4. Discipline

4. Discipline




A. Excommunication

¶ Before the minister announces the excommunication, he shall inform the congregation of what the Spiritual Council did in this present case, and why it is considered necessary to exclude the guilty person from the communion of the church, that all might know the justice of the sentence.

BELOVED IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head and King of the Church, commanded that if a brother trespass against us, we are to go and tell him his fault between us and him alone. If he will not listen to us, we are to take with us one or two others, in order to establish every word in the mouth of two or three witnesses. And if he still refuses to listen to us, we are to tell it to the church. Then if he refuses to listen to the church, we are to think of him as a pagan and a tax collector. In the same manner the apostle Paul commands in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that we should withdraw ourselves from every brother who walks disorderly, and not according to the tradition which he received from us. If anyone who is called a brother, is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idola ter, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, we should report him and have nothing to do with him, so that he might be ashamed.

(We have previously made known to you that) N______, a member of this church, has been leading an immoral and ungodly life (or, has been holding and teaching false doctrine-or, has been holding and teaching false doctrine, and leading an immoral and ungodly life), and has by his sin given great offense against the church of Christ. According to the command of our Lord, we have kindly told him his fault, both alone and in the presence of one or two witnesses; we have warned him of the consequences of his heinous offenses against God and the church, and admonished him to repent. But it is with deep sorrow of heart that we announce to you that thus far we have received no proof of true repentance and reformation of life. On the contrary, he has hardened his heart and continues in stubbornness and disobedience.

Wherefore, in order that this erring member of the church may not endanger the whole body, and that the name of God be not blasphemed among us through him, we are now in duty bound, by the command of our Lord, to proceed to the use of the last remedy, and cut him off from the membership of the Church.

We, therefore, the minister and elders of this church, assembled in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, do hereby announce to you that N______, because he will not forsake his sin, is excommunicated from the Church of God; he is separated and cut off from the communion of the saints, and from the use of the sacraments, so long as he continues without repentance.

Moreover, we admonish you, dearly beloved, that you hold no Christian fellowship with this person, so that he may be led to a deep sense of his fall and separation from the Church of Christ. We beseech you, however, not to treat him as an enemy; but to admonish him and pray for him, so that he may be brought to repentance, and restored to the communion of the Church. Remember also that you yourselves are surrounded by temptations; and let the

fall of this man be an example to you, and a warning of your danger.

You have seen how he began to depart from the ways of truth and righteousness, and by degrees fell away more and more into error and sin. Observe, therefore, how cunning the great adversary of souls is in leading men to destruction. The devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Be sober, and watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. Let everyone be truly sorrowful for his sins, so that God may not humble us again by the fall of any other member of this church. Beloved brethren, let your fellowship be with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ; and be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

PRAYER:

O righteous God, most merciful Father, we lament our sins before Your most high majesty, and confess that we have deserved the sorrow and pain which we feel at the separation of a member from Your Church. For Christ’s sake, be gracious to us and forgive our iniquities, for which we mourn. Work a godly sorrow for sin in our hearts, so that we may fear the judgments which You send upon the stiffnecked and rebellious. And since You have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but will have all men to be converted and live; and since the doors of Your Church are always open to those who return to You in true repentance; O most merciful Father, we pray for grace to walk before You in all holiness, and to humbly and lovingly admonish the one upon whom this judgment has now come, in order that he may be brought to repentance, and restored to Your favor through the work of Your good Spirit. May we soon have cause to rejoice about the one for whom we now have sorrow of heart, that Your name may be praised, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

B. Restoration

¶ An announcement is to be made to the congregation, at least a week prior to the public restoration, that the excommunicated person has given evidence of repentance and that he desires to be restored to the communion of the church. If anyone has an objection to the restoration, he is to bring it to the Spiritual Council in the time allocated. At the time of this announcement the minister shall say:

BELOVED CONGREGATION IN THE LORD: It is my privilege to announce to you today, that N_______, who was excommunicated from our membership, has through the grace of God come so far by this remedy, as well as by good admonitions and your prayers, that being ashamed of his (her) sins, he (she) now desires to be restored to the fellowship of the Church.

We have made diligent inquiry into his (her) spiritual condition and manner of life, and have good reason to believe that he (she) has forsaken his (her) wickedness and returns to the Lord with a broken and contrite heart. Nor has anyone brought a further charge against him (her). Since we are in duty bound by the command of God, to receive such repentant persons with joy, and yet it is necessary to proceed according to good order in these matters, we hereby make known to you that we propose on to loose him (her) from the bond of excommunication, and restore him (her) to the fellowship of the Church. Let everyone thank the Lord for the mercy shown to this brother (sister), and beseech God to complete His work in him (her) to his (her) eternal salvation. Amen.

¶ At the time set for the public restoration, if no cause has been demonstrated to prevent it, the minister shall call the brother and the elders before the congregation and say:

BELOVED CONGREGATION: We have previously informed you of the repentance of N________, who was cut off from our communion, in order that he (she) might be restored to the fellowship of the Church with your knowledge and approval. And since no one has brought any charge against him (her) in the mean time, we now proceed to his (her) formal and solemn restoration.

Our Lord Jesus Christ declares that whatever His Church will loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven. By this declaration He informs us that when any person is excommunicated from the Church, he is not by this immediately cut off from any hope of being saved, but that he may again be loosed from the bonds of condemnation. Since God also declares in His Word that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but calls the wicked to turn from his way and live, the Church always hopes for the return of her backslidden children and keeps her bosom open for those who truly repent. Accordingly, the apostle Paul commands that the offender who had been cut off from the Church at his direction, should again be received and comforted, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

Our Lord also teaches us that such forgiveness, being pronounced according to the Word of God, is accounted sure and firm by Him. For as Christ says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” Therefore no one who truly repents ought to doubt in the least that he is assuredly received by God in mercy.

¶ Then, addressing the repentant person, he shall say:

NOW, THEREFORE, I ask you, N_______, do you declare with all your heart, before God and His Church, that you truly repent of the sin for which you have been excommunicated, and do you desire to be restored to the communion of the Church of Christ, and promise to live in all godliness from now on according to the command of the Lord?

Answer: I do, by the grace of Christ.

¶ Then the minister shall proceed saying:

And now, in the name and by the authority of Christ and His Church, I release you from the bond of excommunication and receive you into this church. You are restored to the fellowship of Christ, the communion of the saints, and the use of the holy sacraments. May the God of all grace, Who has had pity on you and has given you repentance to life, confirm you in it to the end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Seeing then, beloved brother (sister), that God has received you by His grace, be careful to watch continually from now on so that Satan, the world, and your flesh may not cause you to fall into sin again. Bring forth fruits fitting for repentance; and since God has forgiven you much, love Him much, and walk before Him in newness of life.

And you, dear congregation, receive this brother (sister) with joy and tenderness, praise God for his (her) return, and rejoice with the angels of heaven over this sinner who comes in repentance today. Since God has forgiven and received him (her), let no one despise him (her). Do not look any longer on him (her) as a stranger, but love him (her) as a brother (sister), and count him (her) a fellow-citizen with the saints and of the household of God.

PRAYER:

Let us return thanks to the Lord.

Merciful God and Father: we heartily thank You that You have given repentance to life to our brother (sister) and have restored him (her) to Your Church. O Lord, grant him (her) the grace of Your Holy Spirit, so that he (she) may not be re-entangled in the Satan’s net. Help him (her) to walk in newness of life, and to serve You in all godliness, holiness and righteousness. Grant all of us the grace of Your Spirit, so that we may constantly look up to Jesus Christ, the great Author and Finisher of our faith, to equip us to walk in the way of life. Enable our lights so to shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Help us to watch and pray, and to work with fear and trembling, so that we might be saved and kept in the fellowship of Christ Jesus unto eternal life. Amen.

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