ECUMENICAL AND SCHISMATIC
MOVEMENTS IN CHRISTIANITY
||"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.
History of Christian divisions:
Christianity has gone through many transformations since the
execution of Jesus circa 30 CE. Except for its first few
half decade (circa 30 to 35 CE), Christianity has never been a single, unified religion:
||Immediately after Jesus' death, his disciples formed a reform group within Judaism,
often referred to as Jewish Christianity. It was centered in Jerusalem.|
||By about 36 CE, there were 3 active Christian movements: Jewish
Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, and Pauline Christianity. The first died
out, largely due to the attack on Jerusalem by the Roman army. The second almost disappeared,
after heavy persecution by orthodox Christianity. By the fifth century CE,
the successor of Pauline Christianity alone survived. |
||By the mid-11th century, eastern and western Christianity
had been gradually pulling apart. They formally divided into:
||In the early centuries of the second millennium, various Christian sects
emerged, such as the Cathars. They were viewed as heretical, and were
ruthlessly exterminated by the established church in major acts of genocide.|
||During the 16th century, Protestantism split off from the Roman Catholic church - a
movement that further fragmented and eventually developed into thousands of denominations. |
||During the 18th century, a number of large American
denominations divided along north/south lines
over slavery. Most have since merged. An exception is the Southern
Current divisions within Christianity:
Christianity remains seriously fragmented in the North America and
elsewhere. There are over 1,500 Christian organizations in the United
States alone. 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 view Christianity as being divided into three
wings: conservative, mainline and liberal.
This division is reflected in the multiplicity of Christian
associations in the U.S. at the national level, representing
Pentecostal/Charismatic, other conservative Christian denominations,
mainline/liberal denominations, Eastern Orthodox churches and Roman
Divisions within Christianity are also reflected at the local level.
Many urban areas have one organization for Evangelical pastors, and a
second group for the remaining Protestant clergy.
Theological differences remain within Christian denominations. Hot button
items like access to abortion, status
of women, equal rights to homosexuals,
same-sex marriage, etc. have
been largely resolved within liberal denominations. However, they are increasing
polarization within mainline denominations and may lead to schisms.
Meanwhile, there are attempts at overcoming past divisions. Many conservative
Christian groups are working together on social matters, such as opposing access
to abortion, opposing equal rights for gays and
lesbians, promoting prayer in public schools,
preventing same-sex marriage, etc.
Some Protestant denominations are reaching full communion with each other.
Merger talks continue, without significant progress, between the Roman Catholic
church and many other faith groups.
Ecumenism and inter-faith activities:
Ecumenism is a term that refers to intra-faith
activities, i.e. within a single religion. It is most commonly used to refer to groups of
Christians from diverse denominations cooperating together to work on projects of common
interest, and/or to reduce barriers between faith groups. The World Council of Churches is a typical example.
Ecumenical organizations appear to be organized primarily by liberal, mainstream, and
Roman Catholic individuals and groups. A random sampling by a Internet search engine of 18
ecumenical groups on the Internet showed:
||12 sponsored primarily by liberal and mainline Christian groups
||4 sponsored by Roman Catholic groups
||1 sponsored, in part, by conservative Protestant groups
||2 sponsored by a full range of Christian groups, from conservative to liberal.
Inter-Faith is a term that normally refers to a cooperative group that include
representatives of a number of different religions. The United Communities of Spirit, an interfaith network
with roots in the Parliament of World Religions, is one example.
We have prepared a list of hyperlinks
to interfaith groups.
Copyright © 1988 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-DEC-02
Author: B.A. Robinson