Ethics: Excommunicated During Sunday Morning Worship?

What would you do Wednesday!

Unfortunately, today’s scenario is inspired by true events.

Consider the situation below. Explain why the pastor(s) should or should not carry out excommunication during the Sunday morning worship service on a church member who is under church discipline.

Three months ago, a husband’s illicit affair was uncovered. The man admitted to a five year affair. He has been married for 15 years and has two kids. He has been in counseling with his pastors. Despite the counsel for the man to repent and reconcile with his wife, he has decided to leave his wife for the other women.

The pastors have decided that the final step of church discipline, excommunication, will be carried out during the regular Sunday morning worship service. The man’s sins will be presented to all who are gathered for worship. The church members will then vote on whether or not to excommunicate him.

Family Concern
Some members of this man’s family, who are members of another church, are concerned about this step of church discipline being carried out on Sunday morning. The relatives fear that presenting this man to the congregation with guests and unbelievers present is more of a punitive rather than a restorative approach to church discipline. The family believes that a more punitive approach will make any attempt at reconciliation tougher. The family is also concerned about the reputation of the cheating husband’s wife and kids.

The family would like to talk to the pastors about not carrying out the excommunication during Sunday morning, but to do it during the Sunday evening service were 99% of the time only members are present.

How would you advise the concerned family?

  • Since they are not church members they should stay out of it.
  • Express concerns to the pastors, but respect their decision.
  • Empathize with the family, but advise them not to try to persuade the pastors.
  • Help them organize a boycott of the church unless they change the disciplinary time. 🙂
  • Or…
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce H. August 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Or… It is a spiritual matter which addresses the third phase of the church discipline principle found in Matthew 18:15-20. We should not allow our Western influence be marred by the truth of Scripture. Sunday morning in front of everyone, yes. Discipline was designed to create the fear of God in Christians and unbelievers.

2 Christiane August 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

this is one of those situations that should be kept private between the pastor and the husband and wife . . .

I doubt the husband (and his girlfriend) would attend this Church openly together after a separation or divorce,
but the wife and children need a Church home, and they shouldn’t be driven away by the stares of others and the notoriety of the husband’s behavior

private ministry is best here

3 abclay August 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Bruce, I agree with what you say in principle but I would say that the primary purpose of discipline is to protect the bride of Christ.

So, I say that I’d Empathize with the family but advise them not to try to persuade the pastors.

4 Larry August 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

It cannot be ‘private’ as in the rest of the church membership knows nothing about it because the biblical mandate is to take it to the church. In fact, for the discipline to be enforced, the church members must know so they can appropriately handle it should they encounter this man. I would communicate it only to church members either via email distribution or a called meeting, not on a Sunday morning during the service. His eventual restoration, should it come (which is the goal of church discipline), however, I would celebrate in a worship service.

5 D.R. Randle August 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

In my opinion, Sunday morning worship is most definitely not the time to handle Church discipline issues. In fact, I don’t think the act of excommunication should be presented and enacted in one meeting. There needs to be a members-only meeting (not to be confused with the jacket – sorry I couldn’t resist) in which the facts are presented, the Scriptures regarding discipline are exegeted once again, and the congregation is asked to pray together and separately about the issue. Then there needs to be a specific period of time given to pray for the individuals involved and for the Church, during which time I think the wife and family need to be taken care of and the husband needs to be called to repentance (again) and reminded (again) that disfellowshipping will be the result (and what that means regarding his salvation – i.e., that the Church rejects his profession of faith). Finally, a second meeting needs to take place where honest questions can be answered and where again explanation can take place. Then, a vote can take place, or at the discretion of the pastors, they can again wait a specific period of time to allow for prayer and one-on-one counseling with those in the Church who have questions. Now, having said that, I recognize that all Churches might not need such instruction, but I think part of leadership in the Church involves showing the congregation that we should be careful in such areas and that we are concerned with the implications of proceeding carelessly. And I think the Church needs to see that this process should give ample time for the sinning individual to repent and be restored.

Now, to actually answer your question Mark, as a pastor, I would first tell them to appeal to the pastors and all the elders of the Church (or whoever is the actual recognized leadership of the Church), asking them to do this in another way and presenting an alternative course of action. If the pastors were not convinced, I would volunteer to the family to go and speak privately with the pastors in order to persuade them to consider a separate meeting, where no visitors would be present and where discussion could take place more freely. In the end, however, should they decide to proceed on a Sunday morning, I would recommend to the family that they submit to the leadership on this and not grumble – recognizing that God is sovereign even when choices, which seem unwise to us, are made. Sorry for the length, but I just taught about Church Discipline a couple of Wed. nights ago and had a long conversation with a woman in the Church about how such a thing would transpire – so it’s fresh on my mind.


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