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Neither. After having read the most recent edition of Finke and Stark's The Churching of America: 1776 - 2006, it seems to me a rather natural thing.

Rather than a good thing or bad thing, it is just a thing - it's always been going on and always will. As long as "America's religious economy" acts a free market, it's unavoidable.

I am saddened, though, by some of the un-Christian words that occasionally get tossed back and forth by the various sides.

"Rather than a good thing or bad thing, it is just a thing"

Nicely said.

Dave, what's interesting to me is that the congregations make these decisions as groups, rather than as individuals. That seems to point to some level of cohesion within the local community. Mormons who don't closely identify with the institutional church and who are dissatisfied with their church's direction affiliation don't form another church en masse these days (although that has not always been the case). They leave.

Over on NOM, there was a comment once about gathering all the like-minded people in a ward and meeting together in the cultural hall for a separate Sunday school. The idea was that eventually there would be more of "us" than of "them" (because our SS would be way more interesting) and then we could move into the chapel.

I think the kind of divides that are overt among the Protestants are just as present among the Saints, but the all powerful hierarchy completely eliminates any local autonomy. We ALL know who owns our buildings, and it ain't us.

Ann, the hierarchy is hardly "all-powerful" if it can't make more than half of us go to Sunday School class! And the point isn't that there are not differences of opinion among Mormons as there are among Protestants, it's that Mormon congregations (or the Church as a whole) do not split down the middle every few years as a result. It's the Protestant institutional failure I'm noting.

Maybe this explains some of the characteristic Protestant intolerance with those of different faiths that I keep coming back to here on the blog. In a big-tent denomination like Catholicism or Mormonism, you learn to get along with those with different faith perspectives because you're all in the same church and congregation. If you're Protestant, you learn to label someone with a different faith perspective a heretic or worse, and run off and start your own church or congregation. They preach unity and charity but practice division. Is that not a fact that invites discussion and an explanation?

Dave, sure there are all kinds of examples of poor reasons for divisions and ways those disputes are handled. You are right to point these things out.

But for some conservative Christians, individual priesthood and following one's personal conscience in pursuing doctrinal truth is a much higher treasure than maintaining the status quo in a religious institution.

Some people don't understand how the passionate pursuit of unity and love could cause one to eventually divide from a larger corporate mass.

Some Christian unity is so riddled with hypocrisy, it is not worth preserving.

Grace and truth is an interesting combo. And it is perfectfully seen in Jesus Christ. Some don't like Christ's truth. And some don't like his loving grace. But he is the answer to the religious mess in this world. Not the institutions. And not the earthly radicals in the religions.

In the almost ridiculously unlikely event that a majority of an LDS congregation decided to secede, does anyone know to what degree if any the legal precedent established in the two recent cases would apply to a similar situation with an LDS congregation?

Also, what is the legal principle that led the judges to make these relatively unusual decisions? Is there a common law principle at work here that overrides the PCUSA constitution, for example?

"Us" Dave? What is this "Us" of which you speak?

I overstepped with the hyperbole on "all-powerful," (but what else is hyperbole for, if not overstepping?). What do you think of the idea of a communion/community of worshipers leaving together? The Mormons did it more than once back in the 19th century (see this book for thorough coverage and it still happens today among some of the groups. Garrison Keillor did a great take on the fictional "Sanctified Brethren"'s splits in one of his books (Lake Woebegone Days, maybe). I understand the yearning for a more authentic communion. Probably Joseph Smith did, too.

I took a American religious history course at the public university class I went to. The professor said the worse thing to happen to Christianity was when the scriptures were translated from Latin into the vernacular of Europe. The most visible result was that a person would read one line out of the Bible and decide that his church was interpreting it wrong. That person's recourse: start his/her own church.

dpc, I think it was one of the best and most pivotal, rupturing activities in history . . . that a common man could read scripture in his own tongue. I would fight for that freedom in this day.

We owe a huge debt to William Tyndale. He gave his life for what we carry on our laps.

After reading this thread, mostly what I feel about them coming apart at the seams is schadenfreude:

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/10/30/christians-kindly-remind-mitt-youre-not-one-of-us/

I don't see what the difference is whether they start a church or not. Since it is a common practice I think that if they have the financial means and a sizeable body of adherents they should join the Protestant revolution. You never know their new church might grow large as time passes making them in one hundred years the tenth or twentieth largest denomination. Who knows maybe they will infiltrate the highest ranks and take over as the major sect in their denomination. Martin Marty would be proud of them if they could evolve from a cult to a sect to a denomination in that short of a time. I remember he likened us as Mormon to the latter statement. We are evolving. Why shouldn't the group mentioned in your post do the same.

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