Donatism & Church Unity #DreamUMC #UMCSchism
While Joel is on vacation, I promised him I would contribute a few original posts this week on here. For the past year, Joel has given more of his energy to the United Methodist Church and the -ism Schism controversies within it. What are the reasons for schisms, and who are calling for them. There are some rather unwise persons out here in Christianity calling for schism over their pet issues, without even knowing what it means historically. Do they not understand that schismatics desire bloodshed? The history of Schisms in Church history is a rather gory one. The Protestant Reformation brought with it about a century of warfare between Catholics and Protestants. The Eastern/Western Schism in the 11th century was followed by the anti-Greek Orthodox Crusades in the 14th century and the invasion of Constantinople. In the late 15th century, Christopher Columbus declared Indians as non-persons, and pretty soon Africans replaced First Nations persons as the enslaved class, only to have thousands of “Christians” die in battle for the right to own other people during the U.S. American Civil War.
What I am trying to say is this: religious bloodshed does not happen in a vacuum. The context for each of these conflicts is church schism. The one primary example of church schism is the Donatist controversy. Blood was shed on both sides. The Donatists rejected men as bishops if they were suspected of turning over fellow Christians and the already rare copies of sacred writings. The Donatists believed their words and actions made them the one true Pure Church. The debate became about tribalism versus the Church Universal. I don’t think the Donatists were in error; they just needed to understand our righteousness comes from Christ, and not our own beliefs or commitments.
I do believe it is possible for progressives and conservatives to fellowship together. When yet another leader of the NeoCalvinist movement was selected to a high position within the Southern Baptist Convention, I said to myself this is problematic. I mean, I live across the street from Southern Baptists who identify as more Armininan. The Southern Baptist church I attend is labelled as “liberal” by Al Mohler because it ordains women deacons, and yesterday, we had the honor of having an ordained UMC elder provide the sermon for us yesterday. Her message was a testimony to the possibilities of church unity. Not only did she recognize the persecution of Christians around the world, but also the racial divisions that keep us separated here at home. She reminded us of Paul’s teaching of biblical solidarity, that Christians are all of one body. Schism is an attempt by one limb of the body in order to several all the others off. Schismatics are inherently prone to violence, and they will inevitably fail.
Donatism: Council of Arles
The first Council of Arles in the South of France was held a.d. 314, in consequence of an appeal of the Donatists to Constantine the Great, against the decision of a Roman Council of 313, consisting of three Gallican and fifteen Italian bishops under the lead of Pope Melchiades. This is the first instance of an appeal of a Christian party to the secular power, and it turned out unfavorably to the Donatists who afterwards became enemies of the government. The Council of Arles was the first called by Constantine and the forerunner of the Council of Nicaea. Augustin calls it even universal, but it was only Western at best. It consisted of thirty-three bishops from Gaul, Sicily, Italy (exclusive of the Pope Sylvester, who, however, was represented by two presbyters and two deacons), North Africa, and Britain (three, from York, London, and probably from Caerleon on Usk), besides thirteen presbyters and twenty-three deacons. It excommunicated Donatus and passed twenty-two canons concerning Easter (which should be held on one and the same day), against the non-residence of clergy, against participation in races and gladiatorial fights (to be punished by excommunication), against the rebaptism of heretics, and on other matters of discipline. Clergymen who could be proven to have delivered sacred books or utensils in persecution (the traditores) should be deposed, but their official acts were to be held valid. The assistance of at least three bishops was required at ordination. (from here)
This is the discussion for today…. This is the time in which as sect of the Church appealed to the Government for help. It didn’t end up well for them.
Devotional – Let the Church Roll On – 7/7
On the way to Church yesterday morning, I was listening to XM-14 (Track 14) for their Sunday Morning 3 hours of Bluegrass Gospel. The Flatt and Scruggs version of ‘Let the Church Roll on’ came on and make the trip that much more delightful. (If you have a problem getting up for Church on Sunday morning, and for reason you are not happy when you enter into the house of God, well you have problems.)
Below are the lyrics and two versions (there are multiple, from the funny to the serious, with difference choruses which I am sure can be updated and changed as needed. What struck, first, was the insistence of the Church doing what it had to in order to move on. Now, from Church history we can see the regression of the Church from the true Faith as it started to compromise a bit here or a bit there. Besides the doctrinal deviations, it started to accept traditors back into the ranks which led to the ‘Donatist’ heresy. Forgetting, or perhaps not having developed the ‘Tradition’ yet of Matthew 10.33 which reads,
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Instead of doing what Paul did, and make those out that cause division, or remove those that are heretics or bring in confusion or openly sin, the ancient ‘leaders’ sought only compromise and reconciliation. Instead of being rigorous in defending the Faith, they softened the ‘Thou shall nots’ (OT and NT) into mere suggestions.
The song, clearly a Negro spiritual, is a poignant reminder that the Church will roll on, march forward, with or without people who who would use her as a cloak of sin.
LET THE CHURCH ROLL ON
Let the church roll on, my Lawd,
If tha’s preachers in the church, my Lawd,
If tha’s members in the church, my Lawd,
If tha’s liars in the church, my lawd,
If tha’s sinnuhs in the church, my Lawd,
@religion @Negro spiritual.
Let The Church Roll On
There’s a deacon in the church (oh my lord)
There a drunkards in the church (oh my lord)
There’s women in the church (oh my lord)
If you notice the last verse of the Bluegrass version. We are holiness of course, unless you had any doubt, and it is interesting to hear verses like this every once in a while.
The Church, no matter the people that come and go, no matter the war waged against her, will roll on. Individual congregations might not, individual people may not, but the Church of Jesus Christ, firmly rooted in the true Doctrine, will never loose ground. The Mormons, and others, would have us understand for some centuries, the Church was buried in history, or had completely left the earth altogether only to be restored by some mystical (and usually criminal) prophet. Yet, we know that death or hell will never previal against her, and that sin will never destroy her. She will roll on. Even when it looks like she is on her last leg and cannot stand anymore, she is as strong as ever.
But, we do have to do cleaning every now and then, and some standing as well, especially against those that would seek to lead so many astray.
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