May 06, 2005

Excommunication of Democrats

A group of 20 Democrats have been excommunicated from the East Waynesville Baptist Church in North Carolina. The excommunication was based on their failure to support George W. Bush, as stated by the priest. So, two questions.

1. What is excommunication?
2. What is a church?

1. What is excommunication? Definitions can be found throughout the internet, but I like this one - "Excommunication implies that the privileges of church membership are so high that to be expelled is the ultimate tragedy. In the close brotherhoods of some Protestant groups exclusion from the bread and wine meant the censure of friends, the loss of sweet fellowship, the consciousness of being out of favor with God and man." Ok, so it fits that these people have been excommunicated from a Baptist church. They have been deprived of the ability to worship, they have been censured by their friends (clapping as they left), and lost fellowship.

2. What is a church? Here, I would like to focus on the IRS definition of a church. The IRS has a list of criteria, not all of which have to be met in order to be a church.

* A distinct legal existence.
* A recognized creed and form of worship.
* A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government.
* A formal code of doctrine and discipline.
* A distinct religious history.
* A membership not associated with any other church or denomination.
* A complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations.
* Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study.
* A literature of its own.
* Established places of worship.
* Regular congregations.
* Regular religious services.
* Sunday schools for the religious instructions of the young.
* Schools for the preparation of its ministers.

The point to note is highlighted. What is ecclesiastical? "Of or pertaining to the church; relating to the organization or government of the church; not secular"

What is secular? "Of or pertaining to this present world, or to things not spiritual or holy; relating to temporal as distinguished from eternal interests; not immediately or primarily respecting the soul, but the body; worldly."

So, this organization fails on this count. But, do they fail on the others? Probably. I think that A formal code of doctrine and discipline should be looked into by someone. Because if such a code of doctrine and discipline exists, then I bet it doesn't say anything about excommunication based on political party.

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