Excommunication vs Exclusion?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Fatty Lumpkin

Puritan Board Freshman
Friends, another man in my church recently approached me with a view of church discipline that is novel to me. I’ve done some looking into historic church practice and can’t find reference to it, so I wanted to post it here and see if anyone is familiar with the idea.

What he’s proposing is essentially this: Excommunication should be seen as an extreme form of discipline that is reserved for only the most severe cases, and in normal practice the church should more often discipline unrepentant members with “exclusion”. “Exclusion” would involve the removal of an offending individual from the rolls of the particular congregation of which they are a member, but without any statement to the broader Christian community about whether the individual is to be regarded as converted or not. The offending member would not be regarded as an unbeliever, but simply as no longer a part of that specific body. The brother advocating this position grounds it primarily in 2Thessalonians 3:13-15.

Have you encountered anything like this? I have not, and have used the terms excommunication and exclusion almost interchangeably in the past. Is there some precedent for a view like this that I’m unaware of?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Exclusion” would involve the removal of an offending individual from the rolls of the particular congregation of which they are a member, but without any statement to the broader Christian community about whether the individual is to be regarded as converted or not.

First, don't accept his definition of excommunication.

In the PCA:

"30-4. Excommunication is the excision of an offender from the communion of the Church. This censure is to be inflicted only on account of gross crime or heresy and when the offender shows himself incorrigible and contumacious. The design of this censure is to operate on the offender as a means of reclaiming him, to deliver the church from the scandal of his offense, and to inspire all with fear by the example of his discipline.

Second, sounds like he just wants to export a wolf to another sheep fold.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I've not heard of that option before.

Certainly, excommunication should indeed be a last resort, and there are many levels of discipline that ordinarily take place first. These might even include admonishing a person to spend some time examining himself before taking the Supper again, or to avoid certain fellowship events, depending on the person and the particular sin. I guess you might call that "exclusion."

But saying he is still considered a believer but not a member of that church seems like a problematical way to read the 2 Thessalonians passage. It seems to suppose one can be a churchless believer, or that there are alternative congregations nearby. Neither of those suppositions fit the rest of what the New Testament teaches us.

Today, since there often are other good congregations nearby, I suppose I might envision the rare situation where the elders suggest it would be healthier for all involved if a repentant offender join a new congregation (always on the condition that the elders of the new church are aware of the situation). But I don't see how we can imagine this was the situation in ancient Thessalonica. And a "churchless believer" does not fit what the Bible tells us about what marks a believer.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Friends, another man in my church recently approached me with a view of church discipline that is novel to me. I’ve done some looking into historic church practice and can’t find reference to it, so I wanted to post it here and see if anyone is familiar with the idea.

What he’s proposing is essentially this: Excommunication should be seen as an extreme form of discipline that is reserved for only the most severe cases, and in normal practice the church should more often discipline unrepentant members with “exclusion”. “Exclusion” would involve the removal of an offending individual from the rolls of the particular congregation of which they are a member, but without any statement to the broader Christian community about whether the individual is to be regarded as converted or not. The offending member would not be regarded as an unbeliever, but simply as no longer a part of that specific body. The brother advocating this position grounds it primarily in 2Thessalonians 3:13-15.

Have you encountered anything like this? I have not, and have used the terms excommunication and exclusion almost interchangeably in the past. Is there some precedent for a view like this that I’m unaware of?
In the RCUS we have excommunication, but we also have suspension leading to judicial erasure. My take is that both wind up in the same place: these elders tasked with watching for the good of your soul are unable to accept your profession of faith as genuine in light of your doctrine or behavior or both. Therefore the right of calling yourself a church member and considering yourself a Christian is withdrawn.

That being said in terms of outcome, however, there is definitely a feeling that excommunication is more drastic than judicial erasure after suspension.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top