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Hallo again to all.

There are verbal conflagrations throughout the Anglican Communion. Emotions are running high and threats are in the air. Lines are being drawn, walls are being built. Schism, an ugly word that few people pronounce correctly, is frequently hissed, snakelike. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this morning at York Minster with a policeman standing under the pulpit.

Schism in its classical definition is the setting of altar against altar. The first redrawing of Christian lines was the great schism of 1054. We suspect that few modern Christians could explain its theological basis. Following that, Christendom, in its crudest sense a matter of lines and shapes and boundaries, became a palimpsest. 'My church is in communion with this trapezoid, and not with that rhomboid'. Time brings more waves of change, more schisms. Existing texts are scraped off the global palimpsest, and a new pattern of lines and shapes scratched on it.

We find ourselves careering between two contradictory positions on what seems the critical issue of our time, the role of gay and lesbian people in our churches.

Position 1: When there is a clash of absolutes, ultimately there can be no middle ground; the very nature of the issue in dispute doesn't allow it. Schism must come. We find ourselves saying, 'If it must be so, let it come quickly and as cleanly as possible. Let's get it over with'.

Position 2: Schism should not be the understandable outcome of an insoluble problem, but rather an unspeakable failure. We cannot further tear this once graceful worldwide net of fellowship and love. We must redouble our efforts to hold it together, to hold ourselves together.

Is there no reconciling these two? Schism occurs when lines are drawn, crossed lines of anger, parallel divisions of hate. What about opting instead for circles? What if we refuse to give up on love and fellowship with those who build walls, who separate themselves from others? What if we say, for example, to the Archbishop of Nigeria, that we still consider ourselves in communion with him? We realise there are matters of jurisdiction and canons, legislation and letters dimissory, which must guide the formal positions of our churches. But perhaps it's more an attitude of heart: walls, even if built, can come down, prodigal children can return, an embrace is always possible no matter how bitter an estrangement has been. If schism happens in our canons and codes, we should be slower to let it happen in our hearts.

The justifiably-obscure poet Edwin Markham once penned:

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

As much as we can, we will keep drawing that circle.

A dear friend and colleague of many years—and the most gifted editor we have ever known—died a few weeks ago, after a hard-fought and almost unseen battle with cancer. Unwilling ever to complain, Lynn Margolies Colvin edited, gardened, read, loved, and lived fully until a few days before she died. Her last intelligible words were 'The merriment goes on and on...' We like to think she had a glimpse of the joy that lies beyond. That comforts us, in these dark and hard days in the church and in the world.

See you next week.

Brian Reidís signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 13 July 2003

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