Enriching the functioning of church discipline in an URCSA congregation : an intergenerational pastoral study

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Belgic Confession regards church discipline as one of the three marks of the true church. The other two characteristics of this true church, namely that the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered regularly, are regarded as important and not contentious at all. However, congregants are generally not concerned about whether discipline is exercised because unlike the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments, this ministry does not affect all members. Consequently, this part of the ministry of a congregation is seemingly regarded as an annoying practice and a hindrance for members to enjoying their ‘rights’ in church. As in the period before the 16th-century protestant reformation, church discipline has over the years become neglected in some congregations and thus the need for a refreshed approach is essential. Despite its neglect, it remains a core requirement for being the church of Christ and it is still a clear biblical responsibility of the congregation. The congregation is the body of Christ and as such the different parts of it are connected. It brings the notion of interconnected living, which is a core concept of the Dialogical Intergenerational Pastoral Process (DIPP), to the fore. The premise of this pastoral process is that human existence involves living in relation with other human beings in vertical and horizontal relations. Vertical relations entail living interrelated in family ties while horizontal relations entail interrelated living with partners, and friends. The premise of this approach furthermore involves living intergenerational with consideration of different generations’ indebted and entitled to one another. In view that the aim of church discipline involves the well-being of the congregation, the congregation consequently takes responsibility for the spiritual well-being of its members. This means functioning as spiritual family members in the one household of God, taking care of one another. This is also the view of John Calvin that pastoral care involves living together in the body of Christ. This study aims to explore the possibility to enrich the practice of church discipline and confirm anew its relevance for the ministry of the church. Utilizing the core principles of the DIPP in the exercising of church discipline in the congregation – which is interconnected and consists of different generations – this ministry can get new momentum and be appreciated anew as a valuable instrument in the kingdom of God. Where the sins of humanity necessitate church discipline to address them effectively, the concepts of relational justice, fairness, forgiveness for your trespasser and dealing with his/her guilt by exonerating him/her, i.e., lifting the culpability of him/her, can contribute not only to the enrichment of discipline in the church but also to the well-being of the congregant and congregation. If the goals of this study are not completely reached, or if the church is not yet ready to adopt a new approach to ecclesial discipline, then the researcher hopes that it will at least ignite a new conversation about the relevance of church discipline in the post-modern era we live in.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geen opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2023.