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CONFLICTS AND DIVISIONS

WITHIN PROTESTANT CHRISTIANITY

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Past and present conflicts among denominations:

Intensive conflicts and schisms among established denominations have occurred -- and some continue -- on many moral topics including human sexuality, freedom and rights:

bulletSlavery in the mid 19th century.
bulletRacial segregation in the mid 20th century.
bulletInter-racial marriage in the 1950s and 1960s.
bulletAbortion access:
bulletwithin liberal and most mainline denominations during the mid 20th century.
bulletFemale ordination:
bulletwithin liberal denominations in the early 20th century.
bulletwithin mainline denominations in the middle third of the 20th century.
bulletwithin some conservative denominations at the present time.
bulletmost very conservative denominations have not yet addressed the question.
bulletThe Southern Baptist Convention once ordained women, but has since restricted ordination to males. Existing female pastors are allowed to continue.
bulletHomosexuality:
bulletthe most liberal faith groups accepted gay and lesbian members, ministers, pastors, priests, and rabbis decades ago.
bulletmainline denominations are currently debating the issues, and may split over them.
bulletmost very conservative denominations have not yet addressed the question.

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Some indicators of divisions within Protestantism:

bulletConservative and liberal denominations take opposite positions on just about every ethical question: abortion, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, school prayer, women's roles, etc.
bulletMany cities have two ministerial associations; one restricted to Evangelical clergy, and a second group for the remaining Protestant clergy.
bulletMany cities have two types of bookstores:
bulletConservative Christian bookstores generally stock only Evangelical Christian material.
bulletSecular bookstores -- like Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Chapters -- which stock books and periodicals representing a broad range of liberal, mainline and conservative beliefs from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions.

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Future Divisions within Christendom:

Author Bruce Bawer believes that the differences between the two Protestant movements, " Law" and " Love,"

"...are so monumental that any rapprochement seems, at present, unimaginable. Indeed, it seems likely that if one side does not decisively triumph, the next generation will see a realignment in which historical denominations give way to new institutions that more truly reflect the split in American Protestantism." 1,2

Such a realignment might be observed in:

bulleta noticeable increase in membership among Fundamentalist and other Evangelical denominations, as conservative individuals from mainline denominations leave their church of origin.
bulleta reduction in membership among mainline denominations due to a loss of members to more conservative groups.
bulleta liberal shift in belief among mainline denominations as many of their conservative members leave.
bulleta growth in membership among liberal denominations as liberal members of mainline groups leave their church of origin.
bulleta general lessening of conflicts within faith groups as membership beliefs become more homogeneous.
bulleta greater polarization of religious belief in North America as the mainline denominations shrink in numbers and influence.

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Our policies about Christian essays:

Who is a Christian? We follow the policy used by government census offices and public opinion pollsters: if an individual or group devoutly, seriously, and thoughtfully considers themselves to be Christian, then we do too. This policy, probably more than any other, has resulted in an incredible flood of angry Email from visitors to our web site who are anxious to divide Christianity into "true Christianity" (their side) and "false Christianity" (everyone else). They commonly express the belief that The Watchtower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) and Unification Church are cults, that Mormons are Gnostics, and that Roman Catholics are Pagans -- but none are actually Christian.

Two mode model: In our essays, we generally differentiate between the views of very conservative and very liberal Christians. We recognize that most Christian theologians and other believers probably hold beliefs that are somewhere between these two positions. We often discuss the beliefs of 1st and 2nd century Christians as well.

Unique beliefs and practices: Sometimes, one wing of Christianity will have unique beliefs or engage in special practices. Examples are the concepts of Purgatory and Limbo within Roman Catholicism, and unique dates for many Christian holy days among the Eastern Orthodox churches. We explain these separately. 

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References

  1. Bruce Bawer, "Where Protestants Part Company", Opinion Column, The New York Times, 1997-APR-5.
  2. Bruce Bawer, "Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity," Crown Publ. (1997). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Site navigation: Home page > Christianity > Introduction > Divisions > here

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Copyright 1997 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Last update: 2005-DEC-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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