Scripps Howard News Service
Even before Christianity was institutionalized, there were churches -- local Christian communities within the far-flung Roman Empire connected only by the faith they shared.
We know some of their names from the letters that St. Paul wrote to them -- Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, and Rome itself. In each case, Paul instructed the Gentiles in the Christian faith and was not above admonishing them to put an end to their quarreling.
Despite bickering, heresies, and schisms, such has been the vigor of Christianity that the Church has endured.
But quarrels continue. This month, just as the leaders of the 80 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion assemble in England for the Lambeth Conference, the denomination risks self-destruction.
The Anglican dispute sharpened this month when the Church of England agreed to the future appointment of women as bishops. Traditionalists claiming to represent 1,300 English clergy threaten to abandon the church altogether rather than accept women as leaders. It is not an idle threat. Years ago, when the Church of England approved opening the priesthood to women, 500 clergymen broke away to join the Roman Catholic Church.
The current presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church happens to be a woman. Katherine Jefferts Schori says the quarrel is "another chapter in a centuries-old struggle for dominance by those who consider themselves the only true believers."