Imagine That! A Church That Practices Discipline.

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by N. Eshelman, Dec 18, 2008.

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  1. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

  2. LadyFlynt

    LadyFlynt Puritan Board Doctor

    And putting it on Fox News isn't going public with her sins?
  3. Theognome

    Theognome Burrito Bill

    She's obviously not concerned with her kids seeing it revealed to the whole country through national news media. Sounds highly hypocritical to me- and kudo's to that church!

  4. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Interesting. Not knowing the church, or how they have employed Matthew 18, it's difficult to comment.
  5. Quickened

    Quickened Puritan Board Senior

    Ha! Imagine that. Now we all know!! :lol:
  6. Theognome

    Theognome Burrito Bill

    From the article, it seems she has gone through the initial confrontation, witnesses and that it's to the 'take it to the church' stage- if not beyond. The elders were right in not talking to Fox, though the fact that the pastor spoke to a local paper is distressing to some extent.

    It does make you wonder how far the spin will be taken on this, concerning the Church's ability to minister in accordance to Matthew 18, and other issues in the US.

  7. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior


    -----Added 12/18/2008 at 10:24:43 EST-----

    Putting aside for the moment that the woman broadcast her sin on her own on Fox News (Sheeeesh!) Does "take it to the Church stage" = broadcast it to the entire congregation?
  8. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    That church is right on. This is an encouraging read. Thanks for the post.
  9. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

  10. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor

    she's afraid her kids will find out?? I imagine her kids aren't stupid as they are 18 and 20.

    I think she's more afraid that her kids will also call her on her sin wanting her to be held accountable and how it will effect her relationship with them.

    Another way she could have ended this was to marry the man--but it doesn't seem like that was mentioned, or maybe she could get back together with her ex-husband, but the article doesn't even mention him.

    But public humiliation?? Nah, not when she's going on the National News to cry foul for a church for upholding their beliefs..
  11. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not quite sure I agree with the church's stance. It seems that she left the church, whereupon they continued to threaten to make her sins public unless she repented. Once she left the church her sins were no longer their concern, though they could state publicly that she was no longer a member in good standing. Only if she tries to represent herself as a member in good standing of that particular church should they make her specific sins and her failure to repent public.
  12. ManleyBeasley

    ManleyBeasley Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think she was worried about her kids finding out (I'm sure they already know). I think she doesn't want the public discipline process to happen in front of them because it might hurt them in some way.
  13. jaybird0827

    jaybird0827 PuritanBoard Honor Roll

    Are you sure? I thought it meant taking it to the elders. Meaning the Session deals, as appropriate, with the offender. If the offender repents; that's all there is to it. If they do not heed the counsel of the Session, then said broadcast takes place. The offender may be suspended from the Lord's Table, and if persistent, excommunicated. We have been studying this issue in our quarterly men's meetings.
  14. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I strongly disagree. The purpose of church discipline is restoration, not punishment. Leaving the church in order to continue in sin or to avoid church discipline is not her call. She can physically leave the church, but the pastor and elders have an obligation to seek her repentance. Her leaving does not change that.

    The pastor and elders should consider asking the children not to be attendance on the day that their mother is publicly called to repentance. We had to face a similar situation this past year and were in agreement that the wife need not be there while her husband's matter was brought before the church.
  15. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    As for the children not being there, I think it might be beneficial for them to be. They should be leading the way during prayer time for the repentance of their mother.
  16. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    I certainly agree that the purpose of discipline is restoration, but I'm not so sure the church is doing the best thing in this case. If the woman has left the church I'm not sure what good will come from bringing it in front of the entire congregation. I agree the session and her pastor should pursue reconciliation and repentance, but does that include making her known in front of the entire congregation at this point if she no longer considers herself a member? I don't think it is, but I admire the church for confronting sin...
  17. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    The goal of discipline is restoration. But discipline is also a bounded process, and it cannot actively seek restoration in all circumstances. To attempt to do so is to confuse means and ends, for while the goal is restoration, the means is expulsion. By leaving the church in such circumstances she has effectively expelled herself; also, denying that the church has disciplinary authority is itself a disciplinary offence.

    By leaving the church while under disciplinary investigation the member not only puts themselves outside the scope of the disciplinary process, they effectively plead guilty (by taking upon themselves the punishment) of whatever they were charged with. Note also that, unlike a criminal trial, there is no need for a disciplinary process to decide exactly what sins were committed, for the punishment is identical in any case.

    Church discipline is not about convicting for past sins, but for ongoing, unrepentant sin (even if the sin is not being actively committed at that point in time.) It decides not what a member has done wrong in the past, but what they are doing now. A member who removes themselves from the jurisdiction of the church disciplinary process could only be charged for what they have done wrong previously, not what they are doing wrong currently, which is not the point of discipline.

    There may be instances where the specific sins of a particular individual need to be known to the wider congregation, for example, if the sins have had other church members as participants or victims, or both. But these situations should be rare.

    In this case, nothing more needs to be said to the congregation but "Ms X was under disciplinary investigation, during which she denied that the church had the authority to discipline her, and removed herself from the church. As such she is to be considered as persona non grata until she repents." There is no reason for the congregation to know the specific details of her sin - be it sexual sin or any other type - in such circumstances.
  18. asc

    asc Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree she seems to be reacting in an irrational behavior.
    It's like she's decided that the NT needed a higher level of church discipline:
    contact the local news and have your sins broadcast to the world...
    she obviously knows no shame.
  19. lukeh021471

    lukeh021471 Puritan Board Freshman


    Thanks for the article. The church is right.
  20. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    It looks like some of the problem lies with the actions of the minister. He should not have been going to the women of the congregation, and spreading what probably amounted to gossip.

    It also looks like the elders were absent from the process until the final letter was sent out. If so, they were neglecting their shepherding duties, and have unnecessarily complicated an already difficult situation by leaving a void where guidance and brotherly counsel should have been emplaced.

    It happens all too often that the sins of the session complicate cases of discipline. As soon as a brother or sister who is being confronted believes a session to be acting in hypocrisy, self interest, or like manner the erring brother will rarely be won back. Not many people feel that their case will be fairly handled where they perceive a court to have become corrupted.
  21. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    I cannot picture Paul saying, "We had a member leave rather than be disciplined and we won't tell you why." I see the church as up front about the importance of being a part of the body. If a member left rather than be disciplined, it leaves the group confused. This clears things up for the violator, the children (who are in good standing and must make a choice "mom or Christ,") and the rest of the body. Using the body metaphor: the members say, "Hey we lost a pinky." The head says, "We cut it off but we ain't telling you why." The body would be either scared or confused. This action clears it up for all parties.
  22. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Consider the larger theological picture. Why did Christ proclaim the truth to the Jews, knowing they would reject Him?

    2 Corinthians 2:15-17 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

    Church discipline is not only a call to repentance for the one who has sinned, it is also a warning to those who haven't. That is why the the process is to be followed and completed.
  23. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    It doesn't sound like that at all to me, it doesn't say he went to the women of the congregation, it says she confided in a mentor.

    Probably a Stephens Minister, or something to that effect, which in most cases things told to the mentor (Stephens Minister) ARE kept in complete confidence, between the caregiver and care receiver, except when there is sin involved..and they confess it..then the mentor or (Stephens Minister) is to let those over them know what's going on, and those who set up those mentoring (caring) relationships can technically go to the our church the leaders would go to the Pastor and let him know what's going on, and let him handle it at that point..they certainly wouldn't keep watch on the persons house to see whats going on..

    In our churches Stephens Ministry program, both parties have to sign a confidentiality agreement, and within that agreement it also lets both parties know what is required if such a sin is confessed, and that confidentiality on such issues does not exist. Our program has a Deacon, an Elder and an Associate Pastor who work with the leaders of the program; it's not like someone in the church just starts the program and has no accountability, the church has to pay for the Leadership training and the material used to train those who will be ministering to others.

    What the article doesn't tell us, is how long it's taken for it to get to this point..Stephens Ministry relationships can last one to two years--so if this is the program being used, and she confessed to this person she's in a sinful relationship, and the woman tells her she needs to end the relationship..and over a course of months continues to encourages her to end it and the woman refuses..the mentor is required to let her leaders know whats going on..but this person may not have said anything for she was trying to work with her one on one first..
  24. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    But it is not for the church to judge the individual sins (as opposed to the sin of failing to repent and believe) of those outside the church.

    The final action of a church court in the event of obstinate unrepentance is to publicly declare the person to be outside the local body of Christ. This woman has already publicly said that about herself, by her actions in leaving the church while under disciplinary action. Like a defendant at a trial standing in the middle of the courtroom and saying "I am guilty" there is then no need for the judge and jury to deliberate on exactly what evidence convicted the court of their guilt.

    Normally, at excommunication, it is necessary to state to the congregation the nature of the offence for which the guilty party is unrepentant. As unpleasant as that may be, the congregation needs to know that there really was just cause for the excommunication. But if a member quits while under disciplinary investigation or prosecution then that itself if sufficient warrant for their excommunication, for they have effectively excommunicated themselves. There is then no further need to publicly give details of which particular sins they were being investigated for.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  25. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    You are making the assumption that the women were informed by the mentor rather than by the pastor. The article makes no such connection. There is no room for women to be sitting in on a person in a vindictive manner, where the elders should rather be present.

    Likewise, when Reformed congregations engage in having pseudo-offices such as a "Stephens Minister" incorporated into their system then trouble will be sure to follow. There needn't be any other position in the church apart from the minister, elders, deacons, and the general office of the laity. A layman can minister as a mentor without the need to institute a series of formal steps such as "leadership training", signing documents, and the like. It gives them a false sense of formal office, and meddles in the affairs over which a minister and elders have primary responsibility.
  26. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Church discipline might be a topic for a thread that we could benefit from.

    It would seem once a member takes a vow of membership that includes a vow to submit to the discipline of the church, that is binding in God's eyes.

    A member of course can "leave" (might even have good reason to leave) but the "leaving" in God's eyes does not really negate the vow.

    So if someone gets caught in adultery, and after biblical process to restore, refuses to repent and it gets to the point of the church using the "keys" Christ gave to His Body (visible) to treat someone as if they were an unbeliever (ex-communication), and the person leaves to avoid that discipline,

    The "leaving" doesn't really control the discipline. It can still proceed in that person's absense. That is, the person may be ex communicated en absentia Now their sins are the adultery, impenitence, and failure to keep their vow to submit to the discipline of the church, and probably the slander (ninth commandment) that person will engage in when leaving.

    If someone did NOT take a vow of membership that included discipline, then they could of course leave without further process.

    In the PCA, the membership vow rightly covers this, and, I think protects all the biblical vital interests:

    1) profession of faith in Christ
    2) vow to walk obediently
    3) vow to support the church
    4) vow to submit to the church's discipline
    5) vow to study the church's doctrine peaceably

    While it does not require a new member to have comprehensive knowledge of the church's doctrinal standards, it does put the person, by their voluntary action, under a promise before God to submit to the discipline of the church.

    As I understand it, this does not allow a church member to just leave when discipline, biblically followed, comes, and escape consequences before God. The vow is not conditional, e.g. "I promise to submit to the discipline of the church...but if I ever get to the point of discipline, I may leave, at my own direction and not receive its consequences."

    The vow is to God, witnessed by many people. It cannot be broken arbitrarily simply because the church member no longer wishes to be bound by its consequences (cf Ecclesiastes 5:5).

    -----Added 12/20/2008 at 06:29:28 EST-----

    It's also interesting that, from the news report source only, if that is correct, this person is greatly concerned about what her children will think about her sin. That is right. But there is no evidence she cares what her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ thinks. None.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  27. APuritansMind

    APuritansMind Puritan Board Junior

    :amen: Bill, I agree. The entire congregation will be warned about the serious error of sin and taught about biblical church discipline. The other alternative would be to read about the circumstances in the paper (of course casting a biased doubt on God's word and the elders) or through the "grapevine." I pray for the elders, the congregation, and her children that remain members of the congregation.
  28. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    1Ti 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
  29. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I was saying yes in her case...she has not repented and therefore it should be taken to the congregation. I agree totally with your statement; I was merely speaking of this case.
  30. christiana

    christiana Puritan Board Senior

    In reading a copy of the letter sent to her by the church it appeared to be very appropriate and concerned for her well being and return to a biblical lifestyle.
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