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The word "denomination" means "division". Divisions are now so commonplace within the so-called Christian church, that no one hardly even takes notice of them any more. Divisions occur in companies, clubs, political parties, families, and between friends.

For the people involved, the division is often one of the most traumatic experiences of life. Divisions can lead to nervous breakdowns, suicide, even murder. But for those not involved, divisions are just a depressing fact of life. Most of us would rather not get involved; or, if we do, we would try to get both parties to just ignore their differences.

"Kiss and make up," is what we advocate. "Agree to disagree." "Forget your differences." But there is precious little kissing or making up. Divorce of one sort or another is a hallmark of modern life.

In the church world, we've moved from the days of one holy catholic (i.e. "universal") church, to a vast array of protesters. Obviously, if the monolith goes astray, then the "true church" may need to move on. But when the general public looks out their windows, all they witness now is a great sea of protesters shouting at each other in total confusion. One more shout in the midst of it all is not likely to impress anyone.

Yet despite this, we as a community have been protesting for some twenty years now. We have done it because we believe that we have found the one issue (in the so-called Christian church, at least) which stands far above all the other petty differences over which people have divided. That issue is the "cornerstone" of our faith. It is the teachings of Jesus Christ, as contained in the Bible.

Wherever Jesus went, we are told that his words "caused division." His teachings can be the only legitimate basis for disagreement amongst those of us professing to be his followers; and his teachings can be the only true basis for unity as well. Not the teachings of Luther or Wesley or Tolstoy or McKay.

If people are truly following Jesus, then God's will has been decreed for us through Jesus, i.e. "that they may be one", just as Jesus and his Father are one. Unity and Christianity are inseparable. All differences must be smashed on the rock of Christ's teachings. All petty hurts and grievances must be dealt with, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through the breaking of our stubborn will and pride. Anything short of that is simply not Christian.

Divisions which stem only from hurt feelings and desires for independence and power are not Christian... any more than all the bickering, wars, and animosity of this whole divided world are Christian.

In any grievance, there are almost certainly faults on both sides. Infallibility can only be found in Jesus himself. But if he and his teachings become our focus, then all of us who serve him in sincerity and truth, should be moving daily closer to one another.

We called this article "The Split" because it is our attempt to address what happened in our community early in 1998, and which has been daily growing more permanent.

We had a split... right down the middle of our community. There are disagreements over where it started, and over what the issues are; so any attempt to bring outsiders into the debate would just confuse them. Needless to say, there were a lot of hurt feelings, and a lot of things were said which probably should not have been said.

Nevertheless, both sides agreed almost from the start, to minimise outside involvement. We immediately stopped sending out our newsletter, because we did not have the words to explain what was going on. We tried to give people the impression that the split was an amicable one. We minimised open confrontation between the two "sister" communities that developed as a result of the split, in the hope that feelings would eventually cool down and that people on both sides would eventually come to see our differences as "specks" compared to the "logs" of similarity that we have in Christ.

However, we must now report, after two years of separation, that the differences are continuing to grow, without resolution. That is not to say that anyone understands exactly what the differences are. Those who have broken away maintain that the rest of us have, in one way or the other, gone "off the rails". We have asked repeatedly for some precise explanation for their departure and we only get statements about me and others being "paranoid", "deluded", "totally dishonest" etc. As soon as we get into the specifics, the other side backs off and says they do not want to talk about it.

Part of the problem is that the protesters themselves have fragmented. Darren, Donna, and Ray left them only days after they left us. Boyd, Sheri and Big Josh decided to head out on their own, but agreed to keep mail contact with the others. Big Josh left Boyd and Sheri a short while after they left Sydney.

That left only Kev, Craig, Yesamma, and Tim. Then Tim left. And then Kev and Craig separated, albeit amicably.

"I am prepared to see them all leave," Craig had said earlier. "In spirit, they will still all be part of my community."

To their credit, Boyd and Sheri have continued to live by faith and to provide free service to others as they have moved around Australia.

But hanging over all this Christian activity is the question of their relationship with us... the "ashes" from which their "phoenix" supposedly arose. We keep praying for reconciliation, but our hopes are low.

As we said earlier, arguing in public will only confuse you. We expect the general public to sympathise with them. The reason is that we continue to be radically dogmatic about obedience to Jesus as the mark of a true Christian, while Boyd, Kevin and Craig are teaching a more ecumenical gospel now.

That is not to say that they are not still radical and do not still teach things that are going to offend the churches. We are only saying that they are moving closer to a more liberal understanding of who are the "good guys"... It is just unfortunate that the bottom line in the doctrine is that we always end up being the "bad guys".

(Update June, 2003: Craig now has an anti-God anti-Jesus website, and Kevin has dropped the website and other activities that he started as an attempt to imitate us.)

We find ourselves forced to entertain two opposing theories at the same time (while also considering a third one):

One theory is that there has just been an unfortunate misunderstanding, and that over time, it will settle more into perspective, and we will be united with a happy ending. Oh, how we would like to see that eventuate!

The other theory is that Kevin, Boyd and Craig managed to accomplish as a group what has only happened to isolated individuals in the past, i.e. that the whole breakaway group chose to backslide en masse. Their almost immediate friendship with and sympathy for all former backsliders strongly supports that theory.

(Note: The split was preceded by three months during which Cherry and I were overseas, and it was all the people who remained in Australia under Craig's leadership who left.) Only one thing seems to unite them all, and that is a common hatred for me personally -- although various ones have hatred for others of us as well. (Boyd recently wrote, "You all insist that Sheri and I have a problem with Dave. No, our problem is with you all. The spirit you've been following is not Christ's. We will have no part of your hierarchies and fleshly importance." No evidence was given to support his blanket accusations.)

The third possible explanation for the split is that the breakaway group have actually "graduated". We have always taught that this is a possibility. We have taught that each of us must be willing to stand on our own or with other dissidents, if the group as a whole should ever fall away from following Jesus.

"Graduates", we have said, would be united by a common revelation of truth which would be rejected by the apostate group. Unfortunately, the inability of this present group of "graduates" to even work with each other, at the same time that they support former backsliders, some of whom no longer even profess personal faith in God, seems to label them more as "malcontents" than graduates. They certainly have not presented us with any statement of doctrine that God has given them, and that we have supposedly rejected.

So, barring significant moves toward reconciliation, we have "marked those that cause division contrary to the teachings of Christ", as the Bible instructs us to do. (Romans 16:17) We have encouraged our members to avoid private correspondence or discussions with them, until there is some move toward official reconciliation.

We rejoice that at least some of the breakaway group are still defending the teachings of Jesus on occasions. Unfortunately, there are indications that even these good actions fall into the category of what Paul described as people preaching "Christ of contention." (Philippians 1:15-16) Paul rejoiced that Jesus was being preached, but he said the people doing it had, themselves, slipped into religious competition, and had lost the real spirit of Christ's teachings.

Malcontents have often been attracted to the truth in what we teach. It is so plain and so overwhelming that they can't resist using it to "pick a fight" with poor hapless churchies, who, of course, haven't got a leg to stand on when confronted with such truths. But winning such an argument against a churchie doesn't really prove a thing about the winner, if the teachings of Jesus are not working in his or her own life. The Bible says to judge a tree by its fruit. In other words, you need to plot a graph to see which way the tree is growing, and to work out where it is all going to end up. We have done that with the breakaway group, and the outlook is dismal to say the least.

People can plead ignorance about some of Jesus's teachings. But the breakaway group is not ignorant. They spent years practising the "grievance system" as taught by Jesus himself in Matthew 18:15-17, as his way of resolving differences. They know that reconciliation is one of the most important teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:21-24).

However, now the breakaway group teaches, on the basis of some rather spurious interpretations of comments that I myself made about how autonomous communities might operate, that the grievance system does not need to operate between one body of believers and another. They have made a doctrine out of "division", and they do not cite the teachings of Jesus to support this false doctrine. Instead, they cite the teachings of one David McKay!

It is ironic that I, David McKay, am leading that part of the community which has rejected my comments on autonomy (or at least the breakaway group's interpretation of my comments) in favour of what Jesus has taught; while Kevin, Boyd and Craig continue to use my teachings as an excuse for their rebellion against the teachings of Jesus.

Yes, rebellion. For that it was it is. They have known the truth, but now they wilfully reject it. The Bible says that rebellion against God is as bad as witchcraft. (1 Samuel 15:23) All the evidence suggests that the rebels are acting in complete contradiction to the principles that Jesus has given us for resolving our differences, despite having once acknowledged them as being God's wil.

But we have not stopped praying for reconciliation, and we rejoice at any effort they may make to preach the gospel. They need only turn around and stop hating those of us who are also preaching the gospel, and we will welcome them with open arms.

But if they will not repent, we are confident that they will become more and more counterfeit in their attempts to act "radical". Man looks at the outward appearance; but God looks at the heart.

How can they say that they love God whom they haven't seen, if they cannot even love their brothers and sisters in Christ, whom they have seen?

(See also Mark Those Who Cause Division.)

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