NO REFORMATION WITHOUT SEPARATIONVatroslav Župančić
This October, the Protestant world will remember the great event that happened 505 years ago in the small German town of Wittenberg. It all began when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Schlosskirche, and at that moment, the reformation of the western church began.
Luther‘s intention was not to stir up disputes or to divide the church. He was motivated by sincere faith and serious zeal for the renewal of the church In accordance with the Holy Scriptures and patristic tradition. The Roman Catholic Church that he desired to reform – and especially the higher levels of establishment – was not prepared for change nor to give up their privileges and the positions they had gained through, at times, unchristian ways.
As the reformation movement continued to add more and more members while at the same time, the opposition and rejection from the other side of the church were getting more contentious, and the reformers were forced to move towards separation. This step was taken to protect the believers from attacks but was mainly led by a commitment to be true to the Scriptures and Christian doctrine with a willingness to oppose any teachings and novelties that opposed those principles.
Thanks to this separation, a movement of spiritual renewal and revival of faith came into being, which soon had a big impact on the western hemisphere and in the later revivals experienced worldwide, such as Methodism.
The Bible teaches that sometimes separation is necessary and needed to protect truth and doctrine, as it has been revealed to us against dangerous influences and false teachings.
We can see that the Southern Tribe of Judah separated themselves from the northern Israelite tribes when the influence of idolatry was threatening to corrupt the entire people who had been chosen to be: ‘‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation“ (Ex 19, 6) for God.
It is evident that while unity was an important issue for God‘s people, the primary concern was for them to be ‘‘holy“. The word ‘‘holy“ in Hebrew is קָדוֹשׁ which means: sacred, consecrated, and also implies ‘‘otherness“ and ‘‘separation, “above all for God. Israelites were called to be separated ‘‘from“ all ‘‘uncleanness“ and evil in their environment and to be consecrated for and to God.
In the New Testament, we can read about a situation where the apostle Paul made:
“ When some stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way before the congregation, he (Paul) left them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.“ Acts 19:9 (NRSV)
The pressure facing the apostle and his teaching was growing stronger in the synagogue – the place where God should be worshipped, and he was left with no other choice but to separate the disciples: those who wanted to follow the teachings of Christ and those who were the foundation of the ancient church.
The word “church“ in Greek has the idea of separation. Namely, the word ἐκκλησία (ekklesia) means: ‘‘called out or called for“. The church is an assembly of believers called out of a corrupt world and religious systems – for God‘s purposes. This is exactly what the reformers wanted to emphasize: that the church had to separate itself from teachings that undermine the authority of Scripture and be committed to the purposes that God has given to the church: to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments, and to implement godly discipline.
The believers and clergy who joined the Global Methodist Church have often been accused of disturbing the church‘s unity and stirring up separation, but this is not the issue of utmost importance to them. As a sincere believer, Biblical truth is more important than just keeping a form of unity, and pursuing a Wesleyan understanding of holiness is of more value than false tolerance. Such people are convinced that without godly separation, we can never see a Christian reformation -that is so essentially needed in the Church today.