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In praise of schism (sort of)!

2009 September 11
by Gordon Reid

“Gimme a break!” is usually a plea for understanding. You are explaining why you were late and your partner says “This is the third time this week”; so you say “Gimme a break”. Notice, you are not denying that you have been late three times: you just want the complaints to stop.

Church relations can be similar. You can be explaining how you view a certain doctrine or ethical stance, and the person you are talking to seems to have no interest in your views. Instead you get an earful of his views, and how yours are way off the mark. In this case, if  you say “Gimme a break”, the reply might be “I  certainly will!” In more robust times, the break was in the neck bones, as he had  you hanged for heresy, but in these more enlightened times, the break is just a little schism.

Now, you have to admit that the little schism is a good deal better than the hanging. But is it therefore a good thing?

Well, maybe. Just as I am sure that when a married relationship has turned poisonous, sometimes the best solution, both for the couple themselves and for their children, may be divorce; so I believe that when the Gospel of Christ is being darkened by the kind of disagreements that lead to “envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness” as the Prayer Book Catechism puts it, then a schism may be the lesser of two evils.

Not that that makes all schisms admirable, any more than all divorces are right. And even if I support divorce in certain circumstances, and remarriage after divorce in certain circumstances, this does not negate the fact that I would much rather that the couple involved had the charity and purpose to reconcile their differences, or live with them, rather than expose themselves and their children to the uncertainties of separation. In the same way, though I support schisms in certain circumstances (how could I not, being an Anglican?), nevertheless I would infinitely prefer that Christians of different views could have the charity and the maturity to live with these differences.

That, I believe, is what the present turmoil in the Anglican Churches (notice my avoidance of Communion!) is about.

One Response leave one →
  1. ambly permalink
    September 11, 2009

    “Praise” ? Well, acceptance perhaps…

    Thanks for your excellent writing.

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