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     Editor's note: Baptist churches often had issues of discipline (or excommunication) of wayward members. How to deal with a request from a Baptist church at a distant location is the reason for this "Query" brought to an association in Tennessee.

Shoal Creek Baptist Association (TN)
From The Baptist newspaper

      The tenth annual session of this body was held at Turkey Creek Meeting House, Hardin county, Tenn. commencing on Saturday preceding the second Lord's day in September, 1834.

      The following is the Query and Reply. From the Little Cypress Baptist Church,


      Is a church justifiable in any case whatever, in receiving into her fellowship, a member who has been excluded from a church at a distance, and the church being requested to give up his case to the church where the excluded member resides, and they refuse to give up his case, but state their charges against the excluded member?

Answer by the Association:

      "We feel much delicacy in giving any answer to the Query - a delicacy which arises from the dangers to which any general answer would expose the members of your body. Suppose your body to recommend that a church should receive, in any case, the communicant from another church, [who ?] shall have been first restored to that church which excluded him. It is obvious that such a regulation may expose an individual to a hardship, nay an injustice. For example - if such excommunicated member have removed to a distant country, and while there, becomes penitent, shall he be required to return to the excommunicating church. or else be forever shut out from the fellowship of the churches of Christ? This would be an intolerable hardship, and such cases of great injustice may be the consequence of the adoption of such a rule. A member may be excluded from a church by a prejudiced majority, who may, from improper motives, determine to keep him out. We conceive under these circumstances, sister churches could not, with any equity, refuse the person thus excommunicated. By such means such church would make themselves accessory to a system of the most shocking persecution. If in order to avoid these dangers, a general principle should be adopted, of the opposite character, it may involve results equally to be deprecated - results which would disturb the peace and harmony of our churches, and introduce discord, and disunion."

      "We therefore advise that no rule be adopted on this subject to be applied universally; but that it be left to the several churches to pursue such a course as the circumstances of each case may demand."

      "We deem it proper however, to say that excommunication dissolves entirely, all connection between the church, and the individual excommunicated. He is to them afterwards, "as a heathen man, and a publican." The church has no further claim whatever upon him, nor is there any relation subsisting between him and that, more than any other church. The usage generally established among us, of refusing an excommunicant from another church, until he has been reconciled to such church, has arisen wholly from courtesy - and while we hope that no necessity may ever require a departure from that usage, and unanimity, which have to long prevailed among the members of this body, yet equity it more than harmony - "the wisdom that it from above, it first pure, then peaceable" - and no fear of discord - no custom - no courtesy, can ever justify us in denying to the humblest individual those rights and those privileges, to which, by the Gospel, he is entitled. Among these rights and privileges, none are more sacred than to bear a name, and a place in God's house - to share the fellowship of Christ's disciples, and to partake in the ordinances of the sanctuary."
Quoted from the minutes of Savannah River Association.


[From The Baptist, February, 1836. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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