Church, Reformed Theology

Church Discipline called "extortion" by Fox News

There is a lot of commentary on deliberate-church/reformed blogs regarding the Fox News report about the woman who tried to resign her membership rather than suffer church discipline for her sins of fornication.  The media is aghast!
Of course, the church is supposed to be discreet about a member’s sins, not making them public to the public, but only making them public to the church if necessary (the third step in the four steps of church discipline found in Matthew 18).  However, it was not the church that made it public, it was the sinful woman!  The most public thing the church did was to send a very heartfelt letter to the woman expressing their intention to “tell it to the church” four weeks later if she refuses to repent. Instead of repenting, the woman took it to the press.
My first thought was, wait, isn’t this supposed to be religion-friendly Fox News?  (Note that Roman Catholic Fox News commentators Sean Hannity and Bill O’Rielly both believe people are “basically good”.)  I guess the church really needs its media allies to turn on it, though.  I mean, how are we supposed to be counter-culture if we’re not seen as counter-culture?

Greg Gilbert says,

You need to make sure that your constitution or covenant—something your members have to understand and affirm—makes explicit the church’s right to refuse a member’s resignation in order to proceed with church discipline…That may not help much in the court of public opinion—like I said, we’re going to get skewered in the media for church discipline no matter what—but it may very well help in a court of law.  The case law surrounding church discipline is still very much unsettled.  Traditionally, courts have been reluctant to step into such matters, but my guess is that as the courts become more activist and the culture more hostile to the church, that reluctance will wane.

Nine Marks commentary can be found here, here, and here.

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