There’s a reason.

There’s a reason churches have guidelines.

Our former church has guidelines.  Guidelines based on scripture and written down in a denominational book called The Book of Church Order.

And this Book of Church Order is pretty specific in what it says about the steps that must be taken when certain things happen.

Like rules for governance, leadership, becoming a member, baptism, communion, and church discipline.  And, in the area of church discipline, it specifically states:

‘The exercise of discipline may take the form of admonition, rebuke, suspension from the privileges of membership in the church or from office, deposition from office, or excommunication, as the gravity of the offense in the opinion of the assembly or the judicatory may warrant. Admonition and rebuke are pastoral in nature and are exercised by an assembly in the ordinary course of its proceedings. All further steps of discipline—suspension, deposition, and excommunication—are judicial in nature and require the formal presentation of charges to a judicatory.1 A judicatory may, in the judicial process, impose admonition or rebuke as a form of discipline.”

Several sections of this document cover the specifics of how “admonition, rebuke, suspension from the privileges of membership in the church . . . suspension, deposition, and excommunication” are to be carried out.  Specific steps within specific time frames.

As I read through the section on discipline a few weeks ago, I realized that I had been “suspended from the privileges of membership” for more than ten years – having been told that I could not serve in any capacity in the church.  But, I also realized that the leadership had in no way carried out this disciplinary action in a manner adherent to the denominational guidelines.

Never was I formally admonished or rebuked.  No one ever sat down with me and said, “Ellen, we have some concerns about ___________________ .  Here are the things we need to address with you and these are the things that we would like to see.  Please understand, Ellen, that this is the first step in our church discipline procedures.”

No.  I was simply told, “You can’t do . . . You can’t attend . . . You can’t serve in any way.”

When I begged for the reason, I was told that they couldn’t tell me or there could be “legal ramifications.”  When I asked what it was that I needed to do or change in order to be allowed to serve, the response was, “We will be watching you.  At some point, you might be invited to take a class.  If that goes well, you might be invited to serve in low levels and eventually, you might work your way up.”

Ten years.  Not one indication that I was under formal church discipline.  Not one.  Only judgment. Condemnation. Ostracism. Silence.

If I could, I would sit down with the church leadership today and say, “When did you ever sit down with me and tell me I was under discipline?  When did you sit down with me and show me evidence that I had done something to offend “the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ”? (Church discipline is to take place in order to “vindicate the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) When did you specifically tell me, “Ellen, this is step one.  If we don’t see a change, we will move to step two.”?

Instead, I spent all of those years begging, pleading, weeping, pounding my fists and stomping my feet, asking for answers, demanding explanations.  And I was met with silence.

And then we were told to leave.  Not exactly excommunication as far as we know.  But not so very different either.

And still, not one attempt by church leaders to follow denominational guidelines.  I even told the lay- leader of the congregation that I should have insisted that The Book of Church Order be followed.  His response?

Silence.

 

 

 

 

 

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