A schism (pronounced /ˈsɪzəm/ SIZ-əm, /ˈskɪzəm/ SKIZ-əm or, less commonly, /ˈʃɪzəm/ SHIZ-əm) is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as the East–West Schism or the Great Western Schism. It is also used of a split within a non-religious organization or movement or, more broadly, of a separation between two or more people, be it brothers, friends, lovers, etc.
A schismatic is a person who creates or incites schism in an organization or who is a member of a splinter group. Schismatic as an adjective means pertaining to a schism or schisms, or to those ideas, policies, etc. that are thought to lead towards or promote schism.
In religion, the charge of schism is distinguished from that of heresy, since the offence of schism concerns not differences of belief or doctrine but promotion of, or the state of, division. However, schisms frequently involve mutual accusations of heresy. In Roman Catholic teaching, every heresy is a schism, while there may be some schisms free of the added guilt of heresy. Liberal Protestantism, however, has often preferred heresy over schism. Presbyterian scholar James I. McCord (quoted with approval by the Episcopalian Bishop of Virginia, Peter Lee) drew a distinction between them, teaching: "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose heresy every time." ("Choose heresy" is a pun; "heresy" is a Latinization of an ancient Greek word for "to choose".)