Were we disfellowshipped? My husband and I had this discussion the other day.
No, we were not excommunicated as a result of disciplinary proceedings for unrepentant sin in our lives.
We left when it became obvious that the intent of the leadership was not honest and mutual reconciliation.
We were told that we could not leave. Apparently our leaders didn't get the memo that the relationship was voluntary.
Technically, it is not being disfellowshipped if you leave voluntarily, but the end result is the same - severing of relationships.
Because of the leaders fear of what we might reveal, there was social pressure for the congregation to not associate with us.
So yes, our fellowship with our church family was broken. In that sense, we were disfellowshipped.
Recently, I ran across this quote by Alan Roxburgh:
"I spent almost twenty-seven years in a denomination. I thought I ‘belonged’ to the tribe over that time. In recent years I was in situations where I realized that if you didn’t fit the narrative a process of exclusion ensued. None of it was out loud or direct but, nevertheless, it happened. The details don’t matter as much as the kind of questions that began to form for me. I wondered what kind of tribe had I belonged too for so many years that could so easily exclude? What are the actual, operative theologies at work among such a group (theologies that I had shared in one form or another)? But much more critically, what is the understanding of God and the other that permeates a Christian narrative that can easily put the other outside?"
Is exclusion ever valid or necessary?
Ron Shaw at A Hopeful Heretic has blogged about the disciplinary aspect of excommunication or disfellowshipping. He refers to it as The Nuclear Option for Spiritual Formation.
In an extremely thoughtful post, based on I Cor. 5, discussing the biblical validity of this practice and the resulting fallout on the community and relationships, Ron says this:
"Make no mistake about it, this practice is to spiritual formation what nuclear bombs are to diplomacy. Everybody loses when a church gets to this point with a member of their fellowship."
I have witnessed this practice at least four times at my CCLB - CRAZY Church Left Behind. These real-life scenarios definitely contribute to my feelings about this topic.
I have given my initial response in the comment section, which is followed by further insightful comments from Ron. I would be very interested in reading about your experience, your understanding of this passage, and your views about the practice of excommunication. Please join the conversation at Ron's blog.