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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does God approve of the practice of excommunication/shunning/disfellowshiping? (I)

Many "Christian" churches/organizations practice some form of excommunication, and most of them claim to derive that practice from Scripture. Nevertheless, a careful review of those Scriptures would demonstrate to anyone with an open mind that God DOES NOT sanction such behavior.

Thus I believe that it can be demonstrated that this doctrine represents a serious heresy that has infiltrated most of the "Christian" Church. However, before we begin to explore the relevant Scriptural allusions to this subject, we should take a look at some of the statements of different groups on the subject:

From the oldest human organization within the Christian Community:
"The right to excommunicate is an immediate and necessary consequence of the fact that the Church is a society. Every society has the right to exclude and deprive of their rights and social advantages its unworthy or grievously culpable members, either temporarily or permanently. This right is necessary to every society in order that it may be well administered and survive. The fundamental proof, therefore, of the Church's right to excommunicate is based on her status as a spiritual society, whose members, governed by legitimate authority, seek one and the same end through suitable means. Members who, by their obstinate disobedience, reject the means of attaining this common end deserve to be removed from such a society. This rational argument is confirmed by texts of the New Testament, the example of the Apostles, and the practice of the Church from the first ages down to the present."
--The Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Excommunication"

From Jehovah's Witnesses"
"Thus "disfellowshiping" is what Jehovah's Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer." --Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.22

From the Church of Christ:
“When erring Christians refuse to repent, God commands His people to disfellowship them so as to bring them to repentance.” -- A Church of Christ tract

From the Mormons:
"Excommunication is the most severe judgment a Church disciplinary council can take. Excommunicated persons are no longer members of the Church. Therefore, they are denied the privileges of Church membership, including the wearing of temple garments and the payment of tithes and offerings. They may attend public Church meetings, but, like disfellowshipped persons, their participation in such meetings is limited. Excommunicated persons are encouraged to repent and so live as to qualify for eventual baptism."
--Mormon, LDS article: A Chance to Start Over by Elder M. Russell Ballard, 1990

From the Amish:
"The Pennsylvania Amish are very reluctant to excommunicate and shun members. In fact, such extreme measures only occur on rare occasion. The practice is only initiated after all attempts to persuade the transgressing member to repent have failed. It is done in the hope that the individual will realize their mistake, repent and rejoin the church. It is certainly not done to harm the individual."
--Shunning Within the Amish Community in Lancaster County: The Practice of Social Avoidance

From the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God:
"Jesus said, 'I will build my church' (Matt. 16:18). Christ is the living, active head of God’s church (Col. 1:18). He rules the church through His called servants to whom He has committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He has given them authority to “bind” or forbid certain things, and to “loose” or permit certain things. This “binding” or “loosing” may also be applied to permitting or forbidding the admission of persons into the fellowship of the church.”
--Article on Judging and Discipline in God’s Church by Roderick C. Meredith from the Good News, Jan. 66

Now that we have established that the practice enjoys widespread acceptance within the Christian Community (and the author picked the statements of these groups to demonstrate the doctrinal diversity that comes together on this one issue), we are ready to explore what Scripture reveals about God's thinking on the issue. We will begin to do that in Part II of this series.

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