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Schismatic movements within Christianity

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  • "Disunity distorts truth, wastes resources, hinders witness, impoverishes worship and discredits the gospel." Statement by an anonymous Irish Methodist; quoted by the Most Reverend George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury at ecumenical vespers, 2000-MAY-17.
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Current divisions within Christianity:

Christianity remains seriously fragmented around the world. There are over 1,500 Christian organizations in the United States alone. Each follows a unique blend of beliefs and practices. Many of these groups regard themselves as the "true" Christian church -- the only denomination that reflects the views of the founders of Christianity: Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) and Paul of Tarsus. This belief makes ecumenical movements within Christianity quite difficult, and encourages division within Christianity.

Some view Christianity as being composed of two or more quite different religions, each sharing the same name and each being based on a different interpretation of the Bible. Others divide Christianity into three wings: conservative, mainline and liberal.

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Current trends:

There is evidence of further fragmentation within Christianity:
bulletThe gulf between Catholicism and Protestantism continues to expand, largely over matters of church authority, freedom of expression within religious organization, the status of the Virgin Mary in the church, and a multitude of matters involving human sexuality.
bulletThere is a continuing lack of progress in healing the rifts between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. With the increasing numbers of female Anglican priests and bishops, their rift with the Roman Catholic church is in fact increasing.
bulletA major, unbridgeable and growing gulf exists between conservative and liberal Protestant denominations. They share few beliefs about theology. They are continual conflict over social matters such as abortion access and equal rights for gays and lesbians, same-sex marriage, and the role of women in the family and church. 
bulletAt the international level, the World Council of Churches is experiencing internal divisions. The WCC is composed of 342 member churches, including Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant denominations. Their internal conflicts are often portrayed as between Eastern Orthodox churches and the remaining member denominations. But a more accurate description is that a great divide exists between conservative and liberal denominations.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletPast history and current status of divisions within Christianity
bulletRoman Catholic church (RCC) items:
bulletDifferences between the RCC and conservative Protestantism
bulletHow the RCC views the rest of Christianity
bulletSchismatic pressures within denominations:
bulletIs compromise possible over homosexuality, or is schism inevitable?
bulletOther developments:
bulletRecent ecumenical/schismatic news

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Related essays on this web site:


Ecumenical movements within Christianity


Conservative-liberal conflicts within mainline denominations

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Copyright © 1998 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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