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
|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.
|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.