20 December 2008

Church discipline survey

by Dan Phillips

Lifting one theme from the previous post that many seem to be missing:
How many of you attend or know of churches whose constitutions/bylaws expressly state that running away does not cancel the discipline process?
Dan Phillips's signature

76 comments:

DJP said...

NOTE WELL THE RULES:

1. I did not ask how many of you do not attend or know of such churches
2. I did not ask how many of you think it is a bad idea
3. I did not invite people who rebel against the sort of accountability the Bible lays out to vent your spleens

I think the question is pretty clear. Please answer it, or move along.

Hayden said...

I do, or at least I am in the process of moving to Florida to pastor a church that took a similar stand to Grace Church in Jacksonville. This is one of the reasons that I agreed to go and pastor there. I knew they took the Bible seriously.

cslewis3147 said...

I have never attended one or know of one in my area of living, in good ole Arkansas....I wish I did.

Darby Livingston said...

Our church expressly states that. Thankfully to this point, we've never had to go that far in the process, although we did once have to go public before repentance came.

DJP said...

Yes, I would think that ideally the purpose of such a clause is similar to the purpose of a nation possessing tons of nuclear weapons: you have them so that you don't have to use them.

Solameanie said...

My particular church might well have that in its bylaws, but I can't remember for certain. However, I believe church discipline is discussed in membership classes.

As a side note, this illustrates a problem that I've been wrestling with for quite a while. The church is not to be governed by man-made laws, at least in terms of how the church functions. Scripture is our final authority. I often wonder if churches have made too many accommodations to the state in being registered, having to have bylaws on file etc. Just the fact that "bylaws" are on file with the state and are legal documents invites litigation from anyone who wants to have a dispute.

If anyone who is part of a church thinks they can sue over anything that rankles them, well..you can foresee the end result.

Phil Siefkes said...

The paperwork of the church I shepherd explicitly states: "No request [for dismissal by the individual] shall be considered if the person is under any step of church discipline including Matthew 18:16 and beyond."

Didn't use to be that way, though.

Tara Barthel said...

Thankfully, our church is such a church.

jigawatt said...

cslewis3147 - check out BCLR if you're in the Little Rock area.

I attend a PCA church, and I think this is the pertinent portion of the Book of Church Order.

32-20. Process, in case of scandal, shall commence within the space of one year after the offense was committed, unless it has recently become flagrant. When, however, a church member shall commit an offense, after removing to a place far distant from his former residence, and where his connection with the church is unknown, in consequence of which process cannot be instituted within the time above specified, the recent discovery of the church membership of the individual shall be considered as equivalent to the offense itself having recently become flagrant. The same principle, in like circumstances, shall also apply to ministers.

Chad V. said...

The way ours is worded running away would be a cause for church discipline anyhow.

shadowofhiswings said...

Our church certainly does. It's emphasized strongly in the constitution/bylaws.

Nat Stri

Peter said...

I attend at church that practices discipline, but it is done biblically and with grace with the purpose always to restore, reconcile and seek repentance. It does not contact the media, make personal letters public, like this situation has fostered. And, if a person ultimately leaves the church while being confronted, they are prayed for, pleaded with to repent, but they are not hunted down and publicly shamed. This current situation seems to have broken down on several levels. A poor testimony to all in the public who are reading about this.

I do have a question for you: where in the Scriptures does it expressly state that if someone leaves a local church that they should be pursued and discipline still carried out against them?

As a follow up: if there is no clear biblical teaching concerning this, how can any church be dogmatic about it? Church constitutions do not trump Scripture nor replace Scripture.

Also, when was the last time anyone in your church was disciplined for gossip and false accusations?

Stephanie said...

Peter, the church did not make it public. The woman who was being disciplined brought it to the media.

The Worsley Family said...

Our church clearly states that in the membership application and it is expressly stated by the pastor as he teaches the membership class. Faith Community Church in Newhall, California.

CR said...

I'm not a 100% certain, but I think it was discussed in my membership class. And I believe it is the policy of my church that people just can't just 86 out of there when they’re in the process of discipline. I don't believe I received a copy of "bylaws" or the church constitution. The PCA church does things differently. You can appeal all the way to the general assembly so I think that's why we have a bylaws or a church constitution. I could be wrong on this.

TulipGirl said...

All of the instances of church discipline which were handled with the congregation as a whole, in churches in which I've been a member -- it was dealt with in love, restoration, and truly an amazing display of the Gospel lived out.

On the other hand, I know of more than one instance of people "running" from church discipline, and then blaming the church. "The elders were wrong, we didn't even go to that church anymore. . . blah, blah, blah."

It still startles me. . . shocks me. . . that in at least one of these instances the offending brother was embraced by another church, his previous discipline pooh-poohed and no resolution ever reached. Was the power of the Gospel lived out and proclaimed? Sadly, when church discipline is unresolved the Church and Christians miss an opportunity to live out the glorious Gospel of grace.

Darby Livingston said...

"where in the Scriptures does it expressly state that if someone leaves a local church that they should be pursued and discipline still carried out against them?"

I'm not trying to be mean or harsh. I'm really not. But if one has an understanding of the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ and the nature of church, then that question becomes an absurdity that I doubt many reading this blog would even have a category for.

ZSB said...

The church I pastor has nary a word in the bylaws about discipline, but I know of a couple Independent Bible churches in our area with some fairly well laid-out procedures. The question of whether the person leaving should end the discipline becomes a non-issue if the process is developed properly. The bylaws should state that the person is not ALLOWED to withdraw membership while under discipline (and will not, therefore, be released to another church). These days, such a step is also a way for the church to cover itself legally. The member knew going in that, should discipline begin, they would not be able to take their ball and go home, enabling them to cry "harassment!"

We just redid our bylaws and no one on the committee was keen on adding a discipline section because it's a downer and it didn't seem needed at the time. But I guess the point is that you want to have it already in place when you DO need it.

hpbc staff said...

@ solameanie

I don't know where you are from but In Oklahoma the state law only requires THAT we have a constitution as a non-profit organization. They do not have our constitution "on file." Speaking on behalf of the state, they do not want to give tax-free status to any dude who wants to call his family his church, etc. - so they require NFP organizations to jump thru several hoops to obtain 501c3 status. One of which is that they be incorporated and have a constitution.

Moreover, your theoretical is flawed in that you presuppose that the state wants to become the interpreter for an institution's bylaws. There are plenty of precedents that tell us states and feds want nothing to do with this sticky issue (most recently see Klouda v. Patterson and SWBTS).

Sharon said...

My church practices Matthew 18 discipline, and has ever since our current pastor arrived in 1969! In fact, sadly, at our next Communion service on December 28, we will "tell it to the church" of two people who continue to pursue unbiblical divorces, and refuse to repent after multiple meetings with pastors and elders.

I personally do not know of any other church in the area that obeys this biblical mandate.

If more churches engaged in biblical discipline, more people would take their Christian faith seriously!

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!

A Musician by Grace

Solameanie said...

hpbc,

I'm in the People's Republic of Illinois. That should tell you enough right there. :O

You might well be right in some respects. However, the ways the law can be distorted and reinterpreted by clever attorneys and/or activist judges ought to give us pause no matter what past precedent has been. Review the rulings of the 9th Federal Circuit some time. Thankfully, they get overturned a lot.

Did you know that in Russia, some churches refuse to register with the government out of principle?

Teresa said...

the church of which I am a member specifically states in the constitution that "There can be no appeal to any court as a result of this action (1 Corinthians 6:1-2) and a member may not resign his/her membership in order to avoid church discipline." Due to a move to another town, I am going to join a Presby PCA church. If I am reading the Book of church order, part 2 correctly- then a member under discipline will continue to be disciplined by the church he/she is attempting to leave. (by the way- I live in Texas)

Solameanie said...

While I am at it, I can think of a Christian community in Chicago where spanking (of both children and adults) was practiced for a while. As in adults. I kid you not. I am happy that they saw the error of their ways and discontinued the controversial practice, but a small part of me sympathizes. There are a few in every church that could use a few good, hard swats.

I wonder how most erring brethr'n and sister'n in churches would react if they were sentenced to be paddled at the altar as an alternative to excommunication?

Rachael Starke said...

We don't have our actual constitution on our church's website. All the other documents lay out our support of the Matt. 18 process, but don't specifically call out the "you can't fire me, I quit" problem.

I'm guessing because no one who is drawn to membership in our congregation would ever think they could get away with such a thing - we know our pastor and elders love us way too much!!

donsands said...

When someone leaves the church when in chronic sin, or rebellion against the eldership, I don't think my church would pursue.

Though when the person in sin goes to join another church, it would be the responsibility of the eldership of this new church to exaime her, or him, and go to her last church and speak with the elders/pastors.

I've founf that most churches never do this. I have a lot to say on this, but suffice it to say pastors today, and in the majority of churches don't really check the background of the sheep. They simply preach, or speak from the pulpit and get their paycheck.

A good pastor would check out all avenues, and any new comer to the church he would call the previous pastor.

My two drachma's worth.

John Dearing said...

In the past I have known of no churches/by laws that deal with the issue of one fleeing discipline. My church and most I'm aware of vote on every member requesting membership. If they are under discipline from their previous church, we would investigate before giving approval(though that situation has never occured).

Most recently have come into contact with one area church that refuses to stop the discipline process due to flight.

donsands said...

One other thought. If I, as an elder, knew the local church where a rebellious ex-member had gone to, then I believe it would be my responsibility to call the pastor, and to let him know the situation, if he didn't call my church first.

trogdor said...

I'll try to get ahold of a copy tomorrow to check for sure. I would be very surprised if they didn't make it explicit. In membership class and the membership interview the process was very clearly discussed, and they make you get a letter of recommendation from your previous church. In one of our other ministry training classes, they discussed the process in even more detail, including how the elders follow up on all cases several times a year, including those who try to avoid it by leaving the church. I know of at least one case where a staff member came under disciplined, which resulted in his work visa getting revoked and him being sent back to England. So this church takes discipline very seriously, and will almost certainly have the process explicitly laid out for legal protection.

Terry Rayburn said...

The problem with dropping the issue just because she left is that it defeats at least two purposes of church discipline:

1. It takes the Spiritual pressure off of the one who is being sought after to repent and return to fellowship, and...

2. It keeps the rest of the local flock from seeing the biblical process in action, which process should be both a warning and an encouragement to them.

Many times when one voluntarily leaves a church and attends another one, they maintain fellowship ties with former brethren, which in this case would be destructive to the unrepentant one. She should be treated as an unbeliever (not meanly, cruelly, etc., but as a candidate for the Gospel) until she repents.

I say all that with the biblical assumption that she is biblically disciplined in love by broken men who know that "there but for the grace of God go I".

I have unfortunately seen several times over the years when the unrepentant one is disciplined in smug disdain by unbroken men who think that "there but for my own self-righteousness...yada, yada."

Or perhaps worse, by those who hold to the theology, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Thanks for addressing this, Dan.

I pray the churches maintain the biblical way even in the event of probable litigation, in future cases if not this one.

Dave Sherrill said...

SolaMeanie,
Spanking? Well, I'll be switched. ;-)

John said...

Yes, at Baptist Church of the Redeemer in Houston.

The Doulos said...

Dan, in response to your question, I am a member of a church that has the church discipline process ala Matt 18 outlined in its bylaws and its member covenant, and practices it. However, I don't think we have anything about leaving the church while under discipline. Although, as an Elder, I was involved in at least one instance where this happened. I recall wrestling with this issue as a leadership team. It was (and remains) confusing to everyone in the body when this happens, and needs to be thought through ahead of time and codified for all to see and understand.

Chris Dean said...

The congregation of my church, College Park Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, expressly voted to add such a provision to our church constitution in early 2008 because of such reasons of avoidance.

CPC is a fast-growing reformed megachurch of about 1,500-2,000 members and 2,500-3,000 weekly worshippers that does actively, lovingly, redemptively practice church discipline and I have heard this provision restated more than once when these instances must be brought before the flock.

My family and I are blessed beyond measure to be part of such a biblical flock. Hats off to Grace Community Church there in JAX!

barrydean said...

We do, we do.

Um ...running away only moves me the sinner. The goal of church discipline is to restore me the sinner and keep the church pure.

So whatcha gonna do with this survey Mr. Phillips?

Matt said...

We do here: http://sovereigngracechapel.com/SGC/Welcome_files/SGC%20Constitution.doc.pdf
Section 8, the paragraph after letter D.

Raymond Nearhood II said...

Never asked the question and don't have a copy of the church rules of discipline readily available. I'll check, though I do know that our church will not accept a membership transfer if that individual is under discipline from the church from where they are transferring.

They asked me if I or any member of my family was under discipline from the church from where I was transfering. Then they got contact info and checked(we moved several states because of work, not discipline). I was very happy to see that happen.

Anyhow, because of the follow-up we require to accept a membership, I assume (though I'm not sure) that we require discipline be carried out to completion.

jigawatt said...

For those who are going to check up on their church's policy - better make sure your pastor knows your purpose.

Member: Hey, pastor, if I leave the church, you can't discipline me, can you?

Pastor: You said what now?

DJP said...

lol

JackW said...

Last time I read the constitution of the church that I attend, but am not a formal member of, it had nothing in it about discipline. Membership class? Membership only requires you to do an alter call and answer two questions; accepted Christ? been baptized?

Scott said...

A church plant that came out of my church in September requires a church vote for a person to come off the membership role, and thus, the discipline process continues.

My church does not - a person can resign membership with a letter, but we are discussing a change.

Frankly, I have a mixed opinion. It seems to me that church discipline has two outcomes - restore a brother or identify a goat among the sheep. I heard a pastor once say "If you are not a member of a church, I question your salvation." (I believe that was Mark Dever, but I am not certain.) So, could it be that if a person leaves the church rather than face discipline, they have completed the discipline process for us by demonstrating that they are not of us. If a person would rather leave then repent, perhaps we should treat them as an unbeliever, and we don't do church discipline on the world.

vizaviz said...

Bethel Baptist Temple in Cincinnati.

Susan said...

Solameanie: "I wonder how most erring brethr'n and sister'n in churches would react if they were sentenced to be paddled at the altar as an alternative to excommunication?"

Sorry, Solameanie, I know it's not supposed to be funny (at least I hope not), but the image that surfaced in my head after I read that was absolutely hilarious! Perhaps this may work better than excommunication after all--just imagine the stifled laughs coming from all parts of the sanctuary as the unrepentant offender is getting paddled by the elders!! Who would want to be caught dead in THAT situation!? Can you imagine the stories they'll report on the 6 o'clock news!?

(Then again, to protect the church's legal interests, excommunication is still probably better than paddling....)

Hastey Words said...

The constitution of my home church, Faith Community Church, in Kansas City, MO reads: "Members, who are under discipline by the church, as defined in the previous paragraph, forfeit and waive the right to resign from this church. Resignations from membership are possible only by members who are in good standing and who are not under any disciplinary action."

I love my church.

Gayla said...

Just pulled out my church handbook.

In part it states:

"...Therefore, discipline may be instituted or continued either before or after a member seeks to withdraw from membership if the elders determine that such discipline may serve to guard and preserve the honor of God, protect the purity of the church, or restore the wandering member to the Lord. While the church cannot force a withdrawing member to remain in this congregation, the church has the right and responsiblity to encourage restoration, to bring the disciplinary process to an orderly conclusion, and to make a final determination as to the person's membership status at the time withdrawal is sought or acknowledged. In doing so, the elders, at their discretion, may temporarily suspend further disciplinary proceedings, dismiss any or all charges pending against the accused, or proceed with discipline and pronounce an appropriate censure."

It also states that if the elders learn thata member who is under disciplinary process is attending another church, they will inform that church that the person is is currently under church discipline.

DJP said...

My point's already made, but please keep it up.

We're not the highest-traffic blog on the internets (though we should b e), and Saturday's a really poor day for it — but we got a truckload of people confirming this practice without breaking a sweat.

Professor Bock never heard of this standard? He couldn't impress the possibility on the FOX reporter, if he did? The unnamed pastoral consultants didn't mention it the the other reporter?

Odd.

Solameanie said...

Susan,

Kind of makes you long for the ducking stool, the pillory and the stocks, so well utilized by the colonists who settled in America.

This whole issue sure is stirring a hornet's nest. I posted on it over at my blog, and I've got a couple of people there taking me to task. It amazes me how badly we've lost biblical thinking on this issue in favor of a more secular, legal mindset that focuses on what constitutes "membership" and "jurisdiction." We're talking about the church of Jesus Christ, not the Lion's Club.

Do we think for one moment that if a believer sinned at the Ephesian church and left in a huff for the church in Corinth, that the issue wouldn't have followed them to their new chosen congregation?

dac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Before you snipe on a new thread, dac, clean up your mess on the previous.

Rita Martinez said...

it doesn't expressly state it but no one has tried to run away that I know of, and while church discipline isn't new in my church, just this year they added a 17 line paragraph to the membership form explaining Church discipline backed up by its respective Bible verses.

reallyrobins said...

Our church follows Matthew 18.

I know this is "preaching to the choir", but the final step - taking the sin before the church - removes the person in unrepentant sin from the body of believers.

The whole point of this final step of restoration is for the body to know they are to treat the unrepentant sinner as a non-believer. That being, to continually preach the gospel to them in faith and love, so they may return to their first love.

I have been witness to several church disciplines, and none of them have involved the pastor standing up and humiliating anyone. He has, with love and grace, told the body of the problem and the removal of the unrepentant from the local body.

Since my pastor personally knows the pastor of this church, and since this pastor is a graduate of TMS, I am certain he handles church discipline in the same manner.

CD-Host said...

Because of the nature of my blog I know of zillions of churches that have those sorts of covenants or rules. Exact counts depend on how you consider various grey cases but... I should say that in practice it is a different storey. In my experience most churches back down in the face of a clear cut letter of disaffiliation. There is a noticeable difference in tone between someone who is fleeing being confronted about their sin and someone who has firmly decided on a course of action and is starting to lay the ground work to win a lawsuit; churches react differently to the latter.

A few quick points:

jigawat: you mention the PCA. While it is unclear, given their receiving church's attitude to her fornication it likely that Miss Hancock would fall under 38-3b, that is she would be subject to erasure but not continuing discipline.

ZSB: You mention that that bylaws going in would protect the church legally. That is simply false. The law and the courts don't consider religious practice and affiliation to be a contract but rather a civil right. You can't sign away your right to quit a church any more than you can sign away your right to sue for sexual harassment in the workplace. A church covenant is like a bluff in poker, you might get the person to fold but remember you have to muck if you get raised.

Solameanie said...

CD-Host,

So you're telling us that the courts govern the church?

Rev Dave said...

In the PCUSA (gasp! yes, you do have a few readers from there), if you "renounce jurisdiction," i.e., give up your membership either in a church (members and elders and deacons) or in the presbytery (ministers) while under investigation or during a trial, the matter isn't simply dropped. Instead, the clerk will report both the renounciation _and_ the charges filed at the next meeting. This is to prevent people from skipping out and stopping the process and hiding behind secrecy.

Another pastor in my presbytery was just brought up on charges of sexual misconduct and renounced jurisdiction a few weeks ago. That means, at the next meeting in February, our clerk will be reading into the minutes the charges filed, and since the investigating committee was ready to go to trial, they will be read in great detail.

I'm not looking forward to that. It's a sad, sad thing when God's people fall so far and so hard.

Stefan said...

I checked this blog on Friday morning, and there was nothing new. Blissfully unaware of this whole discussion that unfolded later that day and yesterday, I missed the whole show!

Can't take my eyes of this blog for so much as a day....

Boerseuntjie said...

I have to say:

Here in Britian the question is rather:

How many of you know of Biblically PRACTICING Churches where the Church actually search the Scriptures to see whether these things BE SO?
How many will even ENTERTAIN Church discipline Biblically? (As many "evangelicals" love pragmatism, Inter-denominationalism, human wisdoms, NUMBERS and statistics... instead of Applying 1 Corinthians 1 & 2 and the other Scriptures by faith.)

Stefan said...

At our church, each step of the disciplinary process has two possible outcomes: "listening" (repentance and restoration) or "refusing to listen."

Withdrawing from the process would constitute "refusing to listen," which means that the process would then proceed to the next stage. The ultimate outcome if the unrepentant member refuses to listen at every stage, would be disfellowshipping.

Each stage, however, allows generous time for the member to return into a loving relationship—first, with the offended party; then, if that doesn't bear fruit, with the others who accompany the offended party in the next stage; and then, if all that doesn't bear fruit, with the elders' restorative committee. There are a lot of very private stages to go through before the penultimate step of "taking it to the church," and a lot of opportunities for the member to return to a right relationship with his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Stefan said...

One good thing may have come out of these sad events.

Given that even Rick Warren is catching flack in some quarters of the media for supporting Proposition 8, the world (or at least the Fox News-watching world) has seen that there are some churches willing to take a stand against all kinds of sexual sin; not just against some while unbiblically turning a blind eye to others.

timeintheword said...

Our church by-laws include this phrase in the section for Church Discipline:

"It is understood that this process will continue to conclusion to conclusion whether the erring member leaves the church or otherwise seeks to withdraw from membership to avoid discipline."

I will also note that in one case about 10 years ago, when a member did leave and go to another church to avoid discipline, the elders contacted the new church and informed their leadership of the ongoing discipline procedure.

~pastorway

dac said...
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Hayden said...

CD Host,

Please check you case law. In Florida, you can be dis-fellowshipped for ANY reason that the church sees fit.(Kond vs Murdyk is instructive on this)

Basically, legally, this church has the protection of the courts of Florida from what the state deems 'excessive entanglement' and can carry on the process provided for in their by-laws.

This church has done nothing wrong legally or according to the Scriptures. You, or others, may not like how they handled it, but remember you are diagnosing a situation not as part of this particular church family but over the internet. Be very careful how you critique the 'Bride of Christ' which this church is most definitely a part of.

Andy/Drew/Andrew said...

My church thankfully does also, whose shepherd is a TMS graduate.

CD-Host said...

Hayden --

I don't know Kong but I cover a lot of cases on discipline. There is no question the courts can't review the reasons for disfellowship in a church. Besides her case is not borderline.



But you claim regarding bylaws I'd like to see some cite for. I want to get the claim in context. Can you post the case?

As far as counter cites:
O'Moore v. Driscoll: Lack of consent to a ritual instantly removes privilege (which was upheld in Wallersheim v. Scientology). There are been several rape cases where the religious ritual defense has been used unsuccessfully.

In Scolinki the courts found that church discipline arises from common interest. Since there is no common interest with a woman voluntarily leaving the religious community no protections would exist.

Morasse v. Brochu is a specific application in this case regulating communication with non church members.

Chavis v. Rowe allows you to apply many of the older cases since all regulations involving ministers apply to all members equally.

I could keep going but I don't have to. The reason I'm positive you are incorrect regarding Florida is law, is that if your understanding of the law were correct, religious institutions would be essentially immune from all civil laws and most criminal law. We agree that churches can freely determine their own rituals and if they can also freely determine their own membership scope then they can do what they want to anyone without redress. Do you believe a wiccan coven can legally bleed you if they claim you as a member even if you disagree. If not what's the difference between your status with regard to the coven and Miss Hancock's with regard to Grace Church? Remember the courts can't review membership procedures so if your understanding were correct they couldn't rule on whether you were really a member of the coven since that would now be a point of religious dispute. The state clearly has compelling in now allowing a situation like that.

Jon Nunley said...

To CSLEWIS3147:
IN NWA (Rogers) try
Legacy Baptist Church
Hope Community Bible Chruch

Chris Brauns said...

We have no such stipulation.

UinenMaia said...

I asked the pastor at the OPC we are attending if he knew about the story from Jacksonville and if Ms. Hancock’s self-removal from the membership would end the process. He said that it would depend on the circumstances - which made me nervous until he explained.

He said that this will be covered fully in the membership classes we will start in the new year. They expressly state in the bylaws that church discipline will be carried out regardless of whether or not that member is attending.

If the member has chosen to self-excommunicate before any discipline has begun, the church has to honor that request. However, if the discipline process has begun, the "flight" of the member would not stop the process. Further, they could not honor the delinquent member's request to be removed because the discipline was ongoing. The recent case in his own church involved such an attempt to flee.

Referencing that case, he said that it was months in attempting to avoid disclosure to the congregation though private and semi-private admonition, counseling, meetings, and prayer. As Stefan said, "There are a lot of very private stages to go through before the penultimate step of 'taking it to the church....'" The pastor also said that before such a topic was brought into the congregation, all visitors were asked to leave and all children who were not communicant members were removed from the sanctuary.

The final step of airing it in the congregation is done because of that mandate and also because the purpose of discipline is two-fold. It calls the straying member to repentance and it protects the church from the influence of that person - it identifies the goat among the sheep so that the sheep are not harmed, as someone above mentioned.

UinenMaia said...

Incidentally, I did look at the constitution of the ELCA church to which I currently belong. There is a section on the procedure of discipline, but it does not address what would happen if the member removed himself from the rolls. Unsurprisingly, it is also nearly unused.

I only know of one instance of an attempt to apply it in our area over the last 10 years. That ultimately involved trumped up charges against a person who was guilty of being too scriptural. He was involved in a dispute with the pastor about the uniqueness and divinity of Christ … the member being the one holding that Christ was the ONLY way, truth, and life and that Christ was THE Son of God, not just a child of God as we all are children of God.

The charges involved a laundry list of petty and unsubstantiated rumors started by his detractors. The only one that stuck was that he was “divisive”. The charges were ultimately dropped after the Bishop was called in, but the process was neither private nor caring.

A stark difference from a rightly applied model like Grace seems to have used.

Matt said...

We do, but it was difficult to pass, and hard to get the elders and congregation to apply.

-Matt Mitchell

Joel said...

We do not. I wish we did.

Andrew said...

Unfortunately, no. My church is very small and does not have any official bylaws.

S. Baker said...

Yes, the church where I am a pastor does have this explicit statement, and yes, we have implemented it at least once in the last few years. Other evangelical churches in town hate us for it.

Jason said...

Our church has no explicit statement in our bylaws, but this is the way that we practice it, and did so a year ago in an strangely similar situation when we affirmed that one cannot withdraw membership midstream in the disciple process in an attempt to short-circuit accountability.

beowulf2k8 said...
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DJP said...

Like the blog, this meta has a topic, and rules. Please read, and abide.

beowulf2k8 said...
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beowulf2k8 said...
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DJP said...

If someone can't follow a really short post, with really concise rules - what hope of grasping a book as long as the Bible?