Tuesday, April 10, 2007

4/10/07, For Your Consideration: Q.3 Immediate Excommunication?

The other posts in the series are:
For Your Consideration
Q.1 Excommunication by Email?
Q.2 Limits of Modern Technology?
Q.4 What is the standard Presbyterian procedure for excommunication?
Q.5. Scriptural Justification for a Three Week Excommunication Notice
Q6. Misinterpretation by Price, Barrow, and Dohms
Q.7 Why Read the Banns?

Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 11:16 PM
Subject: Q3: Immediate excommunication?

Dear Brethren,

Below please find another procedural question for your consideration.

Your brother,


3. Should an ecclesiastical court excommunicate someone without publicly notifying its intention beforehand?

Continuing with the assumption that I am guilty of scandalous sin, let us consider another aspect of the proper means of carrying out an excommunication. The common practice of Mr. Price, Mr. Barrow, and Mr. Dohms is to send a notice of excommunication (via email) without any prior public announcement. One day the person is a member of the church in good standing, and the next day he is cast out and handed over to Satan. As a result, the remaining members of the church suddenly learn (whenever they read their email) that they are now required to shun the company of someone about whom (oftentimes) they had no idea that anything was amiss. It is only fair for us to ask, Is this proper procedure?

Recall that our Confession says that officers should proceed by way of degrees with the brother: First, they are to admonish him of his sin, then to suspend him from the Lord's Supper, and only then to excommunicate him from the Church. These steps are described as follows:

"For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person." [Westminster Confession of Faith, XXX.4]

Or, as stated by Alexander Henderson, one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, the elders are to "proceed to excommunication, but with great meekness, longsuffering, and by many degrees, the censure being so weighty, and they desirous to gain the sinner to repentance." [Alexander Henderson, The Order of Excommunication, in _The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland_ (1641)]. . . .

(For the rest of the post go here)