There is an article on Church Discipline in the Wall Street Journal of all places. What is really about is about the abuse of church discipline, but it doesn’t quite make that distinction. A few thoughts:
1. Church discipline should not ban a person from church- only the sacraments. The exception would be if someone physically threatens leadership or other members (estranged spouse, for instance). To treat someone as an tax collector is to treat them as one in need of the gospel the church is supposed to offer. It is not to “shun” them.
2. Church discipline is not appropriate for merely questioning church leadership. Insecure people can’t tolerate disagreement and may abuse church discipline to get rid of people. This is not the same as rejecting a core doctrine of the church. How the person expresses their disagreement or questions may be a matter of church discipline, but that isn’t the same thing as saying something you don’t want to hear.
3. Church members should not be disciplined for asking to see church financial records. That these people sued to see them is a result of church leaders who were unreasonable or wanting to hide something. Godly leaders are above board and don’t have to hide financial records. There is a bigger problem at work when churches refuse to let MEMBERS see financial records.
4. Pastors should generally not discipline a person who confesses unless that sin is heinious, or the offender an officer. Confessing a sin is an indication that the person in question is repenting and attempting to deal with the sin. In some matters you may want to suspend someone from office or from the sacraments, but since they are repentant you are not removing them from the church. You are showing them the severity of their offense with a consequence which is temporary.
While some churches practice church discipline improperly, this does not mean that church discipline is improper or outdated (which is pretty much what the WSJ article is saying). Pastors need to avail themselves of the few good resources that exist out there, like:
(HT: Between Two Worlds)