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The Eastern Schism Debate
Submitted by Melissa Pineiro, North Brunswick Township High School

Core Questioned Addressed:

  1. What is the changing nature of religion?
  2. How has religion changed throughout history?
  3. How has the role of religion changed through history?

Time Frame: 2-4 days (dependent upon amount of research time given)

Suggested Grade Level: High School

New Jersey Core Content Standards: 6.2, 6.4, 6.5

Instructional Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to identify the time period in the Christian Church known as the Eastern Schism.
  2. Students will be able to identify causes of the formation of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
  3. Students will be able to use research to form an opinion and debate that opinion.

Resource Materials:

  1. Eastern Schism Power Point Presentation
  2. Media Center of Library

Strategies and Procedures:

  1. Provide students with background of the Eastern Schism by using the Eastern Schism Power Point Presentation.
  2. Break class into four groups.
  3. Explain that there will be two debates.
    ·  The Christians vs. the Iconoclasts
    ·  The Pope vs. the Patriarch
  4. Explain to students that they are to research the Eastern Schism and compile reasons that support their topic. They should also research the opposing ideas so that they can be better prepared for the opposition’s opinions and properly refute them. Topics that are being debated include:
    ·  The Church should continue the use of icons to aide religion
    ·  The Church should abolish the use of icons in religion
    ·  The Pope is the supreme authority over all Christians
    ·  The Patriarch has the right to accept the authority of the Byzantine emperor
  5. Clarify any student questions.
  6. Allow research time in the library or Media Center.
  7. Allow some in class time for group members to share their research and prepare for debate.
  8. Allow 1 class period to hold the debate. Set aside one half of the period for each debate to occur.


  1. Evaluate each debate group for:
  2. After debate, have students write a position paper as to whether or not icons should have continued to be used in the Christian Church and who is the real authority of the Christian Church. Have students state their reasons for each, also identifying why they did not choose the opponent.
  3. Have students write an essay describing which group they felt staged a better argument in the debate that they did not partake in. Have students state the reason they chose that side, and which specific opinions won them over.

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