February 01, 2009

The question of Church Discipline has always caused some uneasiness in Church circles. Most times members are not focusing on the fact that they have erred and sinned in the sight of God, rather, they compare themselves with other erring members and how those members were disciplined. It is critical to understand that every organization needs to have discipline, but each situation must be taken on its own merit. It means that those in charge of exercising discipline must examine each case and exercise the discipline deemed necessary at that time.

On my recent visit to the Tobago Conference, it came forcefully to me that Church Discipline is critical for the smooth running of the Church. The Executive Board of the Tobago Conference was very passionate about this and asked why is it that some persons walk in and out of our Church and do all manner of immoral things and the Church seems to do nothing? Why is it that a female would leave the Moravian Church for another denomination, but once she gets pregnant outside of marriage, she pulls herself back into the Moravian Church without any questions asked?  Why is it that a man who gets drunk, smokes and live in the rum shop daily, still serves on the Church Board? There are numerous questions being asked and begs a response.

All infringements of Church Discipline ought to be dealt with, but it has to be done on a local contextual situation. Many times, members within the congregation are aware of others who live immoral and slack lifestyles, but do not want to be identified as the one who made the report. As a result, the Pastor gets unsigned, anonymous letters which makes allegations about others. The Pastor seeks his/her best to investigate the matter and the individual concerned, denies everything. The Pastor is left in no man’s land, only to be accused of knowing and condoning wrong.

Church Discipline should be exercised for the cure and care of souls. In Church Discipline, the sins and errors of the individual are considered and borne as the burden of the whole congregation. The congregation stands beside the erring one under the judgment of the Cross, ever mindful of its own need of forgiveness and brings the fault before the only one who can redeem us from guilt- Jesus Christ. In addition, church Discipline is exercised in the confident faith that it is not the Lord’s will that a single member should be lost, or that the clear witness of the congregation should be hindered. This discipline is especially necessary when by word or deed the gospel is falsified and the Lord denied. Therefore the main object of Church Discipline is the prevention of offenses and not the punishment of the individual. (To be continued)