Schisms are nothing new to the church. There have been many throughout history. Most Protestants know of the Reformation where Luther posted his 95 thesis to the doors of the local church. But, what most people don’t know is most schisms throughout history have largely been a political schism and not a doctrinal schism.
The Great Schism of 1054 is often sited to be about the filioque, a Latin term that was added to the Nicene Creed. It describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father AND the Son, instead of just the Father. The church in the East disagreed with the church in
the West. Though this is one issue among many. The real issue was authority and control.
In 1054 Pope Leo IX declared that all spiritual authority and rightful head of the church is the pope in Rome. The Eastern church did not take to kindly to such decrees. The pope died shortly there after, but, he had sent his emissary Humbert of Silva Candida to negotiate with the Eastern church. But in the end the Patriarch Michael Caerularius was excommunicated by the pope’s emissary to the East. In turn the Patriarch excommunicated the pope’s associates! He rejected the claim of the papal primacy. This is when the church split between East and West.
It also didn’t help the West sacked Constantinople, the center of the Eastern church, in 1204. The Eastern church became known as the Orthodox Church and the Western the Catholic Church.
Fast forward to today and we see the same issue of politics disrupting church unity. On January 5, 2019 the Ukraine Orthodox Church gained its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. Issues of politics, nationalism, power, and control, all played out and eventually led to the split of this great church.
I don’t know enough to say this is good or bad on the part of the Ukrainians or the Russians. I do know this is not the church that Jesus had called us to be.
The politics of this world are not the politics of Jesus Christ. The more we blur the two, the more we will be divided. The more we allow the politics to determine our practices, the less we will love our neighbor. We are to be IN the world, influencing it like leaven in bread. We are not to be OF the world having it influencing our practices and faith.
The church in the US will do well to learn this lesson.