CHURCH GOVERNANCE 1: Once a church staple, discipline cases rare

Baptists on the early American frontier were known for practicing church discipline, wrote Donald F. Durnbaugh in “The Believer’s Church: The History and Character of Radical Protestantism.” Baptist forebear Thomas Helwys, for example, held “censures” every Sunday afternoon after worship to



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ensure discipline among the congregation, Durnbaugh noted.

Such censuring is the common notion of church discipline, though a broader definition includes all practices that contribute to a healthy New Testament congregation, wrote Southern Baptist theologian J.W. MacGorman in “The People of God: Essays on the Believers’ Church.”

“How believers were related to each other as an expression of the body of Christ; how they comported themselves in the midst of a pagan society; how the ministries of the churches were organized and the ordinances were observed; how the essentials of the faith were formulated into confessional statements and their history?these were the positive features of church discipline,” MacGorman wrote.

History shows legalistic excesses among some Reformation groups, which is a danger, Durnbaugh wrote. But, he added, “It is clear to contemporary observers of church life in the western world that excessive discipline is not a problem. Rather, it is the almost universal absence of meaningful requirements for church membership tha

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