The Early Church Donatism
The Early Church

A fourth-century separatist movement among African Christians dedicated to the purification of the church and its ministry after the persecutions.

The Donatist movement took place in North Africa

Donatism emerged out of African controversies over how to regard Christians who had lapsed during persecutions. The Donatist party maintained that in order to remain pure and holy the church could not accept the ministry of those who had lapsed during persecution. The movement was occasioned by the consecration of a newly named bishop by another bishop suspected to have lapsed. This, in the eyes of the Donatists, made the consecration of the new bishop invalid. The Donatists then created a schism by naming and consecrating a bishop of their own choosing. The successor of this bishop was Donatus, after whom the movement is named. Donatists maintained that sacraments administered by an unworthy priest were invalid. Augustine of Hippo was the principal opponent of Donatism. Augustine held that the sacraments were valid and effective without regard to the moral character of the officiant. This became the Catholic norm. The Donatist schism endured until the church in northern Africa was destroyed by Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries.

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Courtesy of the James Ford Bell LIbrary, Minneapolis, MN