Can the Church Learn From the Past?

I’ve recently been studying a little church history. After reading about the Great Schism that separated the East and the West and moving on to the Great Schism of the Western Church, the messiness of church history has once again been awoken in my heart.

During the Western Schism, there were THREE popes claiming authority for about 9 years-Urban VI in Rome, Clement VII in Avignon, France, and Alexander V-and they were all excommunicating one another. Eventually, the Council of Constance removed all three popes, placing Martin V in the papacy. Now this is the same church council (held 1414 to 1417) that condemned two different John’s: John Hus and John Wycliff.

John Hus claimed that the church and its leaders can err and have erred in the past-something radical of his time. Hus was burned at the stake.

John Wycliff believed that the state had the authority to depose any wicked churchmen (clergy). He also wanted the Bible to be read by the everyday person, not just in Latin by the Church, so he translated the Vulgate into the common language in his area, not a good idea. Wycliff (who died of natural causes in 1384) was unburied and his remains were burned-as an effort to purge the sin from Wycliff for his beliefs.

While the church has evolved from burning people at the stake, Christian men and women are being thrown under the bus left and right. In an essence, people with radical ideas and viewpoints become the scapegoat of ridicule and disgrace.

Instead of continuing to burn our fellow Christians, why not extend love and grace? By gracefully inviting conversation and discussion on controversial issues, maybe we can learn to agree to disagree.

Am I dreaming too big? Can the church (again, that’s us) really learn from the past?


*Photo courtesy of here