CAUSES OF DIVISIONS
The causes of the present confusion and divisions among churches can be summarized into the following categories:
(1)Groups are denominated according to geographical reasons. The Anglican or Episcopal Church is one example of this. Anglican means it belongs to the Anglos. It is the Church of England. When it was carried over to America, it was called the Episcopal Church. But it was in reality still the Church of England. When it was brought to China, it became the Church of England in China. And when the Episcopal Church also came to China, it became the Church of England in America in China!
Take the example of the Catholic Church. It is in reality the Church of Rome. When it came to China, it established churches in Shanghai and Foochow. Now Rome is mixed up with Foochow. Many denominations that originate according to geographical reasons confuse the churches throughout the world.
(2)Confusion may arise out of the difference in time. For example, when Catholicism was introduced in China during the Tang dynasty, it was called Nestorianism. Then during the Ming dynasty, a new wave came in distinct from the former Nestorians. During the Ching dynasty, all kinds of sects and denominations started to flow in. None of them were related in any way to the former two groups. When they all came to Shanghai, the time lapse between their establishments had produced a host of different churches.
(3)Churches may be divided according to people. The group that Mr. John Wesley started eventually became the Methodist Church. It has its independent organization and administration and has branches all over the world. Then there is the Lutheran denomination, which was formed after the death of Martin Luther. Now Lutheran churches appear all over the world also. All these divisions are divided according to men. There are many other organizations that denominate themselves in this way.
(4)There may be a difference in the emphasis of truths. Those who emphasize justification by faith set up the Lutheran Church. Those who look to Pentecostal experiences started the Pentecostal churches. And those who believe in immersion, as opposed to sprinkling for baptism, formed the Baptist Church.
Some groups emphasize church administration. Those who believe in the independence of jurisdiction formed the Congregational churches. Those who proposed the order of eldership started the Presbyterian Church. Those who emphasize apostolic succession began the Apostolic Church.
Thus, all these fifteen hundred denominations were formed. Every group has its history and doctrines. If you merely listen to their history or doctrines, it is very difficult to find the way to go. Today if you are in Shanghai or in Foochow, it is a hard thing for you to decide which church you should join.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)