The worldwide Anglican Communion is in crisis. The authority of the Holy Scriptures and Biblical truth are at issue.
In the midst of the numerous departures from Biblical teachings, much confusion surrounds the usage today of the words “schism” and “schismatic.” By definition, schism involves separation. The most grievous and worst of any religious schism is Biblical schism, related to that which is contrary to Biblical truth. False doctrine, by its insidious nature, divides the Body of Christ. All other forms of schism must yield to the preeminence of Biblical schism so as to preserve the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian Faith. Yes, Biblical truth is at stake within the Anglican Communion, and thus a Biblical response is warranted.
Some revisionists or innovators misuse these terms in an effort to paralyze or silence orthodox Anglicans from responding Biblically to the plethora of Biblically false teachings and ungodly actions commonplace in The Episcopal Church, the Church of England and other provinces of the Anglican Communion. The institution of the Anglican Communion has been unwilling and thus ineffective for over three or more decades in disciplining the theological waywardnesses of any of its members.
Underlying this sad situation, the theological reality is that:
“The schismatic is the one who [by false doctrine] causes the separation, not the one who separates (schismaticus est qui separationem causat, non qui separate)… it could eventually mean leaving the structures that will not be reformed – as the Protestants [of the Reformation] felt they were forced to do.“
Today’s heterodox revisionists and innovators within Anglicanism are the schismatics in the eyes of God – not the Biblically faithful. By separating, the Reformers of their day were labeled as “schismatic” by the Church of Rome, but deemed such “a badge of honor.”
In his analysis of his pertinent analysis the Rev’d Canon Chuck Collins stressed that:
“the schismatic who teaches heresy causes schism is to blame, not the
ones who, because of conscience, are forced to leave … unity found in
the Bible and creedal faith trumps the institutional … church every time.”
Orthodox Anglicans today must not cower to any erroneous name-calling when those who perpetrate a different Gospel are the schismatics from Biblical truth. Eminent church leaders have so recognized, including recently Bishop N. T. Wright and Dr. J. I. Packer as well as historically Charles Spurgeon, all quoted in the full paper.
Facing repeated and intentional violations and rejections of fundamental Christian beliefs and dogma, the vital question is raised as to:
What is the Biblical response to repeated, undisciplined false teaching
and heterodox praxis within a Christian denomination
like the Anglican Communion?
False doctrine is perilously serious because it undermines the efficacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, misrepresents the Christian message to a fallen world and misleads those who accept its tenets into a false sense of spiritual security. The apostolic Gospel must be safeguarded. The unity of the Faith must be maintained. No loyalty to a man-made institution should override the preservation of Biblical truth.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the believers at II Corinthians 6:14-18 in the face of unbelief, lawlessness, spiritual darkness or idolatry as follows:
“Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
“And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you.” (emphasis added)
Heterodoxy and orthodoxy do not mix. At Mark 3:23-25, Jesus foretold that:
“if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a
house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
Biblical orthodoxy must either separate out heterodoxy from its midst or separate from heterodoxy. Human souls are at stake. Among other verses, see Galatians 1:6-9 (“if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”); I Timothy 1:20 (“delivered over to Satan”);I Corinthians 5:3-5 (“decided to turn such a person over to Satan”); I Corinthians 5:9-13 (“not to associate with any so-called brother … Remove the evil person from among yourselves”);II Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15 (“keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us … not to associate with him”); Romans 16:17 (“turn away from them”); and II John 10 (“do not receive him into your house and do not give him a greeting; for anyone who gives him a greeting participates in his wicked deeds.”). In all of these Biblical admonitions addressing varying levels of persistent wrongdoing, separation is consistently Scripturally prescribed. The
“the faith once delivered to the saints” must be preserved.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary summarily records:
“Heresy disturbed the unity of doctrine and of fellowship in the early Church, which was therefore forced to exclude those holding false doctrine from its communion.”
Any erroneous theological teachings within the Anglican Communion warrant a clear and strong Biblical response, especially when there has been and remains no discipline of the false teachers or heterodox practitioners. Christian Concern observed:
“Unity in Christ is important (Galatians 3.28) and special (Psalm 133) … and yet [t]here have been, are, and will be occasions when God desires division and when splits and schisms are truly sanctified occurrences. The Apostle Paul calls for division from those who cause division primarily through their separation of from Biblical orthodoxy.” (emphasis added)
Throughout the history of the Christian Faith, the Biblical response to false teaching and heresy cannot be overstressed. Pertinent is what Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote:
“To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.”
Spurgeon also maintained that:
“The preservation of a denominational association when it is powerless to discipline heretics cannot be justified on the grounds of the preservation of ‘Christian unity.’ It is error which breaks the unity of churches, and to remain
in a denominational alignment which condones error is to support schism.”
Spurgeon summarized his position by stating that:
“Separation from such as connive at fundamental error … is not schism, but only what truth, and conscience, and God require for all who would be found faithful.”
The authority and integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot afford to be compromised on the altar of any feigned institutional “unity” or “loyalty.” True Christian unity can only be found within the confines of Biblical truth.
Internal unity in the Anglican Communion has already been breached by numerous and ongoing blatant and flagrant false teachings and practices of the revisionists and innovators during the past 40 or more years. Ample opportunity for turning around has long since been granted within the Anglican Communion but no discipline has been exercised against heterodoxy. Archbishop Justin Welby’s recent positions are precisely that of which we have been warned. It is time for the orthodox to act since the errant Archbishop of Canterbury and the institution of the Anglican Communion has not.
The prophet Isaiah at 5:20 divinely announced:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
As Paul exhorted at II Corinthians 6:14 and affirmed in numerous other of his letters:
“’Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord.”
Peter and the other apostles courageously told the accusing Council:
“We must obey God rather than men.”
May the orthodox Anglicans around the globe in a time such as this do likewise!
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By the Rev’d Canon Dr. Timothy R. Smith, Mobile, Alabama, RevDrDrTRS@gmail.com
 Jude 1:3.
 “Heresy,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 470.
 Iain H. Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, (Banner of Truth, 1981), pp. 164-165.