Public Apologies by Two U. S. Megachurches Prompt Church Discipline Warnings

church discipline

Public apologies by two U.S. megachurches for a lack of compassion in the exercise of church discipline have prompted some Baptist pastors to underscore the need for humility and congregational polity during the attempted restoration of wayward members.

Most American churches have not exercised biblical church discipline for a century, Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, told Baptist Press. “Because we have so little practice with it, along the way, as we seek to restore it, people are going to make mistakes. This kind of humility required to apologize for making a mistake, I think, is going to be needed and needed in large quantities in order to be successful in getting to a healthy place with regard to what church membership is.”

Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Dallas, a Southern Baptist multisite congregation, apologized during worship services May 30-31 for a domineering approach by elders in some church discipline cases, the church confirmed to BP.

Christianity Today reported on one case in which the church’s leaders initiated the discipline process when a woman ended her marriage after discovering her husband had viewed child pornography for years. She requested to be removed from membership, but the request was denied initially, CT reported, with leaders citing a membership covenant requiring couples to “walk through the steps of marriage reconciliation” before pursuing divorce and a policy forbidding members under discipline from withdrawing.

The Village Church’s elders reversed their course May 28 and released her from membership, issuing an apology for not leading her “to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing.” She filed for a marriage annulment under Texas law.

In Chicago, a megachurch’s pastor and elders apologized last fall for “the complete lack of biblically required restorative component” in the discipline of three former elders accused of stirring up division in the church, CT reported. In September, Pastor James MacDonald said Harvest Bible Chapel’s elder board had “lifted all discipline” from the former elders.

The former elders accused Harvest’s leaders of fostering a “culture of intimidation” and exhibiting a lack of transparency. In response, a 2013 video message from Harvest’s leadership called church members to “avoid these former Harvest elders at all costs lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.” The former elders’ viewpoints, according to the video, were “satanic to the core,” CT reported.

Neither the Village Church nor Harvest brings matters of church discipline to a congregational vote.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach

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