Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or (as in the present discipline of the Catholic Church) to restrict certain rights within it, such as the reception to Holy Communion. Some Protestants use the term disfellowship instead.
The word excommunication means putting a specific individual or group out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group. Excommunication may involve banishment, shunning, and shaming, depending on the religion, the offense that caused excommunication, or the rules or norms of the religious community. The grave act is often remedied by sincere penance, public recantation, sometimes through the Sacrament of Confession, piety, and/or through mortification of the flesh.
- 1 Christianity
- 1.1 Roman Catholic Church
- 1.2 Eastern Orthodox churches
- 1.3 Lutheranism
- 1.4 Anglican Communion
- 1.5 Reformed view
- 1.6 Anabaptist tradition
- 1.7 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 1.8 Jehovah's Witnesses
- 1.9 Christadelphians
- 1.10 Society of Friends (Quakers)
- 2 Buddhism
- 3 Hinduism
- 4 Islam
- 5 Judaism
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus says that an offended person should first draw the offender's fault to the offender's attention privately; then, if the offender refuses to listen, bring one or two others, that there may be more than a single witness to the charge; next, if the offender still refuses to listen, bring the matter before the church, and if the offender refuses to listen to the church, treat the offender as "a Gentile and a tax collector".
1 Corinthians 5:1-8 directs the church at Corinth to excommunicate a man for sexual immorality (incest). In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, the man, having repented and suffered the "punishment by the majority" is restored to the church. Fornication is not the only ground for excommunication, according to the apostle: in 5:11, Paul says, "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler - not even to eat with such a one."
In Romans 16:17, Paul writes to "mark those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them." Also, in 2 John 1:10-11, the writer advises believers that "whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house [οἰκίαν, residence or abode, or "inmates of the house" (family)], neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Roman Catholic Church
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|Legislation and Legal System of the Catholic Church|
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In Roman Catholic canon law, excommunication is a censure and thus a "medicinal penalty" intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude, repent, and return to full communion. It is not an "expiatory penalty" designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, much less a "vindictive penalty" designed solely to punish.
Excommunication can be either latae sententiae (automatic, incurred at the moment of committing the offense for which canon law imposes that penalty) or ferendae sententiae (incurred only when imposed by a legitimate superior or declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court).
Excommunication was once considered to sever someone from the Catholic Church. The Code of Canon Law of 1917 maintained that disposition, declaring that excommunication excluded a person from the communion of the faithful. The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law removed this statement from the account of the effects of excommunication in the Catholic Church. Thus in current Catholic canon law, excommunicated Catholics - unless they cease for some other reason to belong to the Church - are still Catholics and remain bound by obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). They are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.
All excommunicated persons are barred from participating in the liturgy in a ministerial capacity (e.g., as a reader if a layperson or as a deacon or priest if a clergyman) and from receiving the Eucharist or other sacraments, but they are not barred from attending these (e.g., an excommunicated person may not receive the Eucharist but is not barred from attending Mass). They are also forbidden to exercise any ecclesiastical office or the like.
These are the only effects for those who have incurred a latae sententiae excommunication. For instance, a priest may not refuse Communion publicly to those who are under an automatic excommunication, as long as it has not been officially declared to have been incurred by them, even if the priest knows that they have incurred it. On the other hand, if the priest knows that excommunication has been imposed on someone or that an automatic excommunication has been declared (and is no longer merely an undeclared automatic excommunication), he is forbidden to administer Holy Communion to that person. (see canon 915).
Other effects of an excommunication that has been imposed or declared are:
- an obligation on others to prevent the excommunicated person from acting in a ministerial capacity in the liturgy or, if this proves impossible, to suspend the liturgical service;
- invalidity of acts of ecclesiastical governance by the excommunicated person.
In the Catholic Church, excommunication is normally resolved by a declaration of repentance, profession of the Creed (if the offense involved heresy), or renewal of obedience (if that was a relevant part of the offending act) by the excommunicated person and the lifting of the censure (absolution) by a priest or bishop empowered to do this. "The absolution can be in the internal (private) forum only, or also in the external (public) forum, depending on whether scandal would be given if a person were privately absolved and yet publicly considered unrepentant." Since excommunication excludes from reception of the sacraments, absolution from excommunication is required before absolution can be given from the sin that led to the censure. In many cases, the whole process takes place on a single occasion in the privacy of the confessional. For some more serious wrongdoings, absolution from excommunication is reserved to a bishop, another ordinary, or even the Pope. These can delegate a priest to act on their behalf.
Before the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there were two degrees of excommunication: The excommunicate was either a vitandus (shunned, literally "to be avoided" by other Catholics), or a toleratus (tolerated, allowing Catholics to continue to have business and social relationships with the excommunicated person). This distinction no longer applies.
In the Middle Ages, formal acts of public excommunication were sometimes accompanied by a ceremony wherein a bell was tolled (as for the dead), the Book of the Gospels was closed, and a candle snuffed out — hence the idiom "to condemn with bell, book, and candle." Such ceremonies are not held today.
Eastern Orthodox churches
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, excommunication is the exclusion of a member from the Eucharist. It is not expulsion from the churches. This can happen for such reasons as not having confessed within that year; excommunication can also be imposed as part of a penitential period. It is generally done with the goal of restoring the member to full communion. The Orthodox churches do have a means of expulsion, by pronouncing anathema, but this is reserved only for acts of serious and unrepentant heresy. The Moscow Patriarchate declared Sergius Bulgakov a heretic in this fashion because of his pronouncements on Sancta Sofia being something like a fourth dimension to the Trinity.
Although Lutheranism technically has an excommunication process, some denominations and congregations do not use it. The Lutheran definition, in its earliest and most technical form, would be found in Martin Luther's Small Catechism, defined beginning at Questions No. 277-283, in "The Office of Keys." Luther endeavored to follow the process that Jesus laid out in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. According to Luther, excommunication requires:
- 1. The confrontation between the subject and the individual against whom he has sinned.
- 2. If this fails, the confrontation between the subject, the harmed individual, and two or three witnesses to such acts of sin.
- 3. The informing of the pastor of the subject's congregation.
- 4. A confrontation between the pastor and the subject.
Beyond this, there is little agreement. Many Lutheran denominations operate under the premise that the entire congregation (as opposed to the pastor alone) must take appropriate steps for excommunication, and there are not always precise rules, to the point where individual congregations often set out rules for excommunicating laymen (as opposed to clergy). For example, churches may sometimes require that a vote must be taken at Sunday services; some congregations require that this vote be unanimous.
The Lutheran process, though rarely used, has created unusual situations in recent years due to its somewhat democratic excommunication process. One example was an effort to get serial killer Dennis Rader excommunicated from his denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) by individuals who tried to "lobby" Rader's fellow church members into voting for his excommunication.
Church of England
The Church of England does not have any specific canons regarding how or why a member can be excommunicated, although it has a canon according to which ecclesiastical burial may be refused to someone "declared excommunicate for some grievous and notorious crime and no man to testify to his repentance".
Episcopal Church of the United States of America
In the Reformed churches, excommunication has generally been seen as the culmination of church discipline, which is one of the three marks of the Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith sees it as the third step after "admonition" and "suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season." Yet, John Calvin argues in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that church censures do not "consign those who are excommunicated to perpetual ruin and damnation," but are designed to induce repentance, reconciliation and restoration to communion. Calvin notes, "though ecclesiastical discipline does not allow us to be on familiar and intimate terms with excommunicated persons, still we ought to strive by all possible means to bring them to a better mind, and recover them to the fellowship and unity of the Church."
At least one modern Reformed theologian argues that excommunication is not the final step in the disciplinary process. Jay E. Adams argues that in excommunication, the offender is still seen as a brother, but in the final step they become "as the heathen and tax collector" (Matthew 18:17). Adams writes, "Nowhere in the Bible is excommunication (removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table, according to Adams) equated with what happens in step 5; rather, step 5 is called "removing from the midst, handing over to Satan," and the like."
Former Yale president and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, addresses the notion of excommunication as "removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table" in his treatise entitled "The Nature and End of Excommunication". Edwards argues that "Particularly, we are forbidden such a degree of associating ourselves with (excommunicants), as there is in making them our guests at our tables, or in being their guests at their tables; as is manifest in the text, where we are commanded to have no company with them, no not to eat". Edwards insists, "That this respects not eating with them at the Lord’s supper, but a common eating, is evident by the words, that the eating here forbidden, is one of the lowest degrees of keeping company, which are forbidden. Keep no company with such a one, saith the apostle, no not to eat — as much as to say, no not in so low a degree as to eat with him. But eating with him at the Lord’s supper, is the very highest degree of visible Christian communion. Who can suppose that the apostle meant this: Take heed and have no company with a man, no not so much as in the highest degree of communion that you can have? Besides, the apostle mentions this eating as a way of keeping company which, however, they might hold with the heathen. He tells them, not to keep company with fornicators. Then he informs them, he means not with fornicators of this world, that is, the heathens; but, saith he, “if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, etc. with such a one keep no company, no not to eat.” This makes it most apparent, that the apostle doth not mean eating at the Lord’s table; for so, they might not keep company with the heathens, any more than with an excommunicated person."
When believers were baptized and taken into membership of the church by Anabaptists, it was not only done as symbol of cleansing of sin but was also done as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ and to conform one's life to the teaching and example of Jesus as understood by the church. Practically, that meant membership in the church entailed a commitment to try to live according to norms of Christian behavior widely held by the Anabaptist tradition.
In the ideal, discipline in the Anabaptist tradition requires the church to confront a notoriously erring and unrepentant church member, first directly in a very small circle and, if no resolution is forthcoming, expanding the circle in steps eventually to include the entire church congregation. If the errant member persists without repentance and rejects even the admonition of the congregation, that person is excommunicated or excluded from church membership. Exclusion from the church is recognition by the congregation that this person has separated himself or herself from the church by way of his or her visible and unrepentant sin. This is done ostensibly as a final resort to protect the integrity of the church. When this occurs, the church is expected to continue to pray for the excluded member and to seek to restore him or her to its fellowship. There was originally no inherent expectation to shun (completely sever all ties with) an excluded member, however differences regarding this very issue led to early schisms between different Anabaptist leaders and those who followed them.
Jakob Ammann, founder of the Amish sect, believed that the shunning of those under the ban should be systematically practiced among the Swiss Anabaptists as it was in the north and as was outlined in the Dordrecht Confession. Ammann's uncompromising zeal regarding this practice was one of the main disputes that led to the schism between the Anabaptist groups that became the Amish and those that eventually would be called Mennonite. Recently more moderate Amish groups have become less strict in their application of excommunication as a discipline. This has led to splits in several communities, an example of which is the Swartzetruber Amish who split from the main body of Old Order Amish because of the latter's practice of lifting the ban from members who later join other churches. In general, the Amish will excommunicate baptized members for failure to abide by their Ordnung (church rules) as it is interpreted by the local Bishop if certain repeat violations of the Ordnung occur.
Excommunication among the Old Order Amish results in shunning or the Meidung, the severity of which depends on many factors, such as the family, the local community as well as the type of Amish. Some Amish communities cease shunning after one year if the person joins another church later on, especially if it is another Mennonite church. At the most severe, other members of the congregation are prohibited almost all contact with an excommunicated member including social and business ties between the excommunicant and the congregation, sometimes even marital contact between the excommunicant and spouse remaining in the congregation or family contact between adult children and parents.
In the Mennonite Church excommunication is rare and is carried out only after many attempts at reconciliation and on someone who is flagrantly and repeatedly violating standards of behavior that the church expects. Occasionally excommunication is also carried against those who repeatedly question the church's behavior and/or who genuinely differ with the church's theology as well, although in almost all cases the dissenter will leave the church before any discipline need be invoked. In either case, the church will attempt reconciliation with the member in private, first one on one and then with a few church leaders. Only if the church's reconciliation attempts are unsuccessful, the congregation formally revokes church membership. Members of the church generally pray for the excluded member.
Some regional conferences (the Mennonite counterpart to dioceses of other denominations) of the Mennonite Church have acted to expel member congregations that have openly welcomed non-celibate homosexuals as members. This internal conflict regarding homosexuality has also been an issue for other moderate denominations, such as the American Baptists and Methodists.
The practice among Old Order Mennonite congregations is more along the lines of Amish, but perhaps less severe typically. An Old Order member who disobeys the Ordnung (church regulations) must meet with the leaders of the church. If a church regulation is broken a second time there is a confession in the church. Those who refuse to confess are excommunicated. However upon later confession, the church member will be reinstated. An excommunicated member is placed under the ban. This person is not banned from eating with their own family. Excommunicated persons can still have business dealings with church members and can maintain marital relations with a marriage partner, who remains a church member.
The separatist, communal, and self-contained Hutterites also use excommunication and shunning as form of church discipline. Since Hutterites have communal ownership of goods, the effects of excommunication could impose a hardship upon the excluded member and family leaving them without employment income and material assets such as a home. However, often arrangements are made to provide material benefits to the family leaving the colony such as an automobile and some transition funds for rent, etc. One Hutterite colony in Manitoba (Canada) had a protracted dispute when leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. About a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States were filed between the various Hutterite factions and colonies concerning excommunication, shunning, the legitimacy of leadership, communal property rights, and fair division of communal property when factions have separated.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormonism) practices excommunication as penalty for those who commit serious sins, i.e., actions that significantly impair the name or moral influence of the church or pose a threat to other members. The LDS Church also practices the lesser sanctions of private counsel and caution, informal probation, formal probation, and disfellowshipment. According to the Church Handbook of Instructions, the purposes of church discipline are (1) to save the souls of transgressors, (2) to protect the innocent, and (3) to safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the church.
For lesser sins, or in cases where the sinner appears truly repentant, individuals may be put on probation for a time, during which further sin will result in disfellowshipment or excommunication.
For more serious transgressions, Latter-day Saints may be disfellowshipped, which denies some privileges but does not include a loss of church membership. Once disfellowshipped, persons may not take the sacrament or enter LDS temples, nor may they give prayers or sermons in church meetings. Disfellowshipped persons may continue to attend most LDS functions and are permitted to wear temple garments, pay tithes and offerings, and participate in church classes if their conduct is orderly. Disfellowshipment typically lasts for one year, after which one may be reinstated as a Church member in good standing.
In the more grievous or recalcitrant cases, excommunication becomes a disciplinary option. Excommunication is generally reserved for what are seen as the most serious sins, including committing serious crimes like murder or child abuse and incest; committing adultery, polygamy, or homosexual conduct; apostasy, abortion, teaching false doctrines, or openly criticizing LDS leaders. A 2006 revision to the Church Handbook of Instructions states that joining another church is also an excommunicable offense; however, merely attending another church does not constitute apostasy.
The decision to excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood holder is generally the province of the leadership of a stake, which consists of several local wards. Excommunications occur only after a formal "church disciplinary council." Formerly called a "church court," the councils were renamed to avoid talking about guilt and instead to focus on repentance. In the disciplinary council, the Stake Presidency and Stake High Council preside. Up to six of the twelve members of the high council are assigned to split in half, one group representing the member in question and another group representing the Church as a whole to "prevent insult or injustice." The member under scrutiny is invited to attend the disciplinary proceedings, but the council can go forward without him. Again, the leaders of the high council consult with the stake president, but the decision about which discipline is necessary is the stake president's alone. It is possible to appeal this decision to the Church's world leaders.
For females, and for male members not initiated into the Melchizedek Priesthood (typically adolescents), the Bishop determines whether excommunication or a lesser sanction is warranted. He does this in consultation with his two counselors, the bishop makes the determination after prayer and his counselors ratify the decision. The bishop's decision can be appealed to stake leadership.
The following list of variables serves as a general set of guidelines for when excommunication or lesser action may be warranted, beginning with those more likely to result in severe sanction.
- Violation of Covenants: Covenants are made in conjunction with specific ordinances in the LDS Church. Violated covenants that might result in excommunication are usually those surrounding marriage covenants, temple covenants, priesthood covenants, etc.
- Position of Trust or Authority: Area of responsibility factor into discipline. Leaders in the church have important responsibilities, and sins by an LDS leader can be held to a higher standard than sins by members of the congregation.
- Repetition: Repetition of a sin is more severe than a single instance.
- Magnitude: How often, how many individuals were impacted, and who knows all play a part.
- Age, Maturity, and Experience: Those who are young in age, or immature in their understanding, are typically afforded leniency.
- Interests of the Innocent: How the discipline will impact family members may be considered.
- Time between Transgression and Confession: If the sin was committed in distant past, and there has not been repetition, leniency may be considered.
- Voluntary Confession: Did the person voluntarily come forward, or were they caught in the act?
- Evidence of Repentance: Sorrow for sin, and demonstrated commitment to repentance, as well as faith in Christ all play a role in determining the severity of discipline.
Those who are excommunicated lose their church membership and the right to partake of the sacrament. Notices of excommunication may be made public, especially in cases of apostasy, where members could be misled, but the specific reasons for individual excommunications are typically kept confidential and are seldom made public by LDS leadership.
Persons who have been excommunicated are usually allowed to attend church meetings but participation is limited. They cannot offer prayers for the congregation, give talks, etc., cannot enter LDS temples, or wear temple garments, or pay tithes. Excommunicated members may be re-baptized after a waiting period and sincere repentance, as judged by a series of interviews with church leaders.
Some critics have charged that LDS leaders have used the threat of excommunication to silence or punish LDS members and researchers who disagree with established policy and doctrine, or who study or discuss controversial subjects, or who may be involved in disputes with local, stake leaders or general authorities; see, e.g., Brian Evenson, a former BYU professor and writer whose fiction came under criticism from BYU officials and LDS Leadership. Another notable case of excommunication from the LDS Church was the "September Six," a group of intellectuals and professors, five of whom were excommunicated and the sixth disfellowshipped.
However, LDS policy dictates that local leaders are responsible for excommunication, without influence from General Church leadership, arguing this policy is evidence against systematic persecution of scholars.
Jehovah's Witnesses practice something similar to excommunication, using the term "disfellowshipping", in cases where, it is believed, a member has unrepentantly committed one or more of several documented "serious sins".
The verses of Scripture that Witnesses appeal to for expelling unrepentant believers is 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and 2 John 10, where it says "quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man....remove the wicked man from your midst" and "never receive him in your home or say a greeting to him." They interpret this to mean that any baptized believer who engages in "gross sins", mentioned in the Bible is, to be expelled from the congregation and shunned.
When a member confesses to or is accused of a serious sin, a judicial committee of at least three elders is formed. This committee investigates the case and determines the magnitude of the sin committed. If the person is deemed guilty of a disfellowshipping offence, the committee then decides, on the basis of the person's attitude and "works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20), whether the person is to be considered repentant. The "works" may include trying to correct the wrong, making apologies to any offended individuals, and compliance with earlier counsel. If deemed guilty but repentant, the person is not disfellowshipped but is formally reproved and has restrictions imposed, which preclude the individual from various activities such as presenting talks, offering public prayers or making comments at meetings.
If the person is deemed guilty and unrepentant, he or she will be disfellowshipped. Unless an appeal is made within seven days, the disfellowshipping is made formal by an announcement at the congregation's next Service Meeting. Appeals are granted to determine if procedural errors are felt to have occurred that may have affected the outcome.
Disfellowshipping is a severing of friendly relationships between all Jehovah's Witnesses and the one disfellowshipped. Interaction with extended family is typically restricted to a minimum, such as presence at the reading of wills and providing essential care for the elderly. Within a household, family contact and marital intimacies may continue, but without spiritual fellowship such as family Bible study and religious discussions. Parents of disfellowshipped minors living in the family home may continue to attempt to convince the child about the religion's teachings. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this form of discipline encourages the disfellowshipped individual to conform to biblical standards and prevents the person from influencing other members of the congregation. Along with breaches of the Witnesses' moral code, openly disagreeing with the teachings Jehovah's Witnesses is considered grounds for shunning. These persons are labeled as an "apostate", and are described in Watch Tower Society literature as "mentally diseased". Descriptions of "apostates" appearing in the Witnesses literature have been the subject of investigation in the UK to determine if they violate religious hatred laws. Sociologist Andrew Holden claims many Witnesses who would otherwise defect because of disillusionment with the organization and its teachings, retain affiliation out of fear of being shunned and losing contact with friends and family members. Shunning employs what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause trauma to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.[need quotation to verify]
Disassociation is a form of shunning where a member expresses verbally or in writing that they do not wish to be associated with Jehovah's Witnesses, rather than for having committed any specific 'sin'. Elders may also decide that an individual has disassociated, without any formal statement by the individual, by their actions, such as joining another religion or military organization. Individuals who are deemed by the elders to have disassociated are given no right of appeal.
Each year, congregation elders are instructed to consider meeting with disfellowshipped individuals to determine changed circumstances and encourage them to pursue reinstatement. Reinstatement is not automatic after a certain time period, nor is there a minimum duration; disfellowshipped persons may talk to elders at any time but must apply in writing to be considered for reinstatement into the congregation. Elders consider each case individually, and are instructed to ensure "that sufficient time has passed for the disfellowshipped person to prove that his profession of repentance is genuine."Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock. Watchtower Society. p. 129. A judicial committee meets with the individual to determine their repentance, and if this is established, the person is reinstated into the congregation and may participate with the congregation in their formal ministry (such as house-to-house preaching), but is prohibited from commenting at meetings or holding any privileges for a period set by the judicial committee. If possible, the same judicial committee members who disfellowshipped the individual are selected for the reinstatement hearing. If the applicant is in a different area, the person will meet with a local judicial committee that will communicate with either the original judicial committee if available or a new one in the original congregation.
A Witness who has been formally reproved or reinstated cannot be appointed to any special privilege of service for at least one year. Serious sins involving child sex abuse permanently disqualify the sinner from appointment to any congregational privilege of service, regardless of whether the sinner was convicted of any secular crime.
Similarly to many groups having their origins in the 1830s Restoration Movement, Christadelphians call their form of excommunication "disfellowshipping", though they do not practice "shunning". Disfellowshipping can occur for moral reasons, changing beliefs, or (in some ecclesias) for not attending communion (referred to as "the emblems" or "the breaking of bread").
In such cases, the person involved is usually required to discuss the issues. If they do not conform, the church ('meeting' or 'ecclesia') is recommended by the management committee ("Arranging Brethren") to vote on disfellowshipping the person. These procedures were formulated 1863 onwards by early Christadelphians, and then in 1883 codified by Robert Roberts in A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias (colloquially "The Ecclesial Guide"). However Christadelphians justify and apply their practice not only from this document but also from passages such as the exclusion in 1Co.5 and recovery in 2Co.2.
Christadelphians typically avoid the term "excommunication" which many associate with the Catholic Church; and may feel the word carries implications they do not agree with, such as undue condemnation and punishment, as well as failing to recognise the remedial intention of the measure.
- Behavioural cases. Many cases regarding moral issues tend to involve relational matters such as marriage outside the faith, divorce and remarriage (which is considered adultery in some circumstances by some ecclesias), or homosexuality. Reinstatement for moral issues is determined by the ecclesia's assessment of whether the individual has "turned away" from (ceased) the course of action considered immoral by the church. This can be complex when dealing with cases of divorce and subsequent remarriage, with different positions adopted by different ecclesias, but generally within the main "Central" grouping, such cases can be accommodated. Some minority "fellowships" do not accommodate this under any circumstances.
- Doctrinal cases. Changes of belief on what Christadelphians call "first principle" doctrines are difficult to accommodate unless the individual agrees to not teach or spread them, since the body has a documented Statement of Faith which informally serves as a basis of ecclesial membership and interecclesial fellowship. Those who are disfellowshipped for reasons of differing belief rarely return, because they are expected to conform to an understanding with which they do not agree. Holding differing beliefs on fundamental matters is considered as error and apostasy, which can limit a person's salvation. However in practice disfellowship for doctrinal reasons is now unusual
In the case of adultery and divorce, the passage of time usually means a member can be restored if he or she wants to be. In the case of ongoing behaviour, cohabitation, homosexual activity, then the terms of the suspension have not been met.
The mechanics of "refellowship" follow the reverse of the original process; the individual makes an application to the "ecclesia", and the "Arranging Brethren" give a recommendation to the members who vote. If the "Arranging Brethren" judge that a vote may divide the ecclesia, or personally upset some members, they may seek to find a third party ecclesia which is willing to "refellowship" the member instead. According to the Ecclesial Guide a third party ecclesia may also take the initiative to "refellowship" another meeting's member. However this cannot be done unilaterally, as this would constitute heteronomy over the autonomy of the original ecclesia's members.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Among many of the Society of Friends groups (Quakers) one is read out of meeting for behaviour inconsistent with the sense of the meeting. However it is the responsibility of each meeting, quarterly meeting, and yearly meeting, to act with respect to their own members. For example, during the Vietnam War many Friends were concerned about Friend Richard Nixon's position on war which seemed at odds with their beliefs; however, it was the responsibility of Nixon's own meeting, the East Whittier Meeting of Whittier, California, to act if indeed that meeting felt the leaning. They did not.
In the 17th century, before the founding of abolitionist societies, Avant-garde Friends who too forcefully tried to convince their coreligionists of the evils of slavery were read out of meeting. Benjamin Lay was read out of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for this. During the American Revolution over 400 Friends were read out of meeting for their military participation or support.
There is no direct equivalent to excommunication in Buddhism. However, in the Theravadan monastic community monks can be expelled from monasteries for heresy and/or other acts. In addition, the monks have four vows, called the four defeats, which are abstaining from sexual intercourse, stealing, murder, and refraining from lying about spiritual gains (e.g., having special power or ability to perform miracles). If even one is broken, the monk is automatically a layman again and can never become a monk in his or her current life.
Most Japanese Buddhist sects hold ecclesiastical authority over its followers and have their own rules for excommunicating members of the sangha, lay or bishopric. The lay Japanese Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai was excommunicated from the Nichiren Shoshu sect in 1991 (1997).
Hinduism has been too diverse to be seen as a monolithic religion, and with a conspicuous absence of any listed dogma or ecclesia (organised church), has no concept of excommunication and hence no Hindu may be ousted from the Hindu religion, although a person may easily lose caste status for a very wide variety of infringements of caste prohibitions. This may or may not be recoverable. However, some of the modern organized sects within Hinduism may practice something equivalent to excommunication today, by ousting a person from their own sect.
In medieval and early-modern times (and sometimes even now) in South Asia, excommunication from one's caste (jati or varna) used to be practiced (by the caste-councils) and was often with serious consequences, such as abasement of the person's caste status and even throwing him into the sphere of the untouchables or bhangi. In the 19th century, a Hindu faced excommunication for going abroad, since it was presumed he would be forced to break caste restrictions and, as a result, become polluted.
After excommunication, it would depend upon the caste-council whether they would accept any form of repentance (ritual or otherwise) or not. Such current examples of excommunication in Hinduism are often more political or social rather than religious, for example the excommunication of lower castes for refusing to work as scavengers in Tamil Nadu.
An earlier example of excommunication in Hinduism is that of Shastri Yagnapurushdas, who voluntarily left and was later expelled from the Vadtal Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday by the then Vadtal acharya in 1906. He went on to form his own institution, Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha or BSS (now BAPS) claiming Gunatitanand Swami was the rightful spiritual successor to Swaminarayan.
Excommunication as it exists in Christian faiths does not exist in Islam. The nearest approximation is takfir, a declaration that an individual or group is kafir (or kuffar in plural), a non-believer. This does not prevent an individual from taking part in any Islamic rite or ritual, and since the matter of whether a person is kafir is a rather subjective matter, a declaration of takfir is generally considered null and void if the target refutes it or if the Islamic community in which he or she lives refuses to accept it.
Takfir has usually been practiced through the courts. More recently[when?], cases have taken place where individuals have been considered kuffar. These decisions followed lawsuits against individuals, mainly in response to their writings that some have viewed as anti-Islamic. The most famous cases are of Salman Rushdie, Nasr Abu Zayd, and Nawal El-Saadawi. The repercussions of such cases have included divorce, since under traditional interpretations of Islamic law, Muslim women are not permitted to marry non-Muslim men.
However, takfir remains a highly contentious issue in Islam, primarily because there is no universally accepted authority in Islamic law. Indeed, according to classical commentators, the reverse seems to hold true, in that Muhammad reportedly equated the act of declaring someone a kafir itself to blasphemy if the accused individual maintained that he was a Muslim.
Cherem is the highest ecclesiastical censure in Judaism. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except for cases in the Charedi community, cherem stopped existing after The Enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the gentile nations in which they lived. A siruv order, equivalent to a contempt of court, issued by a Rabbinical court may also limit religious participation.
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 1312". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 1314". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 2257 §1
- 1<983 Code of Canon Law, canon 1331 §1
- "Even those who have joined another religion, have become atheists or agnostics, or have been excommunicated remain Catholics. Excommunicates lose rights, such as the right to the sacraments, but they are still bound to the obligations of the law; their rights are restored when they are reconciled through the remission of the penalty." New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, ed. by John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 63 (commentary on canon 11).
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 1331 §1". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Edward McNamara, "Denying Communion to Someone"". Zenit.org. 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 915". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 1331 §2". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "John Hardon, ''Modern Catholic Dictionary'' "Absolution from censure"". Catholicreference.net. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Code of Canon Law, canon 1332". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Risen Savior Lutheran Church, Orlando, FL — Constitution". Lutheransonline.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Canon B 38" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- Westminster Confession of Faith, xxx.4.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.12.10.
- Jay E. Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 74.
- The procedure followed by a church disciplinary council is described in church handbooks and the Doctrine and Covenants 102:9-18
- Burton, Theodore M. (May 1983). "To Forgive is Divine". Ensign: 70.
- "BYU Professor Under Fire for Violent Book", Sunstone Magazine, August 1995
- Evenson wrote: "I had a strong defense for my position [in writing fiction], but as I met with administrators, including [BYU] President Rex Lee and Provost (now General Authority) Bruce Hafen, it became clear that they weren't interested in hearing why I was writing; they were interested in getting me to stop writing." Evenson, Brian. "When Religion Encourages Abuse: Writing Father of Lies." First published in The Event, 8 October 1998, p. 5., accessed 15 November 2012
- "Report: Academic Freedom and Tenure: Brigham Young University", Academe, September–October 1997
- "Discipline That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit". Watchtower.org. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
- "Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative Is Disfellowshipped". Our Kingdom Ministry: 3–4. August 2002.
- w06 1/15 pp. 21-25 - The Watchtower—2006
- The Watchtower, 7/11
- Hart, Benjamin (28 September 2011). "Jehovah's Witness Magazine Brands Defectors 'Mentally Diseased'". Huffington Post.
- Pratt, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1:192.
- Watchtower 1/15/82 p. 31 Questions From Readers | "It would be best if he did this in a brief letter to the elders, but even if he unequivocally states orally that he is renouncing his standing as a Witness, the elders can deal with the matter.—1 John 2:19."
- Watchtower 10/15/86 p. 31 Questions From Readers | "… the person no longer wants to have anything to do with Jehovah’s people and is determined to remain in a false religion? They would then simply announce to the congregation that such one has disassociated himself and thus is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Watchtower 1/15/82 p. 31 Questions From Readers | "The second situation involves a person who renounces his standing in the congregation by joining a secular organization whose purpose is contrary to counsel such as that found at Isaiah 2:4, … neither will they learn war anymore."
- Kingdom Ministry 8/02 p. 3 par. 1 Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative Is Disfellowshipped | "the principles of which apply equally to those who are disfellowshipped and to those who disassociate themselves."
- Watchtower 4/15/88 p. 27 par. 10 Discipline That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit | "Christians refuse to fellowship with someone who has been expelled for unrepentant sin… By also avoiding persons who have deliberately disassociated themselves,
- Watchtower 8/15/92 p. 31 A Step on the Way Back | "Thus, beginning in September the elders in each congregation will review the names of those in the territory who are disfellowshipped and will arrange to visit all whom they feel might respond."
- Watchtower 11/15/06 pp. 27-28 par. 9 Always Accept Jehovah’s Discipline | "Repentance is a very important factor in connection with reinstatement into the Christian congregation. A disfellowshipped person is not automatically accepted back into the congregation after a certain amount of time has passed. Before he can be reinstated, his heart condition must undergo a great change. He must come to realize the gravity of his sin and the reproach he brought upon Jehovah and the congregation. The sinner must repent, pray earnestly for forgiveness, and conform to God’s righteous requirements. When requesting reinstatement, he should be able to give evidence that he has repented and is producing “works that befit repentance.”—Acts 26:20."
- Watchtower 4/15/91 p. 21 par. 6 Imitate God’s Mercy Today | "In time he may seek reinstatement in the clean congregation. When elders then meet with him, they will try to determine whether he has repented and left his sinful course. (Matthew 18:18) If that is the case, he may be reinstated, in line with the pattern at 2 Corinthians 2:5-8."
- "Our Kingdom Ministry"—December 1974, | "Question Box" | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
- Watchtower 1/1/97 p. 29 Let Us Abhor What Is Wicked | "For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation."
- In fact, the earliest use of the term in their literature refers to the disfellowship of their founder, John Thomas, by Alexander Campbell: The Christadelphian 10:103 (January 1873). 32.
- A distinction can be detected between these three reasons in that which of the three applies is usually made clear in the notice which the ecclesia will post in the Ecclesial News section of The Christadelphian. This is since one purpose is to make other ecclesias aware lest the member try to circumvent the suspension by simply going to another ecclesia. See "Christadelphians, fellowship" in Bryan R. Wilson, Sects and Society, University of California, 1961
- The expected practice is to discuss first with 2 or 3 witnesses, as per Matt.18:15-20. See Wilson, op.cit.
- Robert Roberts, A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias (Birmingham: 1883). Available online
- See discussion of 1Co.5 in Ashton, M. The challenge of Corinthians, Birmingham, 2006; previously serialised in The Christadelphian 2002-2003 http://www.thechristadelphian.com
- The term "withdraw from" is frequently found as a synonym for "disfellowship" in older Christadelphian ecclesial news entries, but this usage is less common today since it is now more widely realised that the term "withdraw from" in 2Th.3:6, 1Tim.6:5 is not describing the full "turn over to Satan" 1Co5:5,1Tim.1:20. See Booker G. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Nicholls A.H.Letters to Timothy and Titus, Birmingham
- Generally Christadelphians do not consider remarriage as adultery, but adultery is often at the root of a marriage breakup. See Reflections on Marriage and Divorce, The Christadelphian, Birmingham.
- Carter, J. Marriage and Divorce, CMPA Birmingham 1955
- e.g. News from the Ecclesias, in The Christadelphian, in a typical year (Jan.-Dec. 2006) contained only two suspensions for doctrinal reasons in the UK, both indicating that the member had already left of his/her own choice.
- Christadelphians interpret the "epitimia of the majority" 2Co.2:6 in different ways; some consider it the majority of all members, some the majority of elders. See Whittaker H.A., Second Corinthians, Biblia
- An exception noted in Roberts' Ecclesial Guide is where the original meeting is known for having a position out of step with other ecclesias. In practice however such cases are extremely unusual and the attempt to refellowship another ecclesia's member when the original ecclesia considers that they have not "mended their ways" may cause an interecclesial breach. The original ecclesia may notify the Christadelphian Magazine that the third party ecclesia is interfering in their own discipline of their own member, and news of refellowship will be blocked from News From the Ecclesias, and consequently the community as a whole will not recognise the refellowship. See Booker, G. Biblical Fellowship Biblia, Perry, A. Fellowship Matters Willow Books.
- "Free Quaker Meeting House". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Independence Hall Association.
- Blood-Paterson, Peter (1998). "Holy Obedience: Corporate Discipline and Individual Leading". New York Yearly Meeting.
- Mayer, Milton Sanford (1975). The Nature of the Beast. University of Massachusetts Press. pp. 310–315. ISBN 978-0-87023-176-6.
- Outcaste, Encyclopædia Britannica
- "Imprisoned for life", The Hindu (Chennai, India), 9 January 2011
- The camphor flame: popular Hinduism and society in India. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. 2004. p. 172. ISBN 0-691-12048-X.
- Raymond Brady Williams (2001). Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-65422-X. Retrieved 26 March 2011. Page 54
- Encyclopedia of American Religions, by J. Gordon Melton ISBN 0-8103-6904-4
- Ludlow, Daniel H. ed, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan Publishing, 1992.
- Esau, Alvin J., "The Courts and the Colonies: The Litigation of Hutterite Church Disputes", Univ of British Columbia Press, 2004.
- Gruter, Margaret, and Masters Roger, Ostracism: A Social and Biological Phenomenon, (Amish) Ostracism on Trial: The Limits of Individual Rights, Gruter Institute, 1984.
- Beck, Martha N., Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith, Crown, 2005.
- Stammer, Larry B., "Mormon Author Says He's Facing Excommunication", Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA.: 9 December 2004. pg. A.34.
- D'anna, Lynnette, "Post-Mennonite Women Congregate to Address Abuse", Herizons, 3/1/93.
- Anonymous, "Atlanta Mennonite congregation penalized over gays", The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA: 2 January 1999. pg. F.01.
- Garrett, Ottie, Garrett Irene, True Stories of the X-Amish: Banned, Excommunicated, Shunned, Horse Cave KY: Nue Leben, Inc., 1998.
- Garret, Ruth, Farrant Rick, Crossing Over: One Woman's Escape from Amish Life, HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.
- Hostetler, John A. (1993), Amish Society, The Johns Hopkins University Pres: Baltimore.
- MacMaster, Richard K. (1985), Land, Piety, Peoplehood: The Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America 1683-1790, Herald Press: Kitchener & Scottdale.
- Scott, Stephen (1996), An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups, Good Books: Intercourse, Pennsylvania.
- Juhnke, James, Vision, Doctrine, War: Mennonite Identity and Organization in America, 1890–1930, (The Mennonite Experience in America #3), Scottdale, PA, Herald Press, Pp 393, 1989.
- Excommunication, the Ban, Church Discipline and Avoidance (from Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online)
- Ostracism on Trial: The Limits of Individual Rights (Amish)
- Catholic Encyclopaedia on excommunication
- The two sides of excommunication
- Episcopal Church of America excommunication
- Jehovah's Witnesses press release regarding expulsion of child molesters