Last night at the church where my recovery meetings take place I noticed a stack of freshly printed booklets set out prominently on the information desk.
I cannot reveal the name of the booklet or its author because either name might give away the location of my recovery group and thus violate its anonymity. However, I can tell you this:
- The booklet was written by a long-time Senior Pastor
- The booklet was originally written in 2002 and recently re-printed
- The subject of the booklet is church discipline
- There were approximately twenty of these booklets lying on the church’s Information Desk
As soon as I caught sight of the booklet’s title my blood pressure spiked. Church discipline, I thought, haven’t we seen enough of that? I’ll bet their ‘discipline’ doesn’t apply equally to everyone in the church. It doesn’t, by the way, but we’ll get to that in another post. I was recently threatened with church discipline for writing a post in this blog so I had to take a copy of this fascinating document home for further study.
This booklet scares me. My wife only read the first page and it scared her. The author seems very intelligent and well-versed in Scripture, and in my opinion he uses those gifts to threaten his church. It’s the worst kind of bullying there is and falls right in line with my recent series on religious rigidity.
I’m going to spend the next few days exploring the ideas put forth in the booklet. To start the series I want to quickly discuss the need for a church discipline policy.
Publishing a discipline policy is important inasmuch as you have ‘covered your bases’ should a problem arise within the church. If the policy is used as an operational document, that is, if it is actually used in disciplinary situations, then it has some organizational value. Publishing a church discipline policy also gives church members fair warning regarding what to expect should they face discipline.
That last point raises a critical question, though, doesn’t it? Why should a church need to discipline its members? If the policy existed for the personal, spiritual, and physical protection of individuals within the church I might support it. But as I will show in this series, the primary purpose of this booklet is to protect the church organization, and more to the point, to protect the church’s ruling class.
The document was written by the people governing the church and is enforced by those same people: They decide what constitutes impropriety; they decide who has violated the policy; they enforce the discipline. The church has appointed itself Judge, Jury, and Executioner. There is no system of checks-and-balances and the conflict of interest is staggering.
Do you think it is important for a church to have a published discipline policy? Why or why not?
As we open this series, what are your initial thoughts on the subject of ‘church discipline’?