Is globalization driving schism?


David Williamson of the Western Mail thinks so:

There have been grand tensions and international debates within religions and denominations in the past, such as the split between Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox churches in the 11th century.

But never before has communication between factions been so simple and fast. Tracts and polemics are no longer taken by brave riders on horseback along mountain passes populated by barbarian bandits. Instead, an outraged bishop in San Francisco or Kigali can simply post a screed on a blog, which will be read by an audience of millions in hours.

This has created the incredible situation where individual parishes unhappy with local leadership start to wonder, “Why don’t we switch allegiance to that compelling chap on a different continent?”

There is something to this argument, but it is important to ask: a) in what sense are parishes who put themselves under a foreign bishop seeking to escape any episcopal oversight while remaining nominally Anglican and b) when African archbishops spout 19th century evangelical theology in speeches written for them by American conservatives, is that an example of globalization enabled or globalization coopted?

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I had posted this as a response over on T19, but I thought I would add it here as well.


I find this argument fascinating. In the past, based on Nicea, geographic boundaries of dioceses were the norm other than during conflict in the Church, where border-crossing or multiple lines of leadership existed for a time. Post-Reformation of course, there came to exist multiple denominations, but Anglicanism traditionally has held to the Nicene model of geographically based dioceses and provinces. However now, as the author states, it is becoming clear that diversity of belief and practice among people in similar geographic areas does not mean that they simply have to learn to live with each other in the same church. There are now options.

The question that I would raise is whether or not this is a good thing. On the one hand, it is possible that it will allow different groups with divergent views about the faith to exist and develop those ideas with like-minded folk. On the other hand, it means that those groups (by which I mean everyone on any side of any issue that chooses to go its own way) may descend into a parochialism not dissimilar to the situation in the United States before the ecumenical movement really took root. You had Roman Catholics and protestant churches refusing even to talk, pray, or work together in the early to mid- 20th century, much less explore their common beliefs as Christians. Is that where we are headed again in the 21st century, except on a global scale?

--Jamie McMahon

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John B. Chilton

Globalization has changed the equilibrium. But so has localized sorting. In densely populated areas are more and more sorting into neighborhoods of people that share the same views as they do. And on top of this more and more people pass an Episcopal church (it applies to other denominations as well) on their way to services at another Episcopal church where their are people who share their views. The Episcopal Church is more heterogeneous than it once was which sounds good, but at the parish level you see homogeneity. Polarizing issues also intervene re-enforcing the drive toward intra-parish homogeneity.

Side bar: Globalization isn't new of course. That's how Anglicanism arrived in Africa to begin with.

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