Orthodox Study Bible

Orthodox Study Bible

It is the position of the Orthodox Church that we stay away from schismatic churches.

People are often troubled by this, as they do not feel that it is something that our Lord Jesus Christ would have approved of. However, the warning to stay away from schismatic churches is repeated often in the Holy Scriptures. Remember that the Greek word schism simply means division.

Schisms began in the Church from earliest times, and the Church had to warn against them back then too. The Apostle Paul was very clear on what to do with schismatic communities:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions [ie, schisms] and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. (Romans 16:17, NIV)

Likewise, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said:

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17, NIV)

How did our Lord treat pagans? He ate with them, He showed them kindness – but He did not go to worship together with them in their temples!

So too it must be with schisms. We must follow the command of the Apostle, and the example of our Lord. Love all people, show them kindess – including those who are members of the schismatic community. However, we must keep away from their temples – for their sake as much as for ours.

This is the consistent opinion of all Orthodox bishops and was repeated just recently by the gathering of all Orthodox bishops from Australia and New Zealand.  View this previous blog post.