Reviewing the Review: Is Church Discipline Still Needed?


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April 17, 2008 Vol. 185, No. 11

GENERAL COMMENTS I awarded the previous issue a "10" for overall excellence. This issue rates a slightly above average "7". The topics chosen were not the problem; it was the writing. With the exception of Why I Don’t “Abstain”, articles and essays lacked clarity and crispness of expression, an original point of view, and economy of style. And some of the letters got "under my skin".

COVER STORY Is Church Discipline Still Needed? The short answer is, “Yes”, according to Dan Serns. Only the local church can "discipline" church members. Discipline can range in severity from a mild reprimand from the church board to expulsion. This article cautions against "harsh discipline" if only a reprimand is required, but failure to discipline "is absolutely essential [according to Dan Serns] if we are to be faithful to our calling and help the church be faithful to hers".

While this article did not reference the Church Manual’s reasons for disciplinary action, I have included them without comment.

Chapter 14 of the Church Manual, pages 184 and 185, lists the sins for which members shall be subject to church discipline.

1. Denial of faith in the fundamentals of the gospel and in the cardinal doctrines of the church or teaching doctrines contrary to the same.

2. Violation of the law of God, such as worship of idols, murder, stealing, profanity, gambling, Sabbathbreaking, and willful and habitual falsehood.

3. Violation of the seventh commandment of the law of God as it relates to the marriage institution, the Christian home, and biblical standards of moral conduct.

4. Such violations as fornication, promiscuity, incest, homosexual practice, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and other sexual perversions, and the remarriage of a divorced person, except of the spouse who has remained faithful to the marriage vow in a divorce for adultery or for sexual perversions.

5. Physical violence, including violence within the family.

6. Fraud or willful misrepresentation in business.

7. Disorderly conduct which brings reproach upon the church.

8. Adhering to or taking part in a divisive or disloyal movement or organization.

9. Persistent refusal to recognize properly constituted church authority or to submit to the order and discipline of the church.

10.The use, manufacture, or sale of alcoholic beverages.

11.The use, manufacture, or sale of tobacco in any of its forms for human consumption.

12.The misuse of, or trafficking in, narcotics or other drugs.

“The church cannot afford to deal lightly with such sins or permit personal considerations to affect its actions. It must register its decisive and an emphatic disapproval of the sins of fornication, adultery, all acts of moral indiscretion, and other grievous sins.”

ARTICLES Spiritual Emergencies This essay by Robert L. Ramsay provides "a spiritual survival kit, and the essential components are similar to those we need for a practical emergency".

Why I Don’t “Abstain” Editors, this would have been my cover story. In this beautifully crafted, positive, and thoughtful essay, Chris Blake proclaims himself to be "pro-life, pro-health, pro-peace, and pro-planet". He doesn't abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, or eating meat. He boycotts those practices. "Whenever we can be known for what we do in a life enhancing way instead of what we don't do, it seems to me that yields a better introduction and the best conclusion."

When We Prayed for a Drummer As far as I know, the illustration for this story is the first Review article in which a light-skinned subject has extensive body tattooing. Tony Yang makes the point that discipleship is all about service and character. It has very little to do without appearance.

DEPARTMENTS Letters A number of letters in this edition of the Review bothered me both emotionally and intellectually. I feel badly that at once again people of my generation are moaning about the sins of Adventist young people. It's the sins of our generation that we conveniently forget: bigotry, segregation, religious arrogance, political corruption, and social irresponsibility. From what I've seen, this generation of young people is to be commended for their brave attempts to remind us that Adventists are Christians first, and that the Gospel message is inclusive, peaceful, and loving.

Bookmark The 30-Day Diabetes Miracle by Drs. Seale and Newman "is chock full of practical information, myth busters, statistics, to-do lists, and Adventist health principles", according to an unnamed reviewer.

Kingdom Business Stand Up Now is Frederick A. Russell’s appeal "for leaders who not only know the times, but also know what to do, and act with courage and conviction to do it". It sounds to me like he has some specific issues in mind. I look forward to his next editorial.

World News & Perspectives The Adventist Study Centers program is designed to build understanding and fuel research that targets postmoderns and unreached groups. Five study center directors "met for a semi-annual discussion in March at the world church headquarters. . .The church has started 48 centers to minister to postmoderns in Europe, North America, and elsewhere". Other study centers focus on Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. No study center director pictured was female.

Joel Mosher drowned while participating in a mission project in the Philippines. He was the head deacon at Rest Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sydney, British Columbia.

"The Quiet Hour, a pioneering Adventist radio ministry now focused on television and overseas evangelistic campaigns, received a Milestone Award at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention [in Nashville, Tennessee] for 70 years of gospel ministry." The Loma Linda Broadcasting Network has recently launched a streaming Internet Arabic channel it hopes to expand to direct satellite transmission to the Middle East. “A lot of attendees inquired about the Arabic channel [and we] picked up 10 different partners", according to Mark Kellner. As a result of the contacts made at the convention, Adventist program selection and lineup will greatly expand in the next six months.

"Adventist businessman and pastor Claude Richli hopes his Global Tithe Index Report will provide church treasurers and stewardship leaders with a tool to measure levels of giving among countries. [While no figures were included] this report indicates some previously dependent regions of the church are now achieving financial self-sufficiency."

Tools of the Trade Monte Sahlin reviews four Resources to “Tool” Us for Ministry. Seven Weeks to a Generous Life (General Conference Stewardship Department), Christianity and Islam (a new video resource produced by T. N. Mohan), We Believe (Pacific Press), and Unchristian by David Kinnaman are all Sahlin recommendations.

Reflections Kimberly Luste Maran in her essay, Zeal for Real, defines Christian zeal as “honestly, truly serving the Lord with . . . heart and mind. It might not be the roaring fire of some. It may be more of a quiet storm, a gentle flicker".

EDITORIALS An Impenetrable Mystery Roy Adams is not successful in his attempt to shed light on an “impenetrable mystery". When one assumes that God knows the beginning and the end of all things, how is this assumption compatible with Ellen White’s statement that “God permitted Jesus to come to earth ‘at the risk of failure and eternal loss’”? Was Ellen White an Arian--the belief that Jesus was not God? And if Jesus was God--the Trinitarian position of the Adventist Church—how could He run "the risk of failure and eternal loss"?

Stop Human Trafficking, Now! Mark A. Kellner suggests that we support ADRA, Not For Sale, and The Salvation Army in their attempts to end the sale and subsequent slavery of 800,000 women and children each year. In addition, "we Adventists can also ask our elected representatives to intervene and act. We can educate others in our churches and our communities. We must pray, without ceasing. This scourge must end; to allow it to continue his inexcusable". Amen! ____ Andy Hanson is Professor of Education at Cal State University, Chico. His blog is Adventist Perspective.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/548