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Heresy and Schism
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 6/04/2006 | The Right Reverend Robinson Cavalcanti

Posted on 06/04/2006 6:32:34 PM PDT by sionnsar

In recent years, as the growing doctrinal and ethical crisis has made painful inroads into Christendom (and the Anglican Communion in particular), a public debate has emerged over which is "better" or "worse": heresy or schism?

The very existence and terms of the debate itself reveal the tragic nature of the moment in which the Church finds herself. Both heresies and schisms are negative, damaging and utlimately destructive. The Church of Jesus Christ came into being for truth and unity. Heresies and schisms amount to a blunt negation of the very principles which the Lord held in His heart. They are, evidently, expressions of sin. Viewed from this angle, the debate over which is "the lesser evil" serves only to demonstrate the reality of the abyss we've come to.

Heresy is not different from schism. Heresy is schism. Schism means a break from unity, the rupture of the Body. We may classify schisms in two categories a) Formal Schism b) Material Schism.

Formal Schism implies the abandoning and mutilation of the institution to create another, or other dissident institutions. In this case, there may well be some discussion as to the validity of such an extreme step. For instance, it might be asked if there weren't in fact some justification for this radical attitude, or whether it arose merely as the consequence of sectarianism, power struggle, or personal ambition. When a group is unjustly expelled from a given institution, or is compelled to withdraw on account of an unsustainable and insurmountable situation of oppression, one is hardly able to classify such an act as "schism".

Material Schism occurs when a faction that maintains formal ties with a given institution, remaining within it, breaks de facto with that institution's characteristic tenets and fundamental beliefs. We may imagine, for example, those who inherit a pharmacy, who, while keeping the same building, name and decor, decide to sell fabrics instead of medicine. Despite its appearance, for all intents and purposes the shop is in fact a fabric store. A deep rupture has occurred in terms of identity and purpose. This grave rupture is not with the institution itself, but with all that the institution represents. This is a material schism.

In Provinces and Anglican Dioceses, we may maintain the same old paroquial buildings with their traditional layout, their traditional symbols, vestments, and nomenclature, so that there is an appearance of unity. However, if what we understand by these marks of Anglicanism has nothing to do with and in fact opposes the consensual historical understanding of the same, then we are faced with a false, indeed a most unreal situation.

Today's heretics - the Post Modern revisionists - insist in maintaining formal ties with the institution, thus preserving an external formality, while importing a content that is the very negation of the edifice itself. In other words, the Church is being undermined and assaulted from within: the advent of a new Trojan Horse... The heretics, therefore, are no different from the schismatics; they are just a different type of schismatic.

On the other hand, as we mentioned above, the exit of a group of members from an institution in virtue of an unsustainable situation of oppression (caused by material schismatics), cannot justly be called "schism" (formal).

Much less, when a group is expelled from that institution illegally, illegitimately and unjustly, as is happening in various parts of the Anglican Communion (so, for example, in the case of the Diocese of Recife), where the victims are faithful supporters of the See of Canterbury, upholders of the Articles of Religion and staunch defenders of the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference.

We must, therefore, insist on the false character of the dilemma concerning "the lesser of two evils", and point to the fact that there exist diverse forms of schism, including the heresy of Material Schism.

We all desire the continuance of the Anglican Communion but we are living in a time where geographical factors are becoming increasingly less important, and where today's real boundaries are of an ideological nature, with differences so great and so opposite that they become irreconcilable.

We are, in fact, two churches under one roof.

An institutional realignment is as urgent as a fresh theological definition in the form of a Covenant. History demonstrates that within Anglicanism there have arisen certain exceptions in terms of institutional form.

As I put it to the Archbishop of Canterbury when I met with him in Lambeth Palace last year: "If Your Grace wishes to save the Anglican Communion, be willing to enlarge existing exceptions and to create new ones" Clearly, insistence on a rigidity of form (geography + canons), coupled with a cultural relativism, will only accelerate the process of desintegration. Such a situation will be difficult to evade if we are left with politicians and without true statesmen.

In Brazil we live with the harsh reality of being unknown and on the periphery, while the Province invoked for our destruction the type of "autonomy" alleged by Sadam Hussein in his crushing of the Kurds. And so we look on anxiously, not only with respect to the uncertain destiny of the Anglican Communion, but especially, with regard to the lack of unity in action and courage to take necessary and non prolongable decisions on the part of defenders of the truth in the old Provinces of the Anglo-Saxon world.

At this time of Pentecost, we invoke the Spirit of Truth, who leads us into all truth. Unity without Truth is not Unity at all.

---The Right Reverend Robinson Cavalcanti is Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Recife under the Primatial Authority of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America. Translated by the Revd. Marcus Throup

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 06/04/2006 6:32:35 PM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 06/04/2006 6:33:27 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0urs)
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