Matthew Paul Turner writes at Beliefnet about the trauma of going through not one, not two, but three church breakups. Experiencing a church split was surprisingly painful, whether the church in question was an almost cult-like community or an open, friendly congregation--and it revealed some alarming tendencies in his own heart:
A church split has consequences I was not prepared for. It never occurred to me that I would lose most of my friends who still attended. I didn’t fully understand that people who still frequented the old church would become almost like enemies to me. Thinking about their actions kept me awake at night and filled my head and heart with anger. I didn’t know that I, who had been following Jesus since I was four, would be able to feel such deep hatred for other Christians.
Have you lived through a church breakup? Was it relatively "friendly"--with both sides agreeing to part ways without animosity--or was it a heart-wrenching experience that broke up friendships and left bitterness in its wake?
Quite a few years ago, my family's church split, largely over doctrinal issues. I was away at college during the moments of greatest tension, and so much of my knowledge of the event was filtered through various acquaintances on different 'sides' of the debate. That lessened the trauma for me, but I know it affected other people in the congregation deeply. Both 'sides' of that debate have gone on to develop healthy and vital church communities since then, enough so that I think you could say it worked out for the best in the end. But every now and then, talking to people from the old congregation, the topic comes up and I can tell that it still weighs on their minds, almost a decade later. (And I'd be lying if I claimed not to have felt some bitterness about it myself over the years.)
What about you? Have you experienced the bitterness of a church breakup--and if so, how did you overcome that anger?