancer Center last Wednesday for my next chemo, I was filled with dread about the process and the follow-up. My blood was drawn and an IV put in my left arm and off we staggered to see the oncologist.

Dr. Craig came into the room with a smile on his face. He has a wonderful “bedside manner” and sense of humor as well as being very bright and in touch with the latest developments. I am one of two of his patients with this rare cancer. He has just lost his mother to cancer and has been much on our thoughts and prayers.

He announced that he thought I had been beaten up enough during the past six months. My labs continue to be good -although not entirely perfect – as total remission is rare with this cancer, and that he was not going to give me chemo on that day.

He told me that I would have blood work done in two weeks to monitor me but that I should concentrate on getting stronger and fitter. He will see me in July. If I have regressed I’ll be given a different “poison” given over a period of four days, one with mild side-effects. It’s worst feature is that it depresses the immune system and often results in shingles. Ugh. If I remain stable he will merely check on me at regular intervals. This is the normal life of someone with this cancer. People often live a productive life for years.

Thanks to the Church Pension Group I’m to be on disability for 52 days and can work up to 20% of a normal work life for a priest -I cynically said that many priests I’ve known work about that much normally – which means I can celebrate and keep on top of essential office work for instance.

The daughter and son-in-law of a parishioner in my former church. Trinity, Watertown, South Dakota are paying for Pat and me to fly to Maui at the end of this month. They are putting us up for three weeks in a beach-side condo and providing us with a rental car. I can’t believe it! This is so generous. Pat needs this break so much. She starts training to be an LPN in August and desperately needs a break.

I’m busy doing exercises, to the amazement of Mark, Philip, Abbey and Megan, our children. Mark has a thriving “extra-mural Anglican”parish,Philip is in construction, Abbey is changing jobs, and Megan is just back from Thailand and will begin graduate work in Oregon in 2008.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. I’ve never had so many birthday cards in my life, including one from the Presiding Bishop, a touching and pastoral gesture to this old rebel!

JUSTIFICATION OF SCHISM

I suppose that if one looks at Church history from this perch, at this particular moment, it seems inevitably to be a story of division upon division and some have read this to mean that there is an inevitability about the process or even that this is obviously God’s will. “If they could do it then, surely we can do it now?”

However two other realities factor in here. The first is that we have now the experience of nearly one hundred years of intentional ecumenism. In this process a number of documents have been received by participating churches which commit us to visions of the Church in unity and call us to repent that our forefathers and mothers lost sight of the vision as they pressed their own agenda, an agenda which was usually less in worth than the vision they abandoned for the sake of “truth”. It has also to be said that the political nature of the united church from which they split – Medieval “Roman” Catholicism was often as adept in obscuring the vision as those who went off on their own. Perhaps we may simplify both th Great Schism and the Reformation by saying they were revolts against the outward and visible sign obscuring the inward and visible grace by the inappropriate use of secular style power.

We are heirs of those who went off on their own for nationalistic, dynastic and incidentally theological reasons and yet, very early on in the process began to grieve for the loss of the “catholic” in much more than sacramental and ritualistic terms. Perhaps providentially long before the Ecumenical Movement emerged, our Communion and particular church therein were putting in place and offering to others elements of “catholicity” which have come to be believed as important building blocks for a united Church. The Lambeth Quadrilateral is one example of such offerings.

Secondly not all incidents of disunity and quarrels cited to justify contemporary disunity resulted in schism. Of course there are levels of disagreement. Our first “Anglican” Divines after the Reformation sought to distinguish between what Archbishop McAdoo termed the “Hapex”, things necessary to salvation which all should accept even if they debate about or express doubts about them, and “matter indifferent” which are not core doctrine, but may be doctrine or tradition of a lesser nature established often by particular churches and perhaps by authority. About these things there may be a certain compulsion, as in Canons or official Liturgy, but no absolute necessity to conform, although there may be consequences for nonconformity!!! Nowadays in our church offense against adiaphora may have much greater personal consequence than denying core doctrines!!

Nevertheless as the Church worldwide for the most part is committed to the vision of unity -may this not be “development” – contemplation of formal structural schism may be an offense against both core doctrine “that they may be one” and adiaphoric teaching expressed in such concepts as an acknowledgement that baptism, the eucharist and ordination belong to the whole church and in a real sense effect communion, structural and “spiritual” with the whole Church in heaven and on earth. I term the latter adiaphoric because there has always been place among us for those who could not embrace such a “catholic” vision of church and sacraments.

Seeking to spiritualise baptism and the eucharist and engaging in activity which denies that which these sacraments actualize is a denial of the Incarnation. To claim the unity vouchsafed by the Trinity through these sacraments and then to justify schism and active hostile disunity is surely sinful? To engage in controversy in a hostile and belligerent manner is unchristian. To take seriously our unhappy divisions and the current manifestations thereof and to engage in serious discussions in an attempt to find a way in which all may move forward is a vocation: I suggest, a painful vocation particularly if one acknowledges the personal investment one may have in the issue at hand, one way or another.

This is why I firmly believe that all of us have to embrace Calvary at this present time and accept the pain involved in offering our thoughts and issues, campaigns and plans together as we nail them on the Cross. If we are prepared to die and offer up our most cherished desires and convictions, trusting our Lord to kill them that they may rise again in a glorious manner and stun us in their beauty then we shall move forward in God’s will.. Unhappily most of us want to justify, to cling to and to idolize the very things which lead from peace to terror, the terror of a divided, bloodied Church.