Divide And Not Multiply: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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59 Responses

  1. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Some church splits are needed to preserve the bind between Christians. I went through a church split at my last church in SoCal at a time I was serving on the board. We had suspended the pastor and after he was rehabilitated we brought him back. One fourth to one third of the church didn’t want him back, thought he was disqualified forever. Some of us felt differently.

    The dissenting group left, went up the street and joined another church. The funny thing was, we all remained friends – many of them still taught in our Lutheran School, many had kids remain in our school, while they all had kids in the high school and we all enjoyed functions together. We all remained Lutherans, we all were able to receive absolution & communion (just not together).

    Last summer, I recognized a guy at the divine service in my Arizona church who had been a leader of the splitting group – he was visiting for the jet ski championships here and came to service. I brought him to Bible class and we went to breakfast had great fellowship. Sometimes you just need room.

  2. Michael says:

    I think we’re in the process of splitting down into small enough groups that we will all be utterly irrelevant outside our own tiny places.

    The ties that used to bind us are not strong enough to subdue our desire to be right…

  3. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    I agree. We seek out those who “think like us” and in increasingly smaller groups… it becomes more like a club than a church. The change is palpable. When I started off in this journey, I would see churches in which some loved their pastor/priest, some “not so much”. Regardless, they stayed for the common mission of the church. Today, anyone who has reservations about ANYTHING almost instantly heads for the door.

    Added to this is the hubris of church leaders seeking absolute agreement on everything. Again, 30 years ago, if you were an Episcopalian moving to Detroit, I could direct you to an evangelical parish, an Anglo-Catholic parish, a social justice parish, a conservative parish… etc. That has almost disappeared…

  4. Xenia says:

    I am glad to have the chance to clarify some things I said yesterday on this topic.

    A decade or so ago, our group of Russian churches in America decided to resume communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. We had initially divided years ago over the fact the the Moscow church was infiltrated by the KGB and had become beholden to Communism. I think you would all agree this was a good reason to split. At the time, it was said that when Communism fell and the Moscow church was freed, we’d reunite. Our leaders felt the time was right and we did reunite. Not everyone agreed and quite a few left and formed their own jurisdiction. There were a lot of hard feelings at the time, but everyone has since reconciled and, as MLD would say, are now eating hot dogs and watching baseball together. I myself would have no problem joining one of these “schismatic” parishes.

    This is not the kind of thing I was talking about yesterday.

    I was talking about not pursuing or resuming or maintaining friendships with people whose ideas of right and wrong, be they on the left or the right, are so different from mine that I can’t see the point in hanging out together. I have relatives who every word that proceeds from their lips is abhorrent. They are still my cousins, I would take them soup if they are sick, but I don’t choose to be friends with them.

    On the other hand, I am delighted when I find an old friend from the old days who, like me, have changed our way of thinking about certain things. I am also dismayed when I receive phone calls from old friends telling me that as a Christian I am bound to vote for so-and-so because…. [Name the conspiracy theory du jour.]

    Maybe it’s just a matter of degree. Maybe I draw the line in a different place than some. Who among us would have continued friendships with devoted Nazis in the 30’s- 40’s? I am not comparing the current situation with Nazi Germany, just using an extreme example to demonstrate that surely we must all have limits as to the kinds of people we will walk with.

    I am not talking about the politics of church splits or taxation.

  5. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    For what it is worth, I understood exactly what you were saying… I’m in a very similar place. I think church splits are something else altogether. That being said, politics may end up being the basis for a number of future church splits, although I hope and pray that this will not be the case…

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I look at the positive side of church splits – hey Paul and Barnabas split. 🙂

    I wish any church body my support and well wishes when they split from the apostate ELCA. The North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and the Lutheran Congregations in Missions for Christ (LCMC) are fine examples of Christians going from death to life in their decision. The motto should be “run and run fast.” The question remains, why are the apostate bodies still in existence?

  7. Em says:

    FWIW
    i am more and more convinced that too many attend church in order to be identified as a nice person… Pride? Dunno
    If you have met Christ face to face, called Him Lord and understand the price of your redemption as all have noted here there is no compromise in some areas – it is almost a spiritual instinct – grace, mercy and Truth – it is a great life

  8. This is a sad commentary on the state of the church as a whole. There has been so much ink (and blood) spilled over non-essentials. The basics of what constitutes Christianity are readily apparent in the Scriptures; the rest is of only of relative importance.

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    Peter

    Yes, and there have been so many casualties… as I said, it’s heartbreaking.

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    Ron

    This is not an inter-faith issue….

  11. Michael says:

    Pulpit and Pen are schismatic bullies.
    Do not post any links to them here.

  12. Em says:

    I’m glad, though, that someone mentioned this action by pope francis… it should be a head turner for every serious Christian…. IMHO

  13. Duane Arnold says:

    I think it should be pointed out, with reference to the above, that Francis was seeking some measure of protection for minority Christian communities in the Middle East…

  14. Em says:

    Point taken, Dr. Duane, but….
    Was the Pope correct in calling Muslim adherents brother?

  15. Jean says:

    There is such a thing as the brotherhood of man, regardless of religion.

  16. Xenia says:

    I agree with Jean.

    Trouble with this pope is that he makes a lot of ambiguous statements that can be taken to mean all kinds of things.

  17. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I would rather have the Pope go to Muslim country and kiss up to them, than what happened in England where they invited a Muslim to come read the Quran during the worship service. The passage denied the gospel and that Jesus was God.
    Not a wise move

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    Old story and not entirely correct. From Gavin’s own website:

    “In 2017 and he resigned from his chaplaincy to the Queen in order to be free to speak out for the faith in the contested public forum, and subsequently appeared on media outlets across the world, including Fox News in the USA and the Bolt Report in Australia. Convinced that the consecration of women to the episcopate represented the replacement of apostolic and biblical patterns with the competing culture of the values of Cultural Marxism, and dissenting from the increasing accommodation of the Church of England to radical secular views on gender, he resigned from the Church of England in 2017.”

    He has since been made a bishop in a breakaway group… which may be the only aspect of this story that relates to the article above…

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, you don’t need to feel sensitive. First there were 8 comments before mine about the Pope and the Muslims – it seems the topic veered from the article.
    My point is I find it objectionable that Muslims are invited to participate in the worship service…on there own terms.
    I like Gavin Ashenden, I have watched at least 200 episodes of Anglican Unscripted that he does with George Conger – who I listened to for years when he was a journalist before becoming a Episcopal priest in Florida.

  20. Em says:

    “Brotherhood of man”… Yes, i have noticed that the present occupant of the top seat in the Vatican does appear to love man more than God… But another cliche notes that appearances are deceiving, so… Maybe it is all in the eyes of the beholder… another cliche? 🙆

  21. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    As Paul said in Acts 17 preaching to pagan Gentiles -” Therefore since we are God’s offspring…”

  22. Em says:

    Dr. Duane, and then there’s verse 30… pondering… has the present Pope done the Muslim community a favor or has he gone too far in being nice and diplomatic? If he’d told them to repent, it might have cost him his head… hmmm… thinking, not judging, but thinking

  23. Jean says:

    “If he’d told them to repent, it might have cost him his head… hmmm… thinking, not judging, but thinking”

    The Pope held a public Mass in a Muslim country. Think about it: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

    The whole Mass is a proclamation of God’s saving grace in Christ, the crucified One.

    If that isn’t a call to repentance, I don’t now what is.

    Now the Pulpit and Pen can preach to the choir here in the safety of his/her home, but the Pope made the journey as an ambassador for Christ to a pagan nation. And while he was there, he proclaimed Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

  24. Em says:

    Jean, sometimes you are a genius at extrapolation… But i hope you are correct on this one… Reems and reems of muslims discovering Christ and converted/saved souls 😸

  25. Jean says:

    I want to be respectful. I think the issue is what is a call to repentance?

    Many Muslims would consider the West, and particularly America, as quite immoral and decadent regarding many issues, such as marriage, life, lawlessness and violence, consumerism and greed, substance abuse, etc. So, we need to be careful regarding a “call to repentance.” I am in no way agreeing with all of the Muslim critique of America, but it warrants reflection.

    On the other hand, for some traditions, repentance is a turn from unbelief in Christ to Christ in faith. It is similar to this: “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ ” Or, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

    I am not by any means an expert in the Roman Catholic Mass, but I assume with confidence that, at a minimum, it including the Act of Penitence, readings from the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Eucharist.

    Therefore, Christ and His Gospel was heard in that country and the Holy Spirit was there working repentance and faith according to God’s will. I can’t fault the Pope for that.

    Many of us would have theological issues with many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and rightly so IMO, but as in every era when the Church, under various trials and tribulations, has endured, the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God has not returned to God empty, but has shined through the faults of fallen man and delivered the elect.

  26. Em says:

    Jean, many of us Americans consider our whole Western world, including us, as quite immoral… good post, worth thinking on. IMO. 👵

  27. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    “Therefore, Christ and His Gospel was heard in that country…” Where it had not been heard before in such a manner…

  28. Jean says:

    Duane, yes.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    By the way, in addition to the hundreds of denominations in America (including a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic bodies), according to the 2010 US Religious Census there were, in that year, 35,496 independent and/or non-denominational churches. Taken together, these independent and non-denominational churches would be second only to the Southern Baptist Convention in size. Splits in these independent and non-denominational are also a common phenomena.

  30. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    In reality isn’t there a “church split” every time a family gets pissed off and leaves?

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The funniest (in an odd way) church split I was involved with was at Ocean Hills Community Church in San Juan Capistrano CA. When the church hired Skip Heitzig to be the pastor, within weeks half the church was in an uproar – which was a bit odd as we had not had a pastor for 18 months. They felt that the church, which was independent had handed the keys over to Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel.

    So, half the church picked up and walked down the street about 1/2 mile to Capistrano Valley Baptist Church (Walter Martin’s old home church) and settled there. Within one year the original CVBS folks were upset that the OHCC people had kind of taken over so about half of them broke off and started their own new church.
    A couple of years later in the midst of the Heitzig / Albuquerque mess, half of the Ocean Hills people left.

    I don’t think people were made to live together and get along. 🙂

  32. Duane Arnold says:

    It is an essential misunderstanding as to the nature of the Church… big “C” and small “c”…

  33. Xenia says:

    Sometimes I find it more useful to use “parish” instead of “church.”

    “My parish is going to fix blinis and pickled herring next month.”

    “The Orthodox Church is currently struggling with the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

  34. Xenia says:

    Speaking of which, I was jolted by the fact that this upcoming Sunday is Zacchaeus Sunday, which is the beginning of the long trek towards Easter.

    And today, dear brothers and sisters, is the feast day for my beloved St. Xenia of St. Petersburg!

    Holy Fool-for-Christ Xenia, pray to God for us!

    Troparion (Tone 4)

    Having renounced the vanity of the earthly world,
    Thou didst take up the cross of a homeless life of wandering;
    Thou didst not fear grief, privation, nor the mockery of men,
    And didst know the love of Christ.
    Now taking sweet delight of this love in heaven,
    O Xenia, the blessed and divinely wise,
    Pray for the salvation of our souls.

  35. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane – I don’t think there is a difference and I don’t see where your have distinguished between BIG C and little c churches.

    In the article you said “I have watched as individuals, congregations and even whole dioceses have left the Episcopal Church. ” – note that you referenced individuals as ‘splitting’.
    In your comment right above my comment in question, you referenced “Splits in these independent and non-denominational are also a common phenomena.” – note that independent and non denominational churches have no bigger BIG C church body to split from – they are splitting from themselves – the small c church body.

    As an added note, Josh McDowell was one who “split” from us and walked down the street.

  36. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia – I love blinis – I will join your parish… you can keep the pickled herring 🙂

  37. pstrmike says:

    So many reasons why churches split. I am one who is inclined to be both disappointed by them and welcome the new expressions. Denominations rarely remain static, they shift will the cultural tides. Some times it is a good and necessary move, other times it is a step toward apostasy.

    I don’t see any answers to prevent these things from happen. As I said, they are needful at times. I supported Brian Brodersen’s move of creating CGN; I still do. While not knowing the ins and outs of all the dynamics, I supported the formation of ACNA, and I still do.

    I would hope to think that the problem of splits, such as described my mld could be addressed by a greater emphasis on spiritual formation; but I don’t think that would necessary help. I think we need to take the view that the church consists of those who are of the faith and those who are not, rather than a baptistic thinking that believes the church consists of people who have been converted. The City of God and the City of Man is presently commingled.

  38. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    Happy Name Day!

  39. Duane Arnold says:

    When churches become “self-selected clubs”, there is “an essential misunderstanding as to the nature of the Church… big “C” and small “c”…”

  40. Xenia says:

    This is how I have always seen the “C” vs “c” issue, and I am probably wrong but here goes:

    “C” for the Church Universal, that is, all believers in Jesus Christ from all time.

    “C” when talking about an official group, but this is variable. The Orthodox Church for sure but also the Roman Catholic Church AND let’s not forget the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

    (Non-denoms- who can say. They are on their own, in more ways than one.)

    “c” for:

    -A particular congregation: “Our church has a nice pastor.”
    -Attending Christian worship services in general: “Do you go to church?”
    -A building for Christian worship: “Our church has five blue cupolas topped by three-barred crosses.”

    What do you think?

  41. Xenia says:

    MLD, we also serve them with sour cream, jam, etc.

    This corresponds to the western Sunday before Lent when I think pancakes are served.

  42. Xenia says:

    Thank you, Duane

  43. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike,

    I’m concerned that we are currently dividing ourselves into “irrelevancy” (as Michael said). I’m tempted to think it an “American problem”, with our strong independent streak, but it isn’t. It has been happening for centuries, but the pace and speed of such splits – especially in denominations – has really accelerated since the middle of the last century. Part of the problem is sociological, but another part is theological. As I said in the article, I don’t have the answers, but I’m coming up with a lot of questions.

  44. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    Yes, I would agree with your definitions. My concern is with the theological understanding of the big “C” as well as the small “c”. Do people actually have a theological understanding of the Church universal? Moreover, does that inform how they conduct themselves, make choices, etc., in their local parish church? If every time there is a disagreement in the local church and it results in a split, there’s something wrong.

  45. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know that splits are avoidable. I know that when the WELS split from the LCMS the main reason was the LCMS’s association with the LCA and the ALC who the WELS thought were too liberal and wanted no association with them or with anyone who did associate with them. (that was one issue – no time to bring up chaplains and scouts).

    So the LCMS stayed together trying to have associational kumbaya and how were they rewarded? The LCA and ALC lost their theological marbles – went off the deep end scripturally and walked away (literally) from the LCMS as being to strict, narrow minded – call it what you will.

    WELS and the LCMS are in dialogue to repair the breach these 60 yrs later.

  46. Jean says:

    I agree with Duane that the theology of the Church Militant is probably lacking in many cases of church split.

    For example, for the WELS and LCMS to say, we cannot preach at each other’s churches, share Holy Communion together, or in the case of WELS pray together, because of an association with a third party, seems IMO incredibly petty and self-serving in some cases. If you take doctrine down to its narrowest degree possible, and impose total agreement in every single doctrine, I don’t know if any two pastors in any tradition would be able to be in pulpit and altar fellowship.

    This seems to be an Enlightenment phenomenon in which the scientific method is applied to everything, including theology.

  47. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    On my Facebook thread, a friend in the UK wrote about the numerous Baptist churches that kept splitting from one another in his town. One of them ended up with a written exam that you had to take in order to be a part!

  48. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Attached is a 2005 article about a church in Florida leaving the Episcopal Church including reason’s and strategies. In 2009 I was in touch through several emails with Father Eric Dudley as the ACNA was forming – he was a founding church. But the point should not be missed as to why –
    “The Rev. Eric D. Dudley, 46, an evangelical priest said in a written statement from the pulpit, that his reasons for leaving were the deeply embedded unrepentant heresies in the Episcopal Church; that he saw no chance of “changing the fabric of the church”; disillusionment with his Bishop John Howard, and that he saw no hope for the future for a truly orthodox rector or bishop in the Episcopal Church.”
    Those people walked away from their church and everything to stand for truth.

    https://www.virtueonline.org/florida-rector-bids-farewell-diocese-and-ecusa

    ** The reason for my involvement at the time? I was acting as a research assistant for a 3rd year seminary intern (called a vicar in the LCMS) assigned to our church for the year, for a paper he was writing on current day church splits.** Sadly Pastor Dudley had personal failure and resigned last summer.

  49. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Another resource is A Tale of Two Synods – about the WELS / LCMS split. I made sure I picked up the book that gave the account from the WELS perspective.

    https://www.amazon.com/Tale-Two-Synods-Wisconsin-Missouri/dp/0810015390/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  50. Duane Arnold says:

    There are many who could tell a similar story… Additionally, there are a good number who have stayed, served their parish and are taking a stand within the denomination. It seems impossible to say what the outcome will be, but I have the sense that the splits and divisions continue once they begin… At least, that appears to be the case thus far. No easy answers.

  51. Jean says:

    Duane,

    “It seems impossible to say what the outcome will be, but I have the sense that the splits and divisions continue once they begin…”

    FWIW, Luther made the same observation about how once divisions occur, they tend to continue dividing. He saw the newly constituted “evangelical” church begin to divide during his life.

    He had his reasoning, but that is another topic.

  52. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Now days, the more orthodox branches of a group feel pushed out, or in some cases actually pushed out of the larger group. I showed earlier that the ELCA pushed out the churches that would eventually become the LCMC and the NALC because if you are not going to get on the LGBTXYZ program, marry all and ordain homosexual clergy – well get the hell out and don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way.

    I know that Resolution B012 is beginning to do that in some Episcopal circles as we speak. In many cases this is not splits – but actual war with apostate forces.
    However, I know some here may have a more gentle understanding and tolerance of such issues – so I will step away.

  53. Duane Arnold says:

    “Some here” do not have a tolerance toward the issues, but we do have a tolerance and “gentle understanding” toward the lay people and the clergy who are caught in the crossfire. Maybe the splits are inevitable owing to the hubris of some church leaders, but if one decides to sever fellowship, I think it should be with sorrow and not self-righteous joy… In the light of John 17, our continuing divisions are, I believe, a scandal… We can all have different rooms that suit us, but we all live in the same house.

  54. Em says:

    Not splits, but war with apostates? Good distinction. IMO

    There is way too much broad-brushing in support of weak arguments in this word today

    More and more i’m seeing reasoned arguments here – hope it is encouraging to Michael

  55. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Yes, in 1519 Luther wrote, “I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity…” I think he wanted reform…

  56. pstrmike says:

    Duane,
    I’ve been thinking about your response since I first read it yesterday. Like you, I don’t have any answers. I see this as a perennial problem for the church, we are prone to divide for causes or doctrines that we deem to be greater than fellowship.

    I wonder if all we can do is strive to be the best we can in being faithful to the Lord and our local body of Christ, knowing that church is volatile and at times, a high contact sport.

  57. Duane Arnold says:

    pstrmike

    I’ve been thinking about it as well. The increase and ease of communication has something to do with this, just as moveable type was a mainstay of the Reformation era… without Hans Luft (printer in Wittenberg) would we heard of Luther? Multiply that by an infinite number and we have the present situation. That being said, I think you are right – we deem other matters to be of greater importance than fellowship or unity. Yet, the NT places a high value on unity, love between Christians, community, etc.. I sometimes wonder if we have our theological priorities in the right order…

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