Excommunication

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Excommunication

Postby James » Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:34 am

The Pastor of Cave City Baptist Church in Lexington, KY directed that 70 people who had stopped attending services and stopped giving to the church be sent letters informing them that their membership in the church was terminated. I did not know that the pastor of an SBC church had the power to do that.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby William Thornton » Thu Jul 26, 2018 10:11 am

Might as well put the facts with your ire:

http://www.bpnews.net/51302/churchs-rol ... dia-circus

I would have some issues with the action but the pastor said the church had been going through an eight year process.

1. Looks like the church approved the action.
2. Probably not a good idea for the pastor to tackle this in his first year.
3. I've done this more than once.
4. Churches should maintain the membership as they see fit.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jul 26, 2018 10:50 am

James wrote:The Pastor of Cave City Baptist Church in Lexington, KY directed that 70 people who had stopped attending services and stopped giving to the church be sent letters informing them that their membership in the church was terminated. I did not know that the pastor of an SBC church had the power to do that.


Every Baptist church I pastored had a different set of rules about moving members from active to inactive, and purging the rolls of people who never attend. So, I would assume it depends on the constitution of his church what authority he has.

In the UMC persons who never attended can be removed by action of our Annual Charge Conference. But it takes two votes a year apart to do so. When our financial support of the denomination was based on the number of members churches routinely purged rolls of people who never attend or support. But now that our apportionment is based on annual income, it doesn't happen that often anymore.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Joseph Patrick » Thu Jul 26, 2018 11:20 am

From Gerry Milligan aka Joseph Patrick,
On the question of purging (an inflammatory term) church roles, James 1:8 (A double minded man is unstable in all his ways) describes me. But, for me it comes down to how are they "cumbering the ground" (church/congregation)?
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jul 26, 2018 11:46 am

Joseph Patrick wrote:From Gerry Milligan aka Joseph Patrick,
On the question of purging (an inflammatory term) church roles, James 1:8 (A double minded man is unstable in all his ways) describes me. But, for me it comes down to how are they "cumbering the ground" (church/congregation)?


I guess there are a number of reasons for cleaning up the roll.

A fair number of times people joined another church and didn't tell you. By looking at the roll it gives you a good reason to contact inactive people and try to see why they are inactive.

It inflates membership numbers and gives the church a sense of size that isn't real. So members wonder "why can't a church of 1,000 members raise a better budget?" but in reality you only have 700-800 active members who are giving or participating.

On the occasion you have a congregational vote it isn't unusual, if you are voting on something controversial, for factions to try to woo people who never attend to show up just to vote in a business meeting. Yet, why should someone who hasn't been to church in 10 years or even given to the church get to vote on a critical decision in the church?
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Haruo » Thu Jul 26, 2018 12:34 pm

"Excommunication" would apply if your local Baptist church in question had close(d) communion. At Fremont and most ABC churches I've known, losing local church membership per se doesn't exclude one from the invitation to the "table".
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jul 26, 2018 1:41 pm

Haruo wrote:"Excommunication" would apply if your local Baptist church in question had close(d) communion. At Fremont and most ABC churches I've known, losing local church membership per se doesn't exclude one from the invitation to the "table".


I'm not sure he is meaning excommunication in the classic sense of being barred from communion. I think he really means being kicked out of local church membership. Being a member or not has no effect on Methodists communing either.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Sandy » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:55 pm

Excommunication? Being taken off the membership roll of a Baptist church because you haven't been there or supported it for a long time is not "excommunication." And each local, independent, autonomous Baptist church can give whatever authority to the pastor that it wants, so if they want him to be the one that trims the membership roll, he can do it. It sounds like that was a little bit misrepresented in this case, though. Apparently this pastor didn't do it on his own.

Even so, I don't have a problem with a church wanting to go through the process of making its membership roll reflect its membership. The SBC reports just north of 15 million members, and just a tad over 5 million in weekly average attendance. Somewhere out there are nearly 10 million people, two out of every three that consider themselves "Southern Baptist," who don't attend the church they belong to. If a church went to the effort of trying to find all of theirs, and came up with a list of people who hadn't attended or supported the church for a while, and didn't get any response from them, dropping them from the membership roll wouldn't seem to be a problem.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Lamar Wadsworth » Thu Jul 26, 2018 10:02 pm

I am reminded of a church business meeting in Alabama years ago. The clerk read her report: "We have received a request from Pine Grove Baptist Church for the letter of Susie Smith (not the actual name)," and then without missing a beat, the clerk commented, "I thought she was dead but I don't guess she is."
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Jul 27, 2018 1:21 pm

The whole topic seems to bring into focus the larger question of the meaning of membership in the local church. There is no uniformity at all among Baptists. I have been through trying to update the rolls of a couple of churches where I have served. We went through a much more detailed process which included efforts to contact people who had been members but had been gone for some time, efforts to contact family where we knew there were still relatives in the church, and running a list in the newsletter trying to learn if someone could help us contact these members. There seems to be a problem on both sides. First, there were those who had been members who still considered themselves part of the local congregation and wished to remain though they no longer attended (reasons varied). Second, there were individuals who had long ago joined other churches (some of them Baptist) but did not find it important to let us know. Third, there were folks who returned our letter of concern informing us that they no longer wished to hear from us again, but they shared no wishes as to how we should handle their membership. Fourth, we also found people who had been dead for as much as half a century.

The other side of the issue is church concern with and ministry to our members. You can disappear from many churches and never be contacted again, even if you live within sight of other church members. It seems that our individualism has replaced our corporate concern for each other. If we can simply disappear from a church without being contacted, did anyone in the church care about us? Also, I have discovered that churches have sometimes kept very poor records of people joining and have even failed to remove names when letters were requested "because it made us look smaller." It's a broad issue, and most churches have some of the symptoms.

The best model I know is one in which, if someone does not attend for five years, does not give or correspond with the church in that five year period, and has made no effort to respond, they are placed in a hold file. Should they later become active again, their status will be moved back into the active membership. Should they later join another church and inform the congregation, the church then will respond with the statement "This person has been a member of our church." If this is in the constitution and bylaws, it saves many later issues.

As to a pastor purging the roll, I suspect that may be a symptom of the "Calvinist resurgence" in the SBC.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Haruo » Fri Jul 27, 2018 2:14 pm

Fremont Baptist had (20-plus years ago) and perhaps still has a category of "associate membership", created to allow those temporarily in the area (e.g. college students) to participate in church business meetings without having to give up membership in their home church in Minnesota. They were specifically barred from voting on motions affecting hiring, firing, and denominational affiliations, but were otherwise full members, as I recall. When they moved away for more than a quarter, as I recall, they automatically lost this status.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Jul 27, 2018 5:20 pm

Haruo wrote:Fremont Baptist had (20-plus years ago) and perhaps still has a category of "associate membership", created to allow those temporarily in the area (e.g. college students) to participate in church business meetings without having to give up membership in their home church in Minnesota. They were specifically barred from voting on motions affecting hiring, firing, and denominational affiliations, but were otherwise full members, as I recall. When they moved away for more than a quarter, as I recall, they automatically lost this status.


The UMC has categories of Associate and Affilate members. I often confuse the two. One is for other Methodists who are part-time in the area as you mentioned about, the other is for non-Methodists. Their rights in the church are nearly identical. It is full-membership minus voting on sale of property and chairing the Trustees. I’ve not looked at the Discipline recently about it because it is seldom requested other than by snow birds who head south for the winter. As we aren’t a winter destination, I don’t get requests for it.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Haruo » Fri Jul 27, 2018 10:02 pm

Yeah, I'm pretty sure come to think of it that sale of the property was also on the disenfranchisement list.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:59 am

Haruo wrote:Yeah, I'm pretty sure come to think of it that sale of the property was also on the disenfranchisement list.


Since it is so easy to join most churches who have associate membership, I think that clause is to remove the possibility of what amounts to an outside takeover.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Haruo » Sat Jul 28, 2018 9:21 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:
Haruo wrote:Yeah, I'm pretty sure come to think of it that sale of the property was also on the disenfranchisement list.


Since it is so easy to join most churches who have associate membership, I think that clause is to remove the possibility of what amounts to an outside takeover.
Yes, when Fremont adopted associate membership, which was probably within my first year there, certainly within the first two, avoiding a hostile takeover was explicitly the reason given for all the limitations on voting powers.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jul 29, 2018 7:41 am

In one church I pastored we did some major revisions of the Bylaws because we realized a hostile takeover of the church would be very easy. Items like changing the denominational affiliation of the church originally only required a simple majority vote at any monthly business meeting. Often we had 30 or less people at those meetings. All someone would have to do is get a handful of new people to join the church, or convince just a handful of other members to come to a business meeting, make a motion to leave the ABC/USA or even sell the building and and a church that ran almost 150 in worship would find itself out of its denomination or without a building by the will 16+ people.

The changes required that a business meeting to sell or buy property or change denominational affiliation (and a few other items like calling a new pastor) had to be announced on two successive Sundays from the pulpit and published in all church publications and that such a vote would require a 2/3rd majority of all voting members present.

At least then if someone wanted to pull some shenanigans the whole church would have an opportunity to know and vote.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jul 29, 2018 11:48 am

I asked the church to make a couple of changes to avoid hostile takeover. Just a precaution.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Rvaughn » Sun Jul 29, 2018 4:24 pm

In our area we most commonly use (used) the terminology "exclusion," or removal from church fellowship. Some more colloquially call being excluded, being "churched." I've never heard our folks here call it excommunication, though technically those of us who practice strict communion are in effect excluding the member from communion.

A number of years ago we did an extensive cleaning of the church roll, sending out letters to last known addresses and such like. I had been at the church several years before suggesting it, and we did it as a church (i.e., it was not just something the pastor did). The membership roll had been neglected several years, and we succeeded in making a few people mad. We did this again fairly recently, but due to the "fix" years ago and keeping up with the roll better, it was a simple process that went off without a hitch. We made the note "removed from roll" and the reason (e.g. joined another church, etc.).
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jul 29, 2018 4:47 pm

Rvaughn wrote:In our area we most commonly use (used) the terminology "exclusion," or removal from church fellowship. Some more colloquially call being excluded, being "churched." I've never heard our folks here call it excommunication, though technically those of us who practice strict communion are in effect excluding the member from communion.



Interested. Here being “churched” means. You go to church and if you don’t you are “unchurched” for whatever reason.

But then we also use the term “parishioners” and “church members” pretty much interchangeable. The committee that I liaison with at the church is called the “Staff Parish Relations Committee” or in a smaller church the “Pastor Parish Relations Committee.”
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Sandy » Sun Jul 29, 2018 7:14 pm

We did this at the last church I served on staff, and it was done with the approval of the whole church. We had 1,100 members, with an average weekly attendance in worship of 300, and 220 in Sunday School. We actually only found records that matched about 900 names, so we reduced the total number reported, and then went through the process of sending out letters and waiting for a response. The church decided that any names from letters returned with "no forwarding address" would be taken off the roll, along with those who requested removal. We took a good sized group off because of having a birthdate that made them more than 100, and I'm sure not many of those past about 85 were around anymore. The responses we got back, not all that many considering how many we started with, were from people who either lived locally and had joined a church of a different denomination, mostly non-denominational churches, or moved out of the area and were attending a church of a different denomination, again mostly non-denominational. Apparently most of our "non-active" or as the SBC likes to call them "non-resident" members weren't interested enough to bother, and were either not going anywhere else, or had died. We got the total membership back down to under 500 as a result, with a commitment to doing a better job of keeping track.

I'm not sure how that worked out, since we left eight years ago this August, moved out of state, joined a church of another denomination, and we are still on the membership roll there.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Haruo » Sun Jul 29, 2018 8:41 pm

In its early days, Fremont Baptist Church occasionally "withdrew the right hand of fellowship" from some misbehaving member. I think the specific offense generally remained a secret. And I think the last time this action was taken was at least a century ago.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jul 29, 2018 9:32 pm

Haruo wrote:In its early days, Fremont Baptist Church occasionally "withdrew the right hand of fellowship" from some misbehaving member. I think the specific offense generally remained a secret. And I think the last time this action was taken was at least a century ago.


As a south paw, I’m not that impressed by the “right hand of fellowship.”
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:54 am

Haruo wrote:In its early days, Fremont Baptist Church occasionally "withdrew the right hand of fellowship" from some misbehaving member...
Withdrawing fellowship is also terminology that is used here.
Tim Bonney wrote:Interested. Here being “churched” means. You go to church and if you don’t you are “unchurched” for whatever reason.
My guess is that to "church" or "be churched" is probably fading terminology that is only now used in rural areas by older folks. That definition of "church" can be found at Dictionary.com, No. 16 under "verb (used with object)":
16. South Midland and Southern U.S. to subject to church discipline.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Sandy » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:44 am

Rvaughn wrote:In our area we most commonly use (used) the terminology "exclusion," or removal from church fellowship. Some more colloquially call being excluded, being "churched." I've never heard our folks here call it excommunication, though technically those of us who practice strict communion are in effect excluding the member from communion.

A number of years ago we did an extensive cleaning of the church roll, sending out letters to last known addresses and such like. I had been at the church several years before suggesting it, and we did it as a church (i.e., it was not just something the pastor did). The membership roll had been neglected several years, and we succeeded in making a few people mad. We did this again fairly recently, but due to the "fix" years ago and keeping up with the roll better, it was a simple process that went off without a hitch. We made the note "removed from roll" and the reason (e.g. joined another church, etc.).


My wife's family, originally from Arkansas, used the term "churched" to apply to an incident during which one of her aunts was removed from the church fellowship for behavior reasons. It was a temporary removal intended to make a point. She was charged with attending a "social event" at the home of a friend whose parents were not members of the church, and where there was dancing. My wife's uncle was "churched" for attending an event at the local Knights of Columbus hall where beer was known to be served. We were going through some things in a drawer of our hutch preparing to move this past June and my wife found a hand-written letter from him to the deacons informing them that he was glad to acknowledge their action and not to bother worrying about his reinstatement, since he would not be back.
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Re: Excommunication

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Jul 30, 2018 11:03 am

Sandy wrote:
My wife's family, originally from Arkansas, used the term "churched" to apply to an incident during which one of her aunts was removed from the church fellowship for behavior reasons. It was a temporary removal intended to make a point. She was charged with attending a "social event" at the home of a friend whose parents were not members of the church, and where there was dancing. My wife's uncle was "churched" for attending an event at the local Knights of Columbus hall where beer was known to be served. We were going through some things in a drawer of our hutch preparing to move this past June and my wife found a hand-written letter from him to the deacons informing them that he was glad to acknowledge their action and not to bother worrying about his reinstatement, since he would not be back.


OK, I think I know the answer for this, but who has the authority to "church" someone in most Baptist churches? My previous Baptist pastorates there would have to be a congregational vote to remove someone from membership like that. I'd think that would be highly contentious.

In the UMC it is very easy to join a Methodist church and fairly hard to remove a member.
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