"Heresy Or Schism?"

Recently at the annual diocesan council of his denomination the “Right Reverend” Peter J. Lee, the Episcopal bishop of Virginia, uttered these fateful words: “If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, choose heresy” (Agape Press, 2/6/2004). Lee was referring to the ongoing conflict within the Episcopal (Anglican) denomination over last summer’s ordination of V. Gene Robinson as the first openly homosexual bishop of the Episcopal Church - USA. Some conservative Episcopalians  are threatening to break away from the American church because of the ordination.

What is “heresy”? According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words it is “’an opinion,’ especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects.” Basically it is any doctrine which is not aligned with the teaching of the New Testament (2 Peter 2:1). What is schism? It is “a rent, division” (Vines) in the church. Often it is the result of false doctrine, or sometimes because of personal disagreements. But in both cases, a tragedy occurs - division of the body of Christ. It is anathema to the unity Jesus wants from His disciples (John 17:20-21).

But the Bible teaches that the faithful child of God must separate themselves from evil, including heresy (2 Corinthians 6:14). We are obligated to separate ourselves from those who teach and practice false doctrine. You cannot mix sewage and water and expect the mixture to be potable. This flies in the face of the religious pluralism recommended by Mr. Lee. He wants his fellow congregants to tolerate  heresy for the sake of unity. Nowhere does the Bible teach this.

It is ironic that the Episcopal Church - USA would take this view, because a division in their ranks, would only be the fragmenting of a fragment. The original head of their church, King Henry VIII, broke away from the Roman Catholic Church (itself a fragment) in the Sixteenth Century over divorce and remarriage. Their religious practices of infant baptism (pouring or immersion), church government, women in positions of authority, and unauthorized worship, are contrary to the pattern given to us by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Some of my brethren are just like the Episcopalians, in that they tolerate heresy for the sake of unity. For example some brethren have long known that the congregation they have attended for years has become liberal. Their preacher preaches from a polluted version of the Bible like the NIV. He emphasizes “grace-only” salvation. He even claims that he “feels” the presence of the Holy Spirit. Those in the assembly are encouraged to applaud his sermon or to wave their hands during the song service. Bible class teachers teach from the latest book by a known false teacher rather than the word of God. Participation in para-church organizations is encouraged, even some with denominational ties. Youth ministers are employed which know more about basketball than the Bible. And the eldership acts like the board of directors of a charity rather than those “holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9) and shepherds who “watch for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17).

But these brethren will offer a long list of excuses for not fleeing the apostate church: "We are a loving group of people"; "we have a nice building"; “all my friends and family are here”;  and "they haven’t brought in the organ." They want to commune with the devil while claiming to be a child of God (2 Corinthians 6:17). Both of the above described parties will lose their souls unless they repent. Roelf L. Ruffner

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets