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Monday, January 21, 2008

Wall Street Journal: Baptists and Church Discipline

The Wall Street Journal offers a fascinating look at the growing movement among very conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline. The article is entitled Banned From Church. Check it out.

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. "And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P."


Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs. (Listen to the 911 call)

The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" and expelled her from the congregation. "I've been shunned," she says.



Blogger D.R. said...

I'd suggest reading Tom Ascol's take on this over at the Founder's Blog. He cites the particular passage you quoted and states,

Given this gross misunderstanding of [church discipline] it comes as no surprise that the examples that are cited in the story tend to so extreme that most pastors I know who teach and lead their churches to practice discipline would not want to be identified with them.

The kinds of actions that Alexandra Alter writes about have been around a long time. Unfortunately, it is exactly opposite of what we need to see in our churches today. Ascol gives us a hint of what is needed:

When a person is removed from the membership of a church in keeping with our Lord's teaching in Matthew 18, he or she is not to be "shunned." Neither should they be forbidden to sit under the public preaching of the gospel. They need the gospel and, while we cannot treat them as members any longer, we should welcome them the same way we would a "Gentile or tax collector" (in other words, an unbeliever). We recently had a member who was excommunicated several years ago show up for a worship service. I was glad he was there and told him so. I prayed for him during the worship, that God would capture his heart with the gospel. This is far from the caricature that is portrayed in the WSJ.

1:22 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I'm really glad we're dependent on God's grace rather than man's.

7:24 AM

Blogger Voice_of_Reason said...

FBC Jacksonville and Pastor Mac Brunson recently amended the by-laws without any discussion and without freely distributing the proposed changes before a vote, to allow the church to form a discipline committee. The presumed purpose regarding the timing of this event? Anonymous emails and bloggers who question the pastor accepting a $307,000 piece of land gift only two weeks after he arrived. The deed, which can viewed from a link on www.fbcjaxwatchdog.blogspot.com, shows the deed was given "for love and affection." The pastor also put his wife and son on full salary and benefits, yet they filled no job opening, have no job description, and are not listed on the website as part of the staff. He also converted the conference room of the new children's building to luxury offices for him and his wife, away from the rest of the staff. While living in a million dollar condo on the Atlantic Ocean rent free, and after he accepted the gift of the land, he complained to Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson about his congregation, causing both of them to come to his defense, one at the Pastor's conference, and the other at chapel at SWBTS. Poor old Mac. Not to mention the 6 bedroom, 4.5. bath 5500 square feet home he built on the golf course in a gated community. HE LEFT FBC DALLAS, one of the wealthiest congregations in the SBC, over $9 million in debt when left, and is now saying FBC Jax is "behind budget" too. He also is asking for more sacrificial giving to build a school only a handful of members want, and none actually need. And no one is even bothering to question his presumed exorbitant salary and benefits, we all assume he "earns" that so it is not in the discussion. Mac's stated "number one problem in our church?" You guessed it... a lack of church discipline!

11:12 AM


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