Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some thoughts on Excommunication

I believe that when we speak about Excommunication, we speak about it backwards. When we begin to speak of excommunication, we speak of the external acts - be it a pastor preventing one from communion or a congregation having a vote. In fact, lots of debate upon what Excommunication is centers on which of these two is the "real" excommunication. Reading Luther (AE 39) refreshed and confirmed an idea that's been floating around in my head. The answer - neither is.

Properly speaking - we announce that one is excommunicated. We bind the sins to a person - but only after they have refused to repent of them, only after they demonstrate their desire to remain in them. We do not bind that which the person does not desire bound anymore than we forgive sins that a person does not desire forgiveness for.

The person who excommunicates is in fact the person who is excommunicated. All excommunication is a matter of self-exclusion - whether it is the sin of forsaking the Supper (what we generally think of as self-exclusion) or whether it is any other sin by which the person choses the fellowship of demons over the fellowship of the Lord.

All too often there seems to be much angst and hand wringing over excommunication. It really is simple - we simply have to announce what a person has done to themselves. Pastors do this in barring people from the altar. A congregation does such by removing such a person from their roles. But in each case the action of either pastor or congregation is simply reactive - simply something that must be done. There is to be no debate, there is to be no hand wringing or politicking - rather, as theologians of the cross, simply calling a thing what it is, or a person who he is - outside the fellowship of Christ.

1 comment:

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I had suspected as much, that excommunication was more declaration than operation. Otherwise, Leo X really could send Martin Luther to hell. :)