Schism and Confessionalism

“And to stay in one’s own church despite much impurity in doctrine and life is our duty as long as it does not prevent us from being faithful to our own confession and does not force us, even indirectly, to obey humans more than God.”

-Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. IV, 319.

“What then constitutes a necessity for schism, and makes that crime a virtue? We venture to answer, that no man is at liberty to labour for a division of the church to which he belongs, unless he and others are called upon either to profess what they think erroneous, or to do what they think wrong. As the duty of preserving the unity of the church is obvious and admitted, the seceders must make out that they are free from this solemn obligation. But what can free them from the obligation of duty, but the interference of some stronger obligation ? So long as the standards of any church remain unaltered, its members profess the same faith which they avowed when they joined it.”

-Charles Hodge, “The Act and Testimony,” The Biblical Repertory and Theological Review 6, no. 4, 520.

The church is not a voluntary organization, but the body of Christ of which his people are necessarily a part. Denominations exist and are separate for myriad reasons, but the takeaway from Bavinck and Hodge is that, all things being equal, to leave your church (congregation, denomination) if its confession and your fidelity to it remain unchanged, is schism. Church hopping and treating denominations as networks is disallowed.