Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission: Pastor, What’s this about Church Discipline? by Pr Rob Jarvis

(The Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission is one of the many confessional groups that regularly posts on this website. Like BJS they seek to equip laymen to know and support Confessional Lutheranism. CLCC posts are archived on the Regular Columns page of this website.)

Pastor Rob Jarvis wrote this as a teaching tool for his congregation to explain why the church should exercise discipline and that it is an act of love. It’s a good tool to help answer many questions that people have about Church Discipline and how and why it is done within the Church.

Visit theCLCC.org for more on this organization, or to access a PDF copy of this document.

 


 

Pastor, What’s this about Church Discipline?

 

What is the biblical rationale when it is used?
When Jesus gave the Office of the Keys shortly after His resurrection, He said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (Jn 20:23). As we learn it in the catechism, “The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners but to withhold forgiveness from unrepentant as long as they do not repent” (S.C. Art V).

What is the purpose of church discipline?
That comes through in the last part of Matt 18:15. “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” It’s all about restoration. If someone gets caught in a faith-destroying sin or anything else that would destroy their faith, then it would be unloving to let them continue and have their faith destroyed. Instead, we would want to see them repent and be restored.

Is there another purpose?
Yes, there is. It serves as a warning to others. This is what Paul was talking about when he wrote to Timothy, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (I Tim 5:20).

The Old Testament talked about purifying the people. Is this still another reason for exercising church discipline?
Exactly. This is the third purpose. The Lord would have the church purified to His glory. Although it was Old Testament, the Lord said, “Purge the evil from your midst” (Dt. 13:5). To allow known evil to continue unchecked is to forget He is still holy and we are His holy people (I Pet 2:9).

Are there any more examples of discipline in the Bible?
St. Paul did it for the sake of restoring a man who was committing some pretty heinous sins in the Corinthian church (I Cor 5:1-5). The churches of Pergamum and Thyratira were both chastised because they did not practice church discipline against those who not only were living in sin, but also teaching false doctrine. (Rev 2:14-16, 20)

How about actual commands to do it?
We can’t get much clearer than what the Lord says to Ezekiel. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” He sounds pretty serious!

Who is to be disciplined?
Someone who is involved in and persists in either a faith-destroying sin or a faith-destroying error (a false teaching) will need to be disciplined. Yet, it is not the sin, but the persistence in it, which is a sign of impenitence.

What is impenitence? Better yet, what is penitence or repentance?
Penitence is when a person humbly acknowledges they are a sinner and requests forgiveness. Some may call repentance simply asking for forgiveness, but that could lack the humble acknowledgment of being a sinner. A person can ask for forgiveness and still be impenitent. Asking for forgiveness would be just simply going through the motions. The best definition is to say repentance is begging for mercy. A person, led by the Holy Spirit to see their sin (Rom 3:20) will cry out for mercy (Lk 18:13). Begging for mercy carries the idea that we have abandoned any effort to save ourselves. A repentant person has actually been killed by the Law (II Cor 3:6) and has no resource but God’s mercy in Christ. Looking to Him for mercy is faith. I thought all sins are the same? Why is one sin worse than another? It’s not the sin. It’s the impenitence.

Still, why some sins and not others?
For the sake of restoring a person, church discipline ought to be carried out on those whose sin has become a matter of public record. This is what happened to David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed (II Sam 11:1ff). It became a matter of public record. In our day, a couple living together becomes a matter of public record because they share the same address. Pro-abortion legislators have been disciplined by their Roman Catholic congregations because their public record shows they support abortion laws. Dealing with those according to their public record, first assures there is not a mistake, but second provides the warning needed by others.

Are there faith-destroying sins that may not be a public record?
Yes. The neglect of worship is something that many consider harmless, but could actually destroy a person’s soul. A person is not likely to be a Christian if he is starving himself to death. The Lutheran documents call these people “despisers of the sacrament” (Apology to the Augsburg Confession XI: 4). Perhaps you can hear the 3rd commandment in that phrase. Breaking the 3rd commandment is also a sin, and a serious one.

What about a sin that everyone knows about but is not public record?
This is a matter of pastoral care but also discretion. Through preaching, a pastor will hope his people will become aware of their sins and repent of them. It’s not a matter of stopping the sin, but repenting of it. Sin will continue to be a part of everyone’s life, but penitent sinners will not let the sin rule over them.

Should the pastor act on rumors or gossip?
No. He should not be the moral police, meddling into his peoples’ business for the sake of finding their sin.

Aren’t we judging? Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not?”
Jesus did say, “Judge not” (Matt 7:1), but he was condemning self-righteous judgment. Look at the rest of the passage (Matt 7:1-2). A person should hold the same standard for himself as he does for others.

Correcting someone else can be spiritually dangerous, though. The apostle Paul gives a warning along with the command, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in a transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you be tempted” (Gal 6:1) Tempted to do what? To think you are better than him.

Tell me how this is out of love again.
I know. It doesn’t look like love, but neither does it look like love to a child when he is given a time-out. The purpose is to get them to see their behavior is sin, repent of it and be joyfully restored.

This sounds like it is more than simply telling someone what they are doing is wrong? Is there more?
Yes. A person hearing someone tell him he is committing a sin can be hard. Still, if that doesn’t jolt a person, then it might call for warning them away from the Lord’s Supper because they are showing impenitence. It could eventually mean removal from the church rolls which is basically pronouncing the verdict that has already been made in heaven (Matt 18:18; Lk 10:16; SC V). The gates of heaven are shut against him.

How does communion become a part of this?
Primarily, it is to protect the impenitent person. The Lord’s Supper is life giving and healthful when received in faith. If a person is impenitent, however, it is dangerous. The Holy of Holies in the temple was approached only with great fear (Heb 9:7) because of God’s destructive holiness (Dt 4:24). The Lord’s Supper is the New Testament Holy of Holies (Jn 1:14), and therefore carries the same danger. We approach because we are invited and because we are covered by Christ’s righteousness (Gal 3:27). He is our shield (Ps. 84:9). To be impenitent, however, is to cast off his righteousness. It is to sin against the body and blood (I Cor 11:29). This happened in the Corinthian church. Some were sick and had even died when they sinned against the body and blood (I Cor 11:31-32). This does not seem likely to happen now, but God’s judgment according to the letter to the Romans is carried out when He allows sin to become worse (Rom 1:18ff). To continue communing that person is to seal him in his sin.

What about the corporate aspect of the congregation or the congregation as a body?
Yes. This is another concern. To allow an openly impenitent sinner to commune is to give the appearance that we approve of the sin and forfeit the chance to give a warning for the sake of the rest of the congregation.

Who is worthy, then?
The catechism answers,”…he is worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, ‘Given and shed for you,’ …for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe” (SC VI). Not taking into account the corporate nature of communion—that is the confession involved—then the person who is worthy is the one who says, “This is what I need.”

What should happen if an impenitent person should come to the rail?
It depends on whether the pastor has spoken to them or not. If the pastor has not spoken about it, then it would be terribly embarrassing to be passed up. If, however, they have been warned and they still come up, then for their spiritual good, they should be passed.

What does a person need to do once they have been disciplined?
Repent. And this means what had been discussed above.

Is it enough for a person to say, “I know I have sinned?”
No. Saying, “I know I have I sinned,” is a step removed from saying, “I have sinned.” And still a person can say, “I have sinned,” and still not be penitent. If a person is penitent we would expect them to show it. John the Baptist taught us to expect penitents to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7). In other words, we should expect a corresponding change in life. Otherwise the repentance is not real. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession says, “There can be no true conversion or contrition where mortifying the flesh and good fruits do not follow” (Ap XII: 131). The Augsburg Confession of 1530 says, “Then good works, which are the fruits of repentance, are bound to follow. (AC XII: 6)

Are we saying grace isn’t enough and you need to have obedience and good works to be saved?
No, but again the Law must do its work, killing a person and leading them to cry out for mercy. When they do this, they show they are penitent, and we can expect that they will no longer continue to live in that sin. Like St. Paul had asked, “How can we who have died to sin, still live in it?” (Rom 6:2)

What should the congregation do once a person repents?
Forgive him or her and welcome them back into full fellowship, with all its rights and privileges, especially the privilege of communing again.

Are we doing something new in our congregation?
No. This has been done in the past, but it did not get quite as much attention. We are also addressing the practice more openly and directly with the congregation.

Who has the authority to do this church discipline?
God gave the authority to the church but He has also established the office of the Holy Ministry to exercise it for the people of the church publicly (Acts 20:28; I Cor 4:1). Still, the entire congregation should be involved. In a document against abuses in the Church of Rome, the 16th century confessors say, “The keys do not belong to one particular person but to the church” (Treatise 24).

Who gives this authority?
When Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave them the Office of the Keys, He also gave the church that authority. And having been given all authority on heaven and earth (Matt 28:18), He continues to give this authority away to be used on His behalf.

Shouldn’t God do this Himself?
Actually He is. He is using the men He has called and the concern of His people for their fellow Christians. “Warn the wicked man” of Ezekiel and the softer command of Galatians, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual, restore him gently” (Gal 6:1) should show us God wants us to do this for Him.

Can an individual do this?
Yes, in fact an individual should. Individuals are the ones Matt 18 is first addressing. Look at the steps involved in Matt 18:15-20. If you see someone committing a faith-destroying sin, realize it is hurting their soul, but also doing damage to the body of Christ (I Cor 12:12-26). Out of love, you are not going to want to just let it go. But because it hurts you as well as them, you will want to gently and lovingly confront them with it.

So what is a pastor’s job?
The pastor has been given the authority to exercise the Office of the Keys on behalf of the congregation. This is most visible when he speaks the absolution, baptizes people, distributes the Lord’s Supper, and speaks God’s Word to the people. These duties can be called the Keys that “win.” The Keys that “warn” concern discipline, even preaching the Law. Although the
pastor has the authority, he will not want to act unilaterally in disciplining a person.

Does Matt 18:1ff have to be followed when the sin is a matter of public record?
No, but since the purpose is to restore the person, the discipline will need to be as discreet as possible. Of course, it can’t be entirely discreet, because there is still the public warning involved. To warn a person from the Lord’s Table can be very effective. At least the rest of the congregation will see since this person is impenitent, he or she is not being allowed to hurt themselves at the Lord’s Table.

Do the steps of Mt 18:1ff mean three steps and you’re done?
No. There is nothing that says how often each step could be done–especially the first step. The intent is to restore your brother. If you are concerned that your brother (or sister) is engaging in a sin that is going to destroy his soul, you will warn him until you believe this is not accomplishing anything. After this is exhausted, you will want to bring in some witnesses. If you discipline someone, won’t they just quit coming to church or go to a different one? That is the risk. This is why it should be done slowly and gently. The ultimate goal is to restore them to the faith. We can’t neglect this aspect of their pastoral care, however, for fear they may leave.

What is the responsibility of other congregations?
It would be the hope of a disciplining congregation that other congregations will love the soul of the one who is disciplined and not ignore what has happened. Unfortunately, it can happen too easily that a person could just go down the street to another church. It should be expected, however, that churches of the same confession would stand together.

What about the rest of the family?
They can be the biggest help or the biggest hindrance. If members of the family are pulled into the situation to protect their fellow family member from what they think is the injustice of the discipline, it is obviously going to hurt that person in the long run. On the other hand, if other members of the family understand what this is all about, they are in an excellent position to help their family member repent. This is why it is critical to know the purpose of discipline, so they can see it has been done out of love. The same would go for other members of the congregation.

How come I never knew about this before?
Church discipline has tragically fallen into disuse. We were told this would happen. Jesus said in the last days, people’s love would grow cold (Matt 24:12). People may not realize it, but it shows a lack of love when we are not willing to confront and warn a person from danger. Our politically correct society as well as a relativistic society where everyone decides for themselves what is truth, has also contributed to a decline of its use.

God willing it won’t, but it sounds like it could happen to any member. Wouldn’t it be wise for everyone to be made aware of it when they become members?
Actually, every time we install new officers, the congregation hears them promise to see to it “that the erring are admonished, and that discipline is maintained.” This is one of the responsibilities of the elders. The article on Conditions of membership in our congregation’s constitution also says, “Communicant members are those who…permit themselves to be fraternally admonished and corrected when they have erred (Matt 18:1ff).” Still, it would be wise to make sure this is understood as youth and adults are catechized and become members.

I noticed there were a lot of Bible passages that were referenced. In fact they started getting a little annoying in some places. Was there a reason for this?
Yes. We want you to realize this practice is soundly Scriptural and not just suggested once but seen as an integral part of a church’s life.

Is there some place where I could read more about this?
Yes. Much of this comes from the 1985 CTCR (Commission on Theology and Church Relations) report called, “Church Discipline in the Christian Congregation.”

 


 

Visit theCLCC.org for more on this organization, or to access a PDF copy of this document.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission: Pastor, What’s this about Church Discipline? by Pr Rob Jarvis — 27 Comments

  1. Wonderful post. Church discipline truly has fallen by the wayside. Nowadays Christians rebuff other Christians for showing this kind of love. I can’t count the times growing up I heard “Jesus said don’t judge” *sigh*. I pray this gains momentum throughout Confessional Lutheran churches once again.

    There is much to be gained from properly exercised church discipline as well as individual confession and absolution and weekly Holy Communion.

  2. Allow me to correct myself. I said, “I pray this gains momentum throughout Confessional Lutheran churches once again.” I don’t mean to say that it has fallen out of practice completely. What I mean is that, in churches where this practice is ignored or has been abandoned, may be it be restored.

  3. I just want to let you know that this article is available in pdf format on the CLCC website. I think it would make an excellent Bible Study done to help people understand this topic.

    http://www.theclcc.org

  4. Great article! I wonder, also, about what happens when a person is called to repentance and does not repent. It seems that many congregations continue the process with a voters meeting. Though the percentage may vary from one congregation to another according to their constitution, I’ve heard that if the voters assembly does not vote to carry out excommunication, then the person is not disciplined. What then?

  5. Maybe I’ve been out of a congregation that practiced church discipline for so long that I am out of touch…but isn’t it the job of the pastor and elders to excommunicate? I didn’t know that a congregational vote was taken.

    Again that is not meant in judgment or anything. I just thought a pastor and elders handled that. Between college and all the traveling with ministry teams I did before graduating I have been out of a church that practices church discipline for about 8+ years.

  6. What happens when a board of elders (sans pastor as the congregation was vacant at the time) decides to ban a member from Holy Communion improperly? I speak from personal experience as the board of elders decided to ban my wife and I from Holy Communion at an elders’ meeting without us present and without us having an opportunity to defend ourselves against their charges. As the conflict dragged on, it turns out that the charges levied against me, had we had an opportunity to discuss them, were either unfounded (i.e. there is no proof of the charge) or non-biblical reasons for denying someone Holy Communion (e.g. people didn’t like my wife’s tone and comments at voters’ assemblies). BTW, my wife and I were never spoken to about these problems until someone nominated me to be on the board of elders.

    My questions are:
    1) Who is to hold the board of elders accountable?
    2) What if the voters’ assembly then decides to “release without prejudice” me and my wife without ever really hearing what all the charges were? Who is to hold the congregation accountable?
    3) What recourse do members of the Synod (I am a commissioned lay minister) who are unfairly attacked have in these cases?

    As a note: we know they didn’t release us without prejudice from the congregation as an act of love and mercy because we did acknowledge any offense that was brought to us and we did ask for forgiveness. Additionally, not one person who voted to remove us from membership (including the elders) has contacted us since January 10 (the day they kicked us out) to see how we are doing, whether emotionally, spiritually, or to ensure that we are worshiping at another congregation.

    The matter has already been brought up with our circuit counselor (whom we contacted when all this started) and the district president. But they have been ineffectual in resolving this issue.

  7. @Ed #6

    These type of situations are becoming all too common in the LC-MS. I know of pastors that have gone through circumstances not entirely different from what you went through. God’s peace in Christ be with you. I am praying for you.

    I would attempt to answer questions 1 and 2 of yours but you already contacted your circuit counselor and DP. Where is the justice? Congregations should not be able to do this. It sounds like the process that led to the the voters meeting totally ignored Our Lord’s words recorded in Matthew 18. It saddens me to hear of a congregation sinking to these kinds of actions. My heart goes out to you as I am also a commissioned lay minister. With that being said I echo your third question…

    “3) What recourse do members of the Synod (I am a commissioned lay minister) who are unfairly attacked have in these cases?”

  8. Sojourner #5
    normally the Pastor with the knowledge of the Elders excommunicates the unrepentent sinner. It is brought before the votes to allow members to voice their opinions. The vote taken should be unanimous to excommunicate. If their is any dissent, it is discussed. If the dissent is valid the excommunication is negated. If the dissent is not valid and that person does not repent of the error, they could and should also be excommunicated. Excommunication is not “kicking” them out of the church, but rather a plea for that person to repent.

    Ed in #6
    A lay minister is an oxymoron. it is a contradiction in terms. One is either an ordained minister or one is a layman. The lay minister program is contrary to AC Vll.

  9. Ed. You obviously feel very wronged. At the same time I doubt you want to use this public forum to re-live your pain. It would be good to sit down with the circuit counselor again and discuss the issues… and have him walk you through the steps that would have to be followed to be “released without prejudice.” Your need to listen is as important (even more) than the need to defend yourself. You need to know a person cannot be excommunicated without reason. The steps listed above are a very good starting point.

  10. Sojourner: Thank you for your prayers. My wife was raised in the Reformed church and stayed away from God altogether for 30 years before being invited to an LCMS congregation 8 years ago. Now that same congregation has caused her to doubt and be cynical about “organized religion” and, indeed, even the Bible and God. It was a tough two months after our excommunication from our congregation, but with the Word of God, the sweet forgiveness and comfort found in Holy Communion, and a wonderful confessional pastor counseling us, she is better and we continue to pray for His will to be done.

  11. Bill Kope #8
    I agree. But I am not on the Board of Regents at CUW and I cannot change the name of the program. I would dearly love to be called a deacon as I have gifts, talents, and experiences (systems engineer who has worked in marketing and sales) that would benefit a pastor and relieve him of his duties that do not concern the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Until the name of the program is changed, I can only use what I am given.

    Michael #9
    Come to Grace Lutheran Church and you’ll see what they have done and what they can do. The circuit counselor was informed of the situation from the very beginning, and there was even a district reconciler involved (a pastor) who told the elders they were wrong in what they did and the elders continued to ignore Scripture and the Confessions. I have no need to defend myself, but I have an obligation to tell the truth, and that is what I’ve done here. If you want more info, go to my wife’s blog: http:\\bannedfromgrace.wordpress.com.

  12. This is an essential practice that has indeed fallen into disuse. Let us not forget another possible roadblock: lack of fraternal “faith and credit” amongst circuits. Following an excommunication, all congregations in the circuit should be notified (and, depending on the geographic size of the circuit, perhaps those surrounding ought to receive notice as well). Yet even when an impenitent is excommunicated, it remains relatively easy to just start going to the church in the next town. This is also why the pastor’s examination of visitors desiring to receive the Sacrament must go beyond, “Are you LCMS?” One must affirm that he is in good standing with his home congregation.

  13. @Rev. Keith Reeder #12

    Pr. Reeder, it would seem that, in this case, it’s the congregation which should not be “in good standing” and yet, the district will go along with the congregation every time. [They’ll throw another Pastor to the wolves there, too.]

    Ed, yours wouldn’t be the only voters which rubber stamped a decision of Elders without asking for a reason why.
    Were you serving that congregation as a ‘commissioned lay minister’?

    For my education: will someone explain the term “released without prejudice” and compare to the rescinding of a call for an ordained man?

    IMO, a board of elders shouldn’t be doing any such thing in the absence of a Pastor.
    But I haven’t been housebroken in the new generic protestant missouri. 🙁

  14. Good thoughts and clarifications. Thank you. I’m with Ed on the “Commissioned Lay Minister” naming issue. If it is in conflict with the Confessions, and I don’t doubt you Bill, there is nothing I can do to rename the program. I was taught that I my duties fell under the diakonate ministry.

    I have had to explain to two older pastors that I am not supposed to lead worship, preach, or administer the Sacraments. I guess “back in the day” lay ministers used to do such things in rural areas. I explained to them both that that is not the training I had and that it would be wrong for me to do such things.

  15. Helen #13
    My call isn’t to the congregation and it wasn’t a factor. What was a factor was my insistence on holding the leadership of the congregation to Scripture and the Confessions, particularly in reference to the call process while serving as a member of the Call Committee.

    As for the term “released without prejudice,” it doesn’t really have any meaning within our congregational polity or the LCMS. We met with the circuit counselor and the district president and they were at a loss for words when trying to decipher this secular term within the context of our lives together in Christ. In fact, when asked by my wife where does this leave us, they had no answer.

  16. @Helen #13

    Helen, I agree that a congregation doing such things ought not be in good standing, but we’re a long way from The Way Things Ought to Be. Not only is there church-hopping within circuits, but we also have congregations oust their pastors unjustly with no reaction from the circuit or district. My former circuit counselor was nearly tied to the stake and set ablaze by his own parishioners, and there was not a word said. Same old, same old. Call a sem candidate to replace him and move on. That’s the way it’s done nowadays.

  17. It is sickening how people can treat their Pastor and the DP President does nothing. The best fix is for the Pastor to just take another call. And then everyone is supposed to just move on and forget the way people treated their own Pastor.

  18. @Michael #17
    Michael,
    Good point. These situations are harmful to everyone involved. The Office of Holy Ministry as well as the wronged pastors are harmed. Sinful human beings who are not called to repentance, and thus prepared to receive God’s gifts of grace and forgiveness are harmed. DP’s who are unfaithful to Holy Scripture are harmed. Lord have mercy.

  19. Rev. Keith Reeder :@Helen #13
    Not only is there church-hopping within circuits, but we also have congregations oust their pastors unjustly with no reaction from the circuit or district. My former circuit counselor was nearly tied to the stake and set ablaze by his own parishioners, and there was not a word said.

    Pr. Reeder, you’re describing my congregation’s circuit too.

  20. It seems that from the above, that after the Pastor has talked to an individual about an impenitent sin of a parishoner and has not gotten the proscribed response as to repentance and a change of heart and life, and has been warned off as to coming to Communion by the Pastor, that should this impenitent member come to Communion he should be passed over.

    I hope I have accurately summarized, in a truncated paragraph, the above.

    My question is, Does the Pastor have the authority to ban a member, for that is what is being done when the Body and Blood is being refused someone at the Alter, in this scenario? It is referred to and is called the Minor Ban.

    Can the Pastor, Excommunicate, for that is the definition, to be outside those who can receive the Body and Blood, on his own, without prior consultation of the Board of Elders and the vote of the Congregation in assembly, as the Church in that place that has been given the keys and all Churchly Power.

    Can the Minster employ the Minor Ban on his own? As I believe this is a Roman Catholic practice in which the Priest can do this arbitrarily without consulting anyone.

    Is there any such thing as the Minor Ban? But rather there is only one Ban, and that is Excommunication, which cannot be arbitrarily proclaimed without the Congregation being involved as an Assembly of God in the Divine Service.

  21. @Michael #17
    The best fix is for the Pastor to just take another call.

    No doubt. But from the number of forced resignations, congregations don’t have the patience if the Pastor is willing to do it! (That call can be slow in coming through the DP, if it’s known that the Pastor is not on the “praise and ablaze” bandwagon.)

  22. the Church in that place that has been given the keys and all Churchly Power.

    @Deacon Brian Hughes #20

    The church, in any place, hands the Keys, along with the Word and Sacrament ministry, to the Pastor when it calls him, doesn’t it?

    I don’t know what else is contained in “all Churchly Power” but I have a feeling that it is where congregations get the notion that they can depose the Pastor for no reason, as if he were the groundskeeper! They get away with it, too, which shows how UNLutheran our “superintendents” have become.

  23. I do want Pr Rob Jarvis to post to my main point as to the Minor Ban and such and not get to distracted with your point of interest.

    The church, in any place, hands the Keys, along with the Word and Sacrament ministry, to the Pastor when it calls him, doesn’t it?

    Not so much, ‘hands over’, as ‘exercises publicly’, for all, in the name of all.

    The Church does not possess the Keys and all churchly power as a whole but also every individual who confesses what Peter confessed concerning the Christ, that He is the Son of the living God, has the Keys and calls a Man, qualified, to administer them to all, in the name of all.

    The called Pastor administers and is the mere servant of the gifts of God to the church in that place.

    The prerogatives of the office are not to be emphasized apart from the acknowledgment that when Jesus in John 20,’ breathed upon the disciples and said ” Receive you the Holy Spirit, whosoever sins you forgive…”, He said it to all His believers, for all who do have faith, have the Holy Spirit as did the Apostles. Luther, in the new volume of his works, vol 69, Sermons on John 20, throughout his Ministry, to his death, confesses the same.

    “I don’t know what else is contained in “all Churchly Power” but I have a feeling that it is where congregations get the notion that they can depose the Pastor for no reason, as if he were the groundskeeper!”

    ” All Churchly Power”, is the possession of all gifts and sacraments Christ gave to the Church, as Melancthon says in the Treatise, the Sacraments have been given to the Church, not to the ministry, as a self perpetuating peerage.

  24. @Deacon Brian Hughes #23

    I’ll be interested if Pr. Jarvis responds to either/both our questions.
    He wrote this piece for another purpose and it has been copied here
    so we may wait awhile.

    But incidentally, Deacon, how does “…the ministry, as a self perpetuating peerage.” relate to my question? I was only talking about the responsibilities of the congregation to their called individual Pastor, not about setting up a dynasty.

    [If you’ll give me a citation, perhaps I can read Melanchthon in context?]

  25. I’m sure Pr Jarvis will answer your questions when he is able. I’ll notify him there are some for him, but I sent this post to put on here, and he has been gone, so the timing isn’t great for him right now. He’ll read all the comments with interest, I’m sure.

  26. Deacon Hughes, re: your question about the minor ban —
    I’m answering this without delving into the history and documents and such, but I believe part of the answer is that the “minor ban” of refusing communion and the “major ban” of excommunication are not merely different expressions of the same thing, differing only in size, impact, or seriousness.

    Excommunication is indeed an act of the church and it is the culmination of a process of church discipline. Though often seen as punishment for the disobedient, it is in fact (properly practiced and understood) an act of love for the unrepentant, trying to wake him or her up to the significance of that refusal to repent.

    Refusing the Lord’s Supper to a communicant (preferably taken care of long before he/she gets to the altar), on the other hand, is an exercise of the pastor’s responsibility as “steward of the mysteries of God” and “shepherd of souls”. If the pastor knows that the individual is unrepentant, it is unloving spiritual malpractice to allow that person to partake of the Lord’s body and blood to his or her judgment.

    What the “major” and “minor” bans have in common is a motivation of love, and both will indeed be involved when a member remains stubbornly impenitent, but they are different in their nature, purpose, and source of authority.

    I hope this helps.

  27. Oh boy! You write a paper and everyone thinks you’re an expert. I wish that were true. Instead, what is true is that even a blind chicken can find a kernel. So be it. I will attempt to answer the questions the best I am able. I hope this gets to those who have been part of this discussion. I was on vacation when this was posted. Then I had a really hectic week leading up to my daughter’s confirmation and then a pastor’s conference the beginning of this week. Kari (#3 and #25) reminded me I should respond. I’m sorry it has taken me so long. It seems there are two particular questions, from Helen and from Deacon Brian Hughes and comments from Ed. Thank you to all who said they found it helpful.

    Ed, I feel badly for what has happened to you, but I have little to say. You might refer to the CTCR document from which I derived much of my information. I see that the webmaster for BJS provided the link to it. I recommend reading it. It’s actually pretty good. The paper does say our synodical fathers expected full congregational consensus, even possibly excommunicating those who would not agree with the congregation’s decision, but that was in a day when church discipline was regularly practiced. To expect full consensus now, in light of the distorted view of the Church held by so many, is probably naive. As to accountability, especially during a pastoral vacancy, I don’t think I can provide the silver bullet.

    Helen, I think Deacon Brian Hughes has been answering your question about the “churchly powers.” The pastor acts on behalf of the congregation. As I address the question (I’m not sure I will answer it), it will cross over into Deacon Hughes’ question.

    I’ll start by noting the obvious. We have the issue of elders in our day. As a brief study will reveal, our system of elders cannot be found historically. Dr. Al Collver has a paper on that but I can’t locate it now. Still, it’s the system most us have.

    What is the role of elders? Ideally, they should be seen as helpers and supporters of the pastor’s office. IOW, in addition to helping make sure worship runs smoothly and pastoral care is provided, they help the pastor teach the congregation, by them being his advocate of what he is teaching. My experience, however, has been that it runs the other way. The elders are perceived as a labor union; the pastor, the management; the congregation, the labor. The labor (congregation) goes to the union reps (elders) because they don’t think they will be heard by the management (pastor). In a case like that, the pastor may publicly exercise the office of the Keys, that is, on behalf of the congregation, but he better make sure the elders know what is going on. If you should be operating in an ideal system, which is as the one I first described, I would think the pastor would have the freedom to warn a person from the rail to prevent their own harm without getting the elder’s approval. He would still probably like to inform the elders, so they are given some authority, even it is just information. If a pastor find himself in this less than ideal situation and is able, he will want to change this view of the board of elders. It is not a healthy one.

    As to “minor ban” I don’t know the history of the term, but I don’t think it is comfortable in Lutheran circles. Instead, a pastor would speak to the impenitent and tell him his soul is in jeopardy, and warn him from the table. Only if the impenitent would refuse to be warned, would the pastor be forced to actually deny him the sacrament. Of course, his desire is to see the impenitent repent and be restored.

    This brings us to the occasion of this paper. As you guessed, it wasn’t written in a vacuum. We had a discipline case. It is very similar to what many pastors face. A live-in situation. I told the young lady it was sin. Several weeks later she came to communion anyway. Since I had not yet told her the connection between impenitence and the Lord’s Supper I communed her. She lived out of town and was previously unwilling to meet with me, so I wrote a letter with the assent and even suggestions from the elders, telling her the dangers and warning her from the Table. I wanted to make sure I was giving authority to the elders. (This is an aside but a worthwhile one I picked up from Doxology: power is finite; authority infinite. To have power, you must take power, and the other person has less. Giving others authority is to have even more authority. The more you give; the more you have.) I knew this was going to cause a rift in the congregation. Prior to this action, I had taken the elders through a brief summary of this CTCR report, and their reaction was that this is something that must be done. I spoke of church discipline at a congregational meeting and then prepared this packet in the format of the “Second Thoughts of Living Together” written by Pr. Matt Harrison.

    Helen, you spoke about the “churchly powers” as being the excuse used to depose pastors. I don’t think so. The ones who depose pastors don’t do it on theological grounds. I have described above the setting where it takes place. In this case, we switch metaphors and the congregation isn’t seen as the labor, but the owners. This is their church. The pastor is the “poser.” This isn’t his church. When he leaves, the people will still be here. This is their reasoning. Since they “hired” him, they expect to get what they want. A pastor’s call, churchly powers, and even God’s will are rarely considered. Instead, according to their reasoning, if they aren’t getting what they want, then nobody else is going to want to become a member. If a congregation is not growing numerically, in their mind, it is dying. They have been told this numerous times through our official synodical channels.

    When a congregation decides a pastor’s ministry is no longer effective, they decide it is time to force him to resign. He should not. If he does, both parties commit sin, violating God’s clear will. The people sin by rejecting the man God has chosen to use to speak to them; the pastor sins by refusing to be God’s spokesman to those people when God has made it clear He is not done using him. Let them fire him so the sin will be theirs alone. At least he can stand before God and say he had done all he could.

    This isn’t the end of my story, but it is as far as this packet is concerned and according to the questions that had been asked. I don’t know if I have answered any of them in this post, but if people find the packet helpful, I’m pleased and deeply honored.

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