used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion
. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation
of the member or group. Excommunication may involve banishment
, and shaming, depending on the religion, the offense that caused excommunication, or the rules or norms of the religious community.
The Biblical basis of excommunication is .
1054 Three Roman legates break relations between Western and Eastern Christian Churches through the act of placing an invalidly-issued Papal Bull of Excommunication on the altar of Hagia Sophia during Saturday afternoon divine liturgy. Historians frequently describe the event as the start of the East-West Schism.
1077 Walk to Canossa: The excommunication of Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor is lifted.
1227 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, is excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for his failure to participate in the Crusades.
1497 Pope Alexander VI excommunicates Girolamo Savonarola.
1520 Pope Leo X threatens to excommunicate Martin Luther in papal bull ''Exsurge Domine''.
1965 Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras simultaneously lift mutual excommunications that had been in place since 1054.
1979 Sonia Johnson is formally excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for her outspoken criticism of the church concerning the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion
. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation
of the member or group. Excommunication may involve banishment
, and shaming, depending on the religion, the offense that caused excommunication, or the rules or norms of the religious community.
ChristianityThe Biblical basis of excommunication is . In that passage an offended church member is commanded of Christ to personally confront an alleged offender with his or her supposed sin, and failing repentance, to bring the charge a second time before witnesses. If the case has not been resolved, at that point the offended member is to take the case before the church of jurisdiction (where the accused is a member). The church of jurisdiction is then to judge the case and the offending party (either the accuser or the accused) is obliged to repent and reconcile. Refusing to "hear" the church, that is, the church's sentence, is the final step before the offender is to be treated as "an heathen man and a publican". In a man is excommunicated by the church at Corinth for sexual immorality (incest). Fornication, however, is not the only grounds for excommunication, according to the apostle: in Paul says: "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler - not even to eat with such a one." In the man, having repented and suffered the punishment "inflicted of many", is restored to the church.
In , Paul writes to "mark those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them". Also, in , the writer advises believers that "whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house [οἰκίαν, residence or abode, or "inmates of the house" (family)], neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds".
The Catholic ChurchIn Roman Catholic canon law
, excommunication is a censure and thus a "medicinal penalty" intended to invite the person to change behaviour or attitude, to repent and return to full communion. It is not an "expiatory penalty", designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, still less a merely "vindictive penalty", designed solely to punish.
Excommunication can be either latae sententiae
(automatic, incurred at the moment of committing the offence for which canon law imposes that penalty); or it can ferendae sententiae (incurred only when imposed by a legitimate superior or declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court).
Excommunicated Catholics are still Catholics and remain bound by obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). However, their communion with the Church is considered gravely impaired. In spite of that, they are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.
Excommunicated persons are barred from participating in the liturgy
in a ministerial capacity (for instance, as a reader if a lay person, or as a deacon or priest if a clergyman) and from receiving the Eucharist
or the other Sacrament
s, but are not barred from attending these (for instance, an excommunicated person may not receive the Eucharist, but is not barred from attending Mass). They are also forbidden to exercise any ecclesiastical office
or the like. If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, stricter effects follow, such as the obligation on others to prevent the excommunicated person from acting in a ministerial capacity in the liturgy or, if this proves impossible, to suspend the liturgical service, and the invalidity of acts of ecclesiastical governance by the excommunicated person.
In the Catholic Church, excommunication is normally resolved by a declaration of repentance
, profession of the Creed (if the offence involved heresy), or a renewal of obedience (if that was a relevant part of the offending act) by the excommunicated person, and the lifting of the censure (absolution) by a priest or bishop empowered to do this. "The absolution can be in the internal (private) forum only, or also in the external (public) forum, depending on whether scandal would be given if a person were privately absolved and yet publicly considered unrepentant." Since excommunication excludes from reception of the sacraments, absolution from excommunication is required before absolution can be given from the sin that led to the censure. In many cases, the whole process takes place on a single occasion in the privacy of the confessional. For some more serious wrong-doings, absolution from excommunication is reserved to a bishop
or other ordinary
or even to the Pope
. These can delegate a priest to act on their behalf.
Before the 1983 Code of Canon Law
, there were two degrees of excommunication: the excommunicate was either a vitandus
(shunned, literally "to be avoided", by other Catholics), or a toleratus (tolerated, allowing Catholics to continue to have business and social relationships with the excommunicated person). This distinction no longer applies.
In the Middle Ages
, formal acts of public excommunication were sometimes accompanied by a ceremony wherein a bell was tolled (as for the dead), the Book of the Gospels was closed, and a candle snuffed out — hence the idiom "to condemn with bell, book and candle
". Such ceremonies are not held today, but the effect is the same.
is a censure similar to excommunication. It too excludes from ministerial functions in public worship and from reception of the sacraments, but not from the exercise of governance.
Eastern Orthodox churchesIn the Eastern Orthodox churches, excommunication is the exclusion of a member from the Eucharist
. It is not expulsion from the churches. This can happen for such reasons as not having confessed within that year; excommunication can also be imposed as part of a penitential period. It is generally done with the goal of restoring the member to full communion. The Orthodox churches do have a means of expulsion, by pronouncing anathema
, but this is reserved only for acts of serious and unrepentant heresy. The Moscow Patriarchate declared Sergius Bulgakov a heretic in this fashion because of his pronouncements on Sancta Sofia being something like a fourth dimension to the Trinity
LutheranismAlthough Lutheranism technically has an excommunication process, some denominations and congregations do not use it. The Lutheran definition, in its earliest and most technical form, would be found in Martin Luther
's Small Catechism
, defined beginning at Questions No. 277-283, in "The Office of Keys." Luther endeavored to follow the process that Jesus laid out in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew
. According to Luther, excommunication requires:
- 1. The confrontation between the subject and the individual against whom he has sinned.
- 2. If this fails, the confrontation between the subject, the harmed individual, and two or three witnesses to such acts of sin.
- 3. The informing of the pastor of the subject's congregation.
- 4. A confrontation between the pastor and the subject.
Beyond this, there is little agreement. Many Lutheran denominations operate under the premise that the entire congregation (as opposed to the pastor alone) must take appropriate steps for excommunication, and there are not always precise rules, to the point where individual congregations often set out rules for excommunicating laymen (as opposed to clergy). For example, churches may sometimes require that a vote must be taken at Sunday services; some congregations require that this vote be unanimous.
The Lutheran process, though rarely used, has created unusual situations in recent years due to its somewhat democratic excommunication process. One example was an effort to get serial killer
excommunicated from his denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
) by individuals who tried to "lobby" Rader's fellow church members into voting for his excommunication.
Church of EnglandThe Church of England does not have any specific canons regarding how or why a member can be excommunicated, although there are canons regarding how those who have been excommunicated are to be treated by the church. Excommunication is seen as an extreme measure and very rarely used. For example, a clergyman was excommunicated in 1909 for having murdered four parishioners.
Episcopal Church of the United States of AmericaThe ECUSA is in the Anglican Communion
, and shares many canons with the Church of England which would determine its policy on excommunication. No central records are kept regarding excommunications, since they happen so rarely. In May 2000 a man who had been publishing highly critical remarks about the church and some of its members in a small local paper, many of them about the pro-gay stance the church had taken, was excommunicated for "continued efforts to attack this parish and its members".
Reformed viewIn the Reformed churches, excommunication has generally been seen as the culmination of church discipline
, which is one of the three marks of the Church
. The Westminster Confession of Faith
sees it as the third step after "admonition" and "suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season." Yet, John Calvin
argues in his Institutes of the Christian Religion
that church censures do not "consign those who are excommunicated to perpetual ruin and damnation," but are designed to induce repentance, reconciliation and restoration to communion. Calvin notes, "though ecclesiastical discipline does not allow us to be on familiar and intimate terms with excommunicated persons, still we ought to strive by all possible means to bring them to a better mind, and recover them to the fellowship and unity of the Church."
At least one modern Reformed theologian argues that excommunication is not the final step in the disciplinary process. Jay E. Adams
argues that in excommunication, the offender is still seen as a brother, but in the final step they become "as the heathen and tax collector" (Matthew
18:17). Adams writes, "Nowhere in the Bible is excommunication (removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table, according to Adams) equated with what happens in step 5; rather, step 5 is called "removing from the midst, handing over to Satan," and the like."
Former Yale president and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, addresses the notion of excommunication as "removal from the fellowship of the Lord's Table" in his treatise entitled "The Nature and End of Excommunication". Edwards argues that "Particularly, we are forbidden such a degree of associating ourselves with (excommunicants), as there is in making them our guests at our tables, or in being their guests at their tables; as is manifest in the text, where we are commanded to have no company with them, no not to eat". Edwards insists, "That this respects not eating with them at the Lord’s supper, but a common eating, is evident by the words, that the eating here forbidden, is one of the lowest degrees of keeping company, which are forbidden. Keep no company with such a one, saith the apostle, no not to eat — as much as to say, no not in so low a degree as to eat with him. But eating with him at the Lord’s supper, is the very highest degree of visible Christian communion. Who can suppose that the apostle meant this: Take heed and have no company with a man, no not so much as in the highest degree of communion that you can have? Besides, the apostle mentions this eating as a way of keeping company which, however, they might hold with the heathen. He tells them, not to keep company with fornicators. Then he informs them, he means not with fornicators of this world, that is, the heathens; but, saith he, “if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, etc. with such a one keep no company, no not to eat.” This makes it most apparent, that the apostle doth not mean eating at the Lord’s table; for so, they might not keep company with the heathens, any more than with an excommunicated person."
Anabaptist traditionWhen believers were baptized and taken into membership of the church by Anabaptist
s, it was not only done as symbol of cleansing of sin but was also done as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ and to conform one's life to the teaching and example of Jesus as understood by the church. Practically, that meant membership in the church entailed a commitment to try to live according to norms of Christian behavior widely held by the Anabaptist tradition.
In the ideal, discipline in the Anabaptist tradition requires the church to confront a notoriously erring and unrepentant church member, first directly in a very small circle and, if no resolution is forthcoming, expanding the circle in steps eventually to include the entire church congregation. If the errant member persists without repentance and rejects even the admonition of the congregation, that person is excommunicated or excluded from church membership. Exclusion from the church is recognition by the congregation that this person has separated himself or herself from the church by way of his or her visible and unrepentant sin. This is done ostensibly as a final resort to protect the integrity of the church. When this occurs, the church is expected to continue to pray for the excluded member and to seek to restore him or her to its fellowship. There was originally no inherent expectation to shun
(completely sever all ties with) an excluded member, however differences regarding this very issue led to early schisms between different Anabaptist leaders and those who followed them.
AmishJakob Ammann, founder of the Amish
sect, believed that the shunning of those under the ban should be systematically practiced among the Swiss Anabaptists as it was in the north and as was outlined in the Dordrecht Confession. Ammann's uncompromising zeal regarding this practice was one of the main disputes that led to the schism between the Anabaptist groups that became the Amish and those that eventually would be called Mennonite. Recently more moderate Amish groups have become less strict in their application of excommunication as a discipline. This has led to splits in several communities, an example of which is the Swartzetruber Amish who split from the main body of Old Order Amish because of the latter's practice of lifting the ban from members who later join other churches. In general, the Amish will excommunicate baptized members for failure to abide by their Ordnung
(church rules) as it is interpreted by the local Bishop if certain repeat violations of the Ordnung occur.
Excommunication among the Old Order Amish results in shunning or the Meidung, the severity of which depends on many factors, such as the family, the local community as well as the type of Amish. Some Amish communities cease shunning after one year if the person joins another church later on, especially if it is another Mennonite church. At the most severe, other members of the congregation are prohibited almost all contact with an excommunicated member including social and business ties between the excommunicant and the congregation, sometimes even marital contact between the excommunicant and spouse remaining in the congregation or family contact between adult children and parents.
MennonitesIn the Mennonite Church excommunication is rare and is carried out only after many attempts at reconciliation and on someone who is flagrantly and repeatedly violating standards of behavior that the church expects. Occasionally excommunication is also carried against those who repeatedly question the church's behavior and/or who genuinely differ with the church's theology as well, although in almost all cases the dissenter will leave the church before any discipline need be invoked. In either case, the church will attempt reconciliation with the member in private, first one on one and then with a few church leaders. Only if the church's reconciliation attempts are unsuccessful, the congregation formally revokes church membership. Members of the church generally pray for the excluded member.
Some regional conferences (the Mennonite counterpart to dioceses of other denominations) of the Mennonite Church have acted to expel member congregations that have openly welcomed non-celibate homosexuals as members. This internal conflict regarding homosexuality has also been an issue for other moderate denominations, such as the American Baptists
The practice among Old Order Mennonite
congregations is more along the lines of Amish, but perhaps less severe typically. An Old Order member who disobeys the Ordnung
(church regulations) must meet with the leaders of the church. If a church regulation is broken a second time there is a confession in the church. Those who refuse to confess are excommunicated. However upon later confession, the church member will be reinstated. An excommunicated member is placed under the ban
. This person is not banned from eating with their own family. Excommunicated persons can still have business dealings with church members and can maintain marital relations with a marriage partner, who remains a church member.
HutteritesThe separatist, communal, and self-contained Hutterites also use excommunication and shunning as form of church discipline. Since Hutterites have communal ownership of goods, the effects of excommunication could impose a hardship upon the excluded member and family leaving them without employment income and material assets such as a home. However, often arrangements are made to provide material benefits to the family leaving the colony such as an automobile and some transition funds for rent, etc. One Hutterite colony in Manitoba (Canada) had a protracted dispute when leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. About a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States were filed between the various Hutterite factions and colonies concerning excommunication, shunning, the legitimacy of leadership, communal property rights, and fair division of communal property when factions have separated.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon
) practices excommunication (as well as the lesser sanctions of private counsel and caution, informal probation, formal probation, and disfellowshipment) as penalties for those who commit serious sin
s, those that significantly impair the name or moral influence of the church and those who are a threat to other members.
According to the Church Handbook of Instructions
, the purposes of church discipline are (1) to save the souls of transgressors, (2) to protect the innocent, and (3) to safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the church. Excommunication is generally reserved for what are seen as the most serious sin
s, including committing serious crime
s like murder or child abuse and incest; committing adultery
, or homosexual
, teaching false doctrines, or openly criticizing LDS leaders. A 2006 revision to the Church Handbook of Instructions states that joining another church is also an excommunicable offense, however merely attending another church does not constitute apostasy
As a lesser penalty, Latter-day Saints may be disfellowshipped, which does not include a loss of church membership. Once disfellowshipped, persons may not take the sacrament or enter LDS temples, nor may they give prayers or sermons in church meetings, though disfellowshipped persons may attend most LDS functions and are permitted to wear temple garments, pay tithes and offerings, and participate in church classes if their conduct is orderly. For lesser sins, or in cases where the sinner appears truly repentant, individuals may be put on probation for a time, during which further sin will result in disfellowshipment or excommunication.
The decision to excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood
holder is generally the province of the leadership of a stake
, which consists of several local wards. Excommunications occur only after a formal "church disciplinary council." Formerly called a "church court," the councils were renamed to avoid talking about guilt and instead to focus on repentance. In the disciplinary council, the stake presidency and Stake
preside. Up to six of the twelve members of the high council are assigned to split in half between representing the member in question and the Church as a whole to "prevent insult or injustice." The member is invited to attend, but the council can go forward without him. Again, the members of the high council consult with the stake president, but the decision about which discipline is necessary is the stake president's alone. It is possible to appeal this decision to the Church's world leaders.
For females, and for male members not initiated into the Melchizedek Priesthood (typically adolescents), the bishop (leader of the ward) determines whether excommunication or a lesser sanction is warranted. He does this in consultation with his two counselors, the bishop makes the determination in a spirit of prayer and his counselors ratify the decision. The bishop's decision can be appealed to stake leadership.
The following list of variables serves as a general set of guidelines for when excommunication or lesser action may be warranted, beginning with those more likely to result in severe sanction.
- 1. Violation of Covenants: Covenants are made in conjunction with specific ordinances in the LDS Church. Covenants that might be broken, are usually those surrounding marriage covenants, temple covenants, priesthood covenants, etc.
- 2. Position of Trust or Authority: Area of responsibility factor into discipline. Leaders in the church have important responsibilities, and the same action committed by a member of the congregation may not result in as severe a discipline as a leader might receive.
- 3. Repetition: Repetition of a sin is more severe than a single instance.
- 4. Magnitude: How often, how many individuals were impacted, and who knows all play a part.
- 5. Age, Maturity, and Experience: Those who are young in age, or immature in their understanding are afforded leniency.
- 6. Interests of the Innocent: How the discipline will impact family members may be considered.
- 7. Time between Transgression and Confession: If the sin was committed in distant past, and there has not been repetition, leniency may considered.
- 8. Voluntary Confession: Did the person voluntarily come forward, or were they caught in the act?
- 9. Evidence of Repentance: Sorrow for sin, and demonstrated commitment to repentance, as well as faith in Christ all play a role in determining the severity of discipline.
Those who are excommunicated lose their church membership and the right to partake of the sacrament
. Notices of excommunication may be made public—especially in cases of apostasy, where members could be misled—but the specific reasons for individual excommunications are typically kept confidential and are seldom made public.
Persons who have been excommunicated are usually allowed to attend church meetings but participation is limited. They cannot offer prayers for the congregation, give talks, etc., cannot enter LDS temples
, or wear temple garment
s, or pay tithe
s. Excommunicated members may be re-baptized after a waiting period and sincere repentance
, as judged by a series of interviews with church leaders.
Some critics have charged that LDS leaders have used the threat of excommunication to silence or punish LDS members and researchers who disagree with established policy and doctrine, or who study or discuss controversial subjects, or who may be involved in disputes with local, stake leaders or general authorities. A notable case regarding researchers is the so-called September Six
However, LDS policy dictates that local leaders are responsible for excommunication, without influence from General Church leadership, arguing this policy is evidence against systematic persecution of scholars.
Jehovah's WitnessesJehovah's Witnesses
practice something similar to excommunication, using the term "disfellowshipping", in cases where, it is believed, a member has unrepentantly committed one or more of several documented "serious sins".
When a member confesses to or is accused of a serious sin, a judicial committee of at least three elders is formed. This committee investigates the case and determines the magnitude of the sin committed. If the person is deemed guilty of a disfellowshipping offence, the committee then decides, on the basis of the person's attitude and "works befitting repentance" , whether the person is to be considered repentant. The "works" may include trying to correct the wrong, making apologies to any offended individuals, and compliance with earlier counsel. If deemed guilty but repentant, the person is not disfellowshipped but is formally reproved and has restrictions imposed, which preclude the individual from various activities such as presenting talks, offering public prayers or making comments at meetings.
If the person is deemed guilty and unrepentant, he or she will be disfellowshipped. Unless an appeal is made within seven days, the disfellowshipping is made formal by an announcement at the congregation's next Service Meeting
. Appeals are granted to determine if procedural errors are felt to have occurred that may have affected the outcome.
Disfellowshipping is a severing of friendly relationships between all Jehovah's Witnesses and the one disfellowshipped. Interaction with extended family is typically restricted to a minimum, such as presence at the reading of wills and providing essential care for the elderly. Within a household, family contact and marital intimacies may continue, but without spiritual fellowship such as family Bible study and religious discussions. Parents of disfellowshipped minors living in the family may continue to attempt to convince the child of the value of the religion's ways. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this form of discipline encourages the disfellowshipped individual to conform to biblical standards and prevents the person from influencing other members of the congregation.
Disassociation is a form of disfellowshipping where a member expresses verbally or in writing that they do not wish to be associated with Jehovah's Witnesses, or that they are considered to have done so by their actions. An example of this would be joining another religion or military organization. Individuals who are deemed by the elders to have disassociated are given no right of appeal. Disassociated members are viewed the same as disfellowshipped individuals.
Each year, congregation elders are instructed to consider meeting with disfellowshipped individuals to determine changed circumstances and encourage them to pursue reinstatement.
Reinstatement is not automatic after a certain time period, nor is there a minimum duration; disfellowshipped persons may talk to elders at any time but must apply in writing to be considered for reinstatement into the congregation. Elders consider each case individually, and are instructed to ensure "that sufficient time has passed for the disfellowshipped person to prove that his profession of repentance is genuine." A judicial committee meets with the individual to determine their repentance, and if this is established, the person is reinstated into the congregation and may participate with the congregation in their formal ministry (such as house to house preaching), but is prohibited from commenting at meetings or holding any privileges for a period set by the judicial committee. If possible, the same judicial committee members who disfellowshipped the individual are selected for the reinstatement hearing. If the applicant is in a different area, the person will meet with a local judicial committee that will communicate with either the original judicial committee if available or a new one in the original congregation.
A Witness who has been formally reproved or reinstated cannot be appointed to any special privilege of service for at least one year. Serious sins involving child sex abuse permanently disqualify the sinner from appointment to any congregational privilege of service, regardless of whether the sinner was convicted of any secular crime.
ChristadelphiansSimilarly to many groups having their origins in the 1830s Restoration Movement
call their form of excommunication "disfellowshipping", though they do not practice "shunning". Disfellowshipping can occur for moral reasons, changing beliefs, or (in some ecclesias) for not attending communion
(referred to as "the emblems" or "the breaking of bread").
In such cases, the person involved is usually required to discuss the issues. If they do not conform, the church ('meeting' or 'ecclesia') is recommended by the management committee ("Arranging Brethren") to vote on disfellowshipping the person. These procedures were formulated 1863 onwards by early Christadelphians, and then in 1883 codified by Robert Roberts
in A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias (colloquially "The Ecclesial Guide"). However Christadelphians justify and apply their practice not only from this document but also from passages such as the exclusion in 1Co.5 and recovery in 2Co.2.
Christadelphians typically avoid the term "excommunication" which many associate with the Catholic Church; and may feel the word carries implications they do not agree with, such as undue condemnation and punishment, as well as failing to recognise the remedial intention of the measure.
- Behavioural cases. Many cases regarding moral issues tend to involve relational matters such as marriage outside the faith, divorce and remarriage (which is considered adultery in some circumstances by some ecclesias), or homosexuality. Reinstatement for moral issues is determined by the ecclesia's assessment of whether the individual has "turned away" from (ceased) the course of action considered immoral by the church. This can be complex when dealing with cases of divorce and subsequent remarriage, with different positions adopted by different ecclesias, but generally within the main "Central" grouping, such cases can be accommodated. Some minority "fellowships" do not accommodate this under any circumstances.
- Doctrinal cases. Changes of belief on what Christadelphians call "first principle" doctrines are difficult to accommodate unless the individual agrees to not teach or spread them, since the body has a documented Statement of Faith which informally serves as a basis of ecclesial membership and interecclesial fellowship. Those who are disfellowshipped for reasons of differing belief rarely return, because they are expected to conform to an understanding with which they do not agree. Holding differing beliefs on fundamental matters is considered as error and apostasyApostasyApostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...
, which can limit a person's salvation. However in practice disfellowship for doctrinal reasons is now unusual
In the case of adultery and divorce, the passage of time usually means a member can be restored if he or she wants to be. In the case of ongoing behaviour, cohabitation, homosexual activity, then the terms of the suspension have not been met. In the case of doctrinal issues, refellowship is typically not sought because showing the necessary conformity of thought that would be required is not conscientiously possible. In some cases if the person will agree to refrain from expressing any thoughts on these issues they can remain and some liberal meetings will show tolerance. However in some cases of tolerance, block (or whole ecclesia) disfellowshipping has happened.
The mechanics of "refellowship" follow the reverse of the original process; the individual makes an application to the "ecclesia", and the "Arranging Brethren" give a recommendation to the members who vote. If the "Arranging Brethren" judge that a vote may divide the ecclesia, or personally upset some members, they may seek to find a third party ecclesia which is willing to "refellowship" the member instead. According to the Ecclesial Guide a third party ecclesia may also take the initiative to "refellowship" another meeting's member. However this cannot be done unilaterally, as this would constitute heteronomy
over the autonomy
of the original ecclesia's members.
BuddhismThere is no direct equivalent to excommunication in Buddhism. However, in the Theravadan monastic community monks can be expelled from monasteries for heresy and/or other acts. In addition, the monks have four vows, called the four defeats, which are abstaining from sexual intercourse, stealing, murder, and refraining from lying about spiritual gains (e.g., having special power or ability to perform miracles). If even one is broken, the monk is automatically a layman again and can never become a monk in his or her current life.
Most Japanese Buddhist sects hold ecclesiastical authority over its followers and have their own rules for excommunicating members of the sangha, lay or bishopric. The lay Japanese Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai was excommunicated from the Nichiren Shoshu
sect in 1991.
has been too diverse to be seen as a monolithic religion, and with a conspicuous absence of any listed dogma or ecclesia (organised church), has no concept of excommunication and hence no Hindu may be ousted from the Hindu religion, although a person may easily lose caste
status for a very wide variety of infringements of caste prohibitions. This may or may not be recoverable. However, some of the modern organized sects within Hinduism may practice something equivalent to excommunication today, by ousting a person from their own sect.
In medieval and early-modern times (and sometimes even now) in South Asia, excommunication from one's caste
(jati or varna) used to be practiced (by the caste-councils) and was often with serious consequences, such as abasement of the person's caste status and even throwing him into the sphere of the untouchables or bhangi
. In the 19th century, a Hindu faced excommunication for going abroad, since it was presumed he would be forced to break caste restrictions and, as a result, become polluted.
After excommunication, it would depend upon the caste-council whether they would accept any form of repentance (ritual or otherwise) or not. Such current examples of excommunication in Hinduism are often more political or social rather than religious, for example the excommunication of lower castes for refusing to work as scavengers in Tamil Nadu.
An earlier example of excommunication in Hinduism is that of Shastri Yagnapurushdas, who voluntarily left and was later expelled from the Vadtal Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday
by the then Vadtal acharya in 1906. He went on to form his own institution, Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha or BSS (now BAPS
) claiming Gunatitanand Swami
was the rightful spiritual successor to Swaminarayan.
IslamExcommunication as it exists in Christian faiths does not exist in Islam
. The nearest approximation is takfir, a declaration that an individual or group is kafir
(or kuffar in plural), a non-believer. This does not prevent an individual from taking part in any Islamic rite or ritual, and since the matter of whether a person is kafir is a rather subjective matter, a declaration of takfir is generally considered null and void if the target refutes it or if the Islamic community in which he or she lives refuses to accept it.
Takfir has usually been practiced through the courts. More recently, cases have taken place where individuals have been considered kuffar. These decisions followed lawsuits against individuals, mainly in response to their writings that some have viewed as anti-Islamic. The most famous cases are of Salman Rushdie, Nasr Abu Zayd
, and Nawal El-Saadawi. The repercussions of such cases have included divorce, since under traditional interpretations of Islamic law, Muslim women are not permitted to marry
However, takfir remains a highly contentious issue in Islam, primarily because there is no universally accepted authority in Islamic law. Indeed, according to classical commentators, the reverse seems to hold true, in that Muhammad
reportedly equated the act of declaring someone a kafir itself to blasphemy if the accused individual maintained that he was a Muslim.
is the highest ecclesiastical censure in Judaism
. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except for cases in the Charedi community, cherem stopped existing after The Enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the gentile nations in which they lived. A siruv
order, equivalent to a contempt of court
, issued by a Rabbinical court may also limit religious participation.
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