Those of us in the Judao – Christian family tree have a long history of internecine struggle and splits. I suppose we could go back even earlier and talk about Isaac and Ishmael if we want to include the Muslims in this family history. The Pharisees disagreed with the Sadducees over Torah and the Temple, and the Essenes had enough of each and ran away to the desert. Paul split with Peter and started his own Gentile mission apart from the Jewish Jesus movement in Jerusalem. Later, the Christians and the rabbis disagreed over who could worship in the synagogues. First, the Coptics retreated to Egypt; then, the Greeks packed up for Constantinople leaving the Catholics in Rome; and a millenium later, Luther spewed nourishment to new nestlings.
So why should I be surprised when several blogposts come through my RSS reader today about schismatics in today’s christendom?
Several hundred former Episcopalians, meeting in a school gym near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, ratified a constitution Monday for the fledgling Anglican Church in North America as a direct challenge to the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada.
So says the Washington Times online.
Frederick Clarkson in Talk to Action blog points out that noted evangelical Rick Warren spoke at this meeting, inciting the schismatic sentiment.
The Presbyterians apparently have the same schismatic genes. According to Pastor John Shuck on his Shuck and Jive blog:
When the two main branches of the Presbyterian Church finally decided the Civil War had ended in 1983, they reunited. Ten years prior to reunion, some congregations of the then “southern branch” broke away and formed their own denomination. The larger church had become too liberal for their tastes.
Each of these two latter day stories relate to LGBT issues, and whispers of schism within my own ELCA waft on the breeze emanating from the direction of the WordAlone Network if the ELCA does what the Network fears this summer and allows a local option for gay clergy and gay marriage. Fear of defections from the ELCA causes some to wring their hands and advocate for the status quo.
Schism is part of our history and undoubtedly part of our future. When defections occur, we should grieve the losses and then move on, but we should not retreat from principle. We should not fear history, nor should we ignore it, nor can we stop it.