¶ 915 DISCIPLINE AND RESTORATION OF LAY MEMBERS OF LOCAL CHURCHES
1. Private Admonition and Counsel
Allegations of criminal behaviour (including allegations of child abuse) will be reported to the
appropriate civil authorities. Otherwise, when a lay member has concerns about the behavior of another lay member, it is assumed that the instructions of Matthew 18:15-16 to speak to the other person privately will be followed. If the accused person denies the alleged misconduct or acknowledges the misconduct but refuses to repent, and if the alleged misconduct is such that it will bring public reproach upon Christ and his church, the matter must be brought to the attention of the pastor.
Accusations of unchristian conduct or of a violation(s) of membership vows which are made against lay members must be in writing, dated, signed by the accuser(s) and given to the pastor before any official action can be taken. After receiving a signed accusation, the pastor will then consult with a member of the membership care committee (or of the body charged with this responsibility. See ¶373.2.3). (The committee member must not have a conflict of interest with respect to the matter.) They will together evaluate the substance of the accusation(s) and discreetly interview the accused. Based on the response of the accused, they will decide if private admonition and counsel is sufficient or if the matter needs to go further and be reported to the membership care committee because the member refuses ongoing accountability or is unrepentant.
If it is decided that the matter needs to be reported to the entire membership care committee, a meeting of the membership care committee will be called. The committee will evaluate the
admonition already given and may offer additional counsel. Likewise, if the accusation is
unsubstantiated, the matter of the false accusation will be brought to the attention of the entire membership care committee who will interview the accuser(s) and give them counsel.
When the member (in either case) is repentant and the conduct or false accusation has not and will not become the cause of public reproach to Christ and the church, confession will be heard by the membership committee, remedial counsel planned and ongoing accountability established.
2. Public Reproof
In cases where the member is repentant and responsive to private admonition and counsel, but when the conduct has or will likely cause reproach to Christ and the church, the membership care committee will make such recommendation to the official board as it considers appropriate in the circumstances and in accordance with the purposes and goals of the disciplinary process. Possible recommendations could include actions to:
- Implement a remedial plan of restoration containing provisions such as:
– removal from offices and responsibilities in the church
– public confession
– apology and restitution to the offended parties
– submission to a spiritual director
– ongoing accountability
- Suspend membership privileges for a specified period of time, not to exceed one year
- In response to a written request, grant a voluntary withdrawal from membership.
When the member is repentant and when the conduct causes public reproach but is not serious enough to require termination of membership, the member may be required to meet with the official board where the member will make confession, request forgiveness, receive reproof and forgiveness and submit to whatever discipline and remedial counsel the official board considers appropriate.
3. Censure (Termination of Membership)
In cases where the member is unrepentant and unresponsive to private admonition and counsel, and when the conduct has or will likely cause reproach to Christ and the church, the membership care committee will make such recommendation to the official board as it considers appropriate in the circumstances and in accordance with the purposes and goals of the disciplinary process.
The official board will meet within 30 days to consider and take action on any recommendation received from the membership care committee concerning disciplinary matters. The official board is not required to accept the recommendations of the committee but may take such action as it considers appropriate. It will take into consideration the circumstances, including the seriousness of the conduct and the actual and potential impact on the life and witness of the accused and the church. For the purposes of disciplinary proceedings, the board is empowered, after considering the case fully to take any of the following actions in addition to any other powers they may hold:
- Exonerate the member from all misconduct
- Suspend membership privileges for a specified period of time, not to exceed one year and establish a program of counseling
- In response to a written request, grant a voluntary withdrawal of membership
- Terminate membership and inform the member of the action by registered mail. Membership may only be terminated by a ballot vote of the official board. A two-thirds majority of those casting votes is required.
If a member wishes to request to meet with the official board for a hearing to show cause why the official board should reconsider its decision to terminate the membership, the request must be delivered or sent by registered mail to the secretary of the official board within 30 days of the decision passed by the official board. The official board shall meet with the member whose membership has been terminated within 30 days of receiving the request for a hearing, to hear and consider the member’s reasons for requesting reconsideration of the official board’s decision to terminate membership. If the official board reverses its decision, the member shall be re-instated. If the official board maintains its decision to terminate the membership, the member may request a trial according to the provisions of ¶920 and the Official Board will appoint a person who is responsible to
prepare the charges in final form, to present them at the proper time and place to the trial and to represent the church during the trial.