Church Discipline: Rules for Your Good, Part 1
When it comes to administering church discipline, a Session can do everything else right, but if they don’t act out of love for the sinner and in a loving fashion, they can hardly expect the discipline to bear much godly fruit.
The “how” of church discipline involves two aspects. One is the more formal and technical rules of discipline. These can seem cold and perhaps too formal at times and are often confusing to church members. However, they’re meant to protect the church member. Much like the laws of jurisprudence in our civil government, the rules, when properly applied, protect the accused from injustice.
You can find these rules in the PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) in Chapters 27–46. It isn’t exactly exhilarating reading, but these chapters describe your rights in the process of discipline and give detailed instructions to the Session as to how they are to proceed in order to ensure they act justly in the process. The BCO can be downloaded for free from the PCA website, here.
Put as simply as possible, as a member of All Saints Presbyterian Church, you fall under the jurisdiction of the Session of our church. If you are accused of sin, our Session is the only church court that can do anything about it. We have the primary responsibility before God to pursue you, discover the truth, and where there is sin, call you to repentance. We discover the truth either by your confession of sin, or by conducting a trial if you choose to plead not guilty to the accusation. If found guilty, the three forms of church discipline are admonition, suspension from the sacraments, and excommunication. We apply these, usually one at a time, with the hope that they will communicate the importance and urgency of repentance.
We’ll continue unpacking the formal process of discipline next week with a more careful description of these three acts of discipline.
Your fellow servant of Christ,