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Schism and Divisions

.A community usually leaves the original faith community  for one of two reasons: (1) it has discovered the original teachings and beliefs that are now overlooked or denied by the larger Church or (2) it claims to have a new teaching or revelation that makes it impossible to continue to belong to the larger community.
There are at least three different ways that division of religious communities can occur.

1. Expulsion: The reform movement may be declared a heresy   Heresy is a term that is used by the dominant religious community to indicate an idea or movement that it considers to be unacceptable and contrary to its established teachings. When a movement is declared to be heretical, its members are expelled from the larger community. Leaders of heretical movements are often persecuted and imprisoned.  In some cases, they may be put to death.  A classic example of a reform movement that was declared heretical is the Waldensians.  This group originated in France and northern Italy in the 12th Century. Believing in poverty and austerity, they were founded around 1170 promoting true poverty, public preaching and the literal interpretation of the scriptures. The group also translated the Bible into the language of the people. Even though they sought the Church's approval for their endeavors, the church declared them heretics, and years of brutal suppression followed.

2. Voluntary Immediate Separation: A second type of division is known as a schism.  A schism occurs when a community decides to separate itself from the "parent" community. As your text notes, the source of such a division is usually rooted in questions of authority. The classic example of such a division is the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther.  Luther argued that the authority of scripture took precedence over Papal authority.  Even though Luther and his followers initially intended to reform the church, they eventually formed a community that was completely separate from the parent Church.


Martin Luther

3. Gradual separation: The final form of division  is one in which the reform group evolves into a new religious tradition. For example, Christianity first existed as a group within Judaism. Within a few generations after the death of Jesus, however, Christianity had separated from Judaism emerged as a religious tradition quite distinct from Judaism.  The same observation can be made about Buddhism.  The earliest Buddhists (including Siddhartha) were a part of Hinduism.  With the passing of time, however, Buddhism evolved into a movement that made it quite distinct from Hinduism.