Benedict’s Rule: The Basis for Excommunication

People outside the church look at us and sometimes say, “I would not want to be part of any group that kicks people out.”  The world views excommunication in this way.  But the Rule of Benedict makes it clear that excommunication is something else.

The basis for excommunication is not the church “kicking out” people.  The basis is that a person has voluntarily associated with the church or group.  Chapter 23 uses the term “brother” to indicate that the person has willingly affiliated with the community.

We do this by making vows.  No one forces another person into Christian fellowship.  We voluntarily join.  We make promises to the community.  Our promises reflect our desires.

It is our own refusal to keep those promises that sometimes lead the church to the difficult and painful decision to excommunicate.  We are not taken out of fellowship.  We take ourselves out.  Excommunication is the church’s recognition that we have violated the vows we previously made.

We are not kicked out.  We walk out.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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