Wednesday, May 02, 2007

5/2/07, For Your Consideration: Q.5. Scriptural Justification for a Three Week Excommunication Notice

The other posts in the series are:
For Your Consideratio
Q.1 Excommunication by Email?
Q.2 Limits of Modern Technology?
Q.3 Immediate Excommunication?
Q.4 What is the standard Presbyterian procedure for excommunication?
Q6. Misinterpretation by Price, Barrow, and Dohms
Q.7 Why Read the Banns?

From: Stan B.
To: List
Cc: Lyndon Dohms ; Greg Price ; Greg Barrow
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 9:14 PM
Subject: Q.5: Is the three-week excommunication procedure based on Scripture?

Dear Brethren,

Below please find a Scriptural basis for the Presbyterian procedure for excommunication that we considered last time.

Your brother,


5. What is the Scriptural justification for a three-week public excommunication procedure?

Last time we saw that standard Presbyterian practice, according to the writings of the Scottish church of the First and Second Reformation, is to publicly announce an excommunication for three consecutive weeks (at a minimum) prior to the final pronouncement, for both private and public sins. In their letter of Nov. 4, 2006, Mr. Price, Mr. Barrow, and Mr. Dohms explain why they do not follow this procedure:

"The specific order laid out in the _First Book of Discipline_ is agreeable to the Word of God, and while its specific practices may be altered, and can and should be altered to suit different times and circumstances, the scriptural principles upon which these specific practices are built, remain unalterable." [Session of the RPNA (GM), Response to Recent Objections, Nov. 4, 2006]

These men note that the order in _The First Book of Discipline_ is, to some extent, based upon expediency when it says, "And therefore this order we think expedient to be observed before and after excommunication." [_The First Book of Discipline_] They write,

"Note the word 'expedient'—which means, doing that which is proper and appropriate under the circumstances. The writers of this section did not say that their specific directions for Church discipline were unalterable in every age, case, and circumstance, but rather that the whole section on excommunication which follows is a combination of scriptural principle mixed with elements of 'expediency'. To some degree, at least, judgments would have to be made according to particular circumstances." [Session of the RPNA (GM), Response to Recent Objections, Nov. 4, 2006]

In other words, Mr. Price, Mr. Barrow, and Mr. Dohms argue that the Scottish church based her three-week public procedure upon general Scriptural principles, and that if we apply these same principles to our circumstances, we will discover that it is more expedient for us to adopt an immediate excommunication procedure. What these men have yet to reveal, however, is *why* they believe that their procedure is more expedient, or *what* are the Scriptural principles that they apply in making such decisions. As it is, both remain unspecified. In fact, these men go one step further by expressing doubt that the three-week procedure itself is based upon Scripture, arguing instead that it is a "mere changeable expediency" without specific direction from the Word of God. . . . . (Go here for the rest of "Q.5. Scriptural Justification for Three Week Excommunication Notice").