Church Discipline Meets Litigation

1 Corinthians 5
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Nowadays, Paul would probably get sued over this.

Or maybe someone would even sue Jesus?

Matthew 18:15-17
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
(emphasis added)

Is it any wonder more churches won’t practice discipline? The state needs to stay out of the church’s business. It looks to me like the pastor involved made a few mistakes, like trying to maintain a distinction between his secular counseling and being a pastor, and then sometimes the lines got blurred. I don’t know. The details of this specific case are much less important than the idea that the courts think they can intervene in church discipline.

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One Response to Church Discipline Meets Litigation

  1. Phil in CA says:

    Robert, this case speaks VOLUMES to the issue of churches touting their secular counseling services. For some time I’ve been concerned about things like this and now the issue has come home to roost. Frankly, the pastor has the most blame in this case, and here’s why…

    What does it say when, in order to counsel, this “pastor” chose to take off that hat and put on a secular “counselor” hat? What does the presence (um, reliance?) on “secular counseling in the church” convey about pastoral counseling? This pastor’s practice sends the message that the tradition and spiritual authority of solid pastoral counseling is inferior to a trained secular counselor. It says that a pastoral role must be too limiting or something. In fact, this practice just simply a church adoption of the world’s less-than-respectful view of the pastoral role and it’s source, the Bible.

    Frankly, the pastor and church were just asking for this to happen! The pastor set himself up as if his counsel could be separated from his position. Wrong. He is the church pastor. Period. If that’s an office to which God has called him, then he cannot take off that hat and put on a secular hat and expect God’s protection when operating outside of this God-ordained role. To do so is sin. The reasons he might do this are certainly suspect as well.

    This case is not one of the courts encroaching on the church’s turf? rather it’s a case of one pastor who played on the world’s turf and now finds himself subject to the standards of such. If he’s a licensed therapist, then he also should have known fully the professional/legal ramifications of this divulging information in violation of these boundaries. Therefore this case should not surprise him or his church — or us for that matter.

    On the broader scale, because of his transgression in this matter we (Christians) may see some very negative court precedents set.


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