Skip to comments.Is heresy better than schism? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 12/30/2008 11:05:11 AM PST by NYer
On his TNR blog, Damon Linker flags the schism within the Episcopal Church as the most important and worrying religious development of the past year. Here's an excerpt:
With 100,000 members, the schismatic Anglican denomination is so far quite small, though it may well grow if conservative dioceses around the country decide to take the option now presented to them and bolt from the Episcopal Church. But regardless of the numbers involved, the rupture in the church is historically significant and culturally troubling. The Protestant mainline that once ruled and to some extent united the nation continues its decline, split into squabbling factions facing each other across a cultural chasm. Arrayed on one side are liberals of every theological stripe; on the other are defenders of orthodoxy and tradition. The first views the second as ignorant bigots; the second sees the first as moral degenerates. Barack Obama may have managed to win 53 percent of the popular vote last month, but that doesn't mean the country's division into "red" and "blue" spheres of cultural influence has come to an end. Indeed, the split in the Episcopal Church indicates that it persists and may even be deepening.
Damon is troubled, and understandably so, by the fact that American churches are breaking apart based on positions congregations and individuals within them hold on culture-war issues. I don't see how any serious believer, whichever side he takes, can be cheered by schism. But I am inclined to think of schism as the second-worst option, if the only other is to accomodate one's church to a serious heresy.
As Damon notes, the stance a believer takes on issues like abortion, homosexuality, order and authority in the family, and a related constellation of concerns, typically places one within one camp or the other. It's no accident that there's a thread connecting stances on both sides; i.e., there's a reason why Christians who oppose abortion rights are more likely to oppose same-sex marriage rights, and vice versa. It all comes down, in the end, to Authority.
If you believe that Scripture, or Scripture and the institutional Church, is the Authority for deciding questions of meaning and morality, then you are far more likely to fall on the traditionalist side of these questions. If you believe that individual conscience is the Authority, then you are likely to be a progressive.
I don't see how the two can be reconciled, unless it is agreed by a majority that the church in question doesn't really stand for anything beyond itself. If you really do believe that Scripture and Tradition are wrong about same-sex relationships, and that it is a matter of basic justice that the teaching be changed, then you aren't going to stop fighting for that change within the church. If you believe that we are not free to throw off the authority of Scripture (and Tradition) in such matters, then to have your church declare these matters open to negotiation would be to hollow out the meaning of what the church is supposed to stand for, all for the sake of a superficial unity.
The question ultimately is this: Are there matters over which there can be no compromise, and in which a compromise would destroy the essence of the institution? If there are, then schism is better than agreeing to disagree for the sake of keeping the family together. Right? If schism is always worse than heresy, then how can it be possible to draw any boundaries beyond which individuals and congregations, progressive or traditional, will not go?
Schism is better than heresy. What gains a man if he keeps a church but loses his soul?
You (the Word) are so right.
It all goes back to “did God really say?”, doesn’t it?
The Eswishcopal with its gay bishops is doomed.
Good post, but I question if the separation from heresy is schism.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes [shall be] they of his own household Mat 10:34-36
That portion of the church which has abandoned scripture is the schismatic church. The church that has remained faithful is right where it always was.
Seriously, in a lot of dioceses, being a bishop, while demanding, was pretty well compensated. We're going to see some real social changes in TEC and the offshoots. It's going to make the "national Cathedral" kind of interesting. I wonder if they have enough of an endowment to keep the place running.
Those who believe in promoting homosexuality and who believe in killing their own unborn children are NOT Christians. Even if they manage to take over some liberal, declining denominations they are still NOT Christians.
No! Schism is better than heresy. False doctrine must be confronted and rejected.
I believe heresy is worse than schism. Moreover, since matters of Church authority are also often matters of doctrine, it is rare to have pure schism entirely divorced from issues of doctrinal errors. The prime example of relatively pure schism would be Eastern Orthodox/Catholic split, where there is very little difference in doctrine. However, even in that case doctrinal issues are present, such as the role of the Pope. The deposit of faith is divinely revealed to us in and by Christ through the Apostles. It is sacred and must not be diluted by allowing heresy to flourish unrebuked in the Church. This is so particularly in a free society where there is no coercion in matters of religion and conscience. If one does not believe all that the Church teaches, then I think one should in conscience leave it. Erring believers should be allowed to go their way and not dilute the deposit of faith with heresy. This may be sad, to be sure, but it is medicinal correction both to themselves and to the Church. They must be prayed for. If a society forces people to belong to a specific Church, as has happened in the past, then I think there is more justification for allowing leeway to differing opinions about aspects of the deposit of faith within the Church, but even that excuse for minimizing the heinousness of heresy is lacking in our modern free society.
Not normally agree with things you post, but this was spot-on. I don’t understand those who say unity at all costs is better than tolerating heresy.
Yes, unity is important, and splitting churches is a sign of the fall and evil’s influence on even deluded churches. But, there are times when a schism is unfortunately the best option. That does not make it a pleasant or good thing, but the best option among many bad ones.
Is it still schism when it is from a schism????
When a committee can vote on ‘what is truth this year’ you know you are in trouble.
The Episcopal church now faces some harsh truths.
1) Liberals are utterly dependent on conservatives for funding. People who despise their own religion’s teachings are not big on coughing up the dough to support it once it caves to their demands.
2) Many of the liberals are disinterested in Christianity itself. What they sought to do was force others to become disinterested in it as well.
3) Relativism and weird Ecumenism go hand in hand. This is why Rowan Williams has no problem with also being a Druid High Priest.
4) The liberals are unable to distinguish heterodoxy from heresy. For them, there is no difference between playing non-standard hymns for services and questioning the divinity of Jesus.
The bottom line is that the Episcopalians will continue until the money has run out, then their remaining bishops will go Chapter 11, split up the money, and live where the laws against pedophilia aren’t too strict.
Precedent is an amazing thing.