Vol.VI No.V Pg.7
July 1969

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

When one church disfellowships an erring member, are all other churches bound to honor the action? PA


If the querist means bound by the scriptures, making it their duty as Christians to accept the actions of another church, or its elders, the answer is, NO!

I grew up with a different answer ringing in my ears. Highly respected bro. David Lipscomb wrote, Where a man commits a wrong, he ought to be disciplined or dealt with for that wrong, and all other churches are under solemn obligation to abide by the action of that church. When the church acts as God directs, the decision of the church is the decision of God. (Queries and Answers, 4th. Ed., 1918, pp. 137)

Now God only directs in one way: i.e., through His written words. The decisions of God are, therefore, those things set forth by inspiration through direct command or statements, approved examples, or necessary implications or inference. I readily agree that men, as subjects of the law, are forced to reach conclusions relative to interpreting or applying that law to a given case; but I must flatly deny that human judgements or conclusions become, thereupon, equivalent to a divine mandate.

It is useless to quibble, But we mean in those cases where the decision is exactly the will of God. The only way we can know it is the will of God, is for God to reveal this in His word. If this has been done, the matter was already settled before the church or elders came into the picture. But if the conclusions of the church are human judgements regarding the application of Gods word to a given situation, these judgements are subject to error, and are NOT bound (as revealed faith, Jude 3) on any.

Or, will some argue that elders or the church are infallible interpreters? Surely we are not thinking this thing through to logical consequences.

May elders make decisions? Certainly so. Oversight shepherding or rule necessitates certain decision making (Acts 20:28 1 Pet. 5:2-f) and the congregation accepts certain men as meeting divinely established qualifications, to serve in this capacity. But their oversight is limited to the single church selecting them. Their judgements must have the same scope or limitations, and even there — never be regarded as the voice of God. This is not being disrespectful to elders; it is simply a sincere effort to show the necessary respect for God.

When one church disfellowships a member, who then seeks to be accepted in-good-standing with another group; he should be urged to first make corrections of his errors at his home church. It is a fair assumption that the bishops and members there would be in the best position to reach conclusions concerning his condition. We are not saying their conclusions are infallible, nor are they bound upon us as decisions of Cod. If the issue is pressed, the second church must act its own decision.