This author is a friend, who has good reasons that he needs this post to remain anonymous.
I have watched with interest as Southern Baptist Churches are finding a renewed interest in the topics of Church Authority and Church Discipline. Our own church is looking at these topics currently.
I agree that in SBC life it appears in the post war years and for several decades thereafter there was a lack of emphasis on authority and discipline in the Church. The emphasis on evangelism in those years saw an effort to bring everyone into the tent, and perhaps not much effort to preserve the doctrinal unity of the Church and proper order and a living out of the Gospel in the Church.
Thanks primarily to the IX Marks ministry the topics of Church Authority and Church Discipline are major topics today.
The chief proponent of current theories of Church authority and Church discipline today is Jonathan Leeman. Leeman is on the staff of IX Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
The IX Marks at 9:00 this year at the SBC annual meeting contained plugs for upcoming conferences on Church Discipline. If one Googles “Church Discipline”, most of the pages that come up involve Leeman and his work on the topic. Young pastors are flocking to hear Leeman speak about Church authority and Church Discipline.
I have read articles by Leeman and his abbreviated work on Church Discipline. His most recent work, Baptist Foundations, also addresses the topics of Church authority and Church discipline.
While I appreciate the renewed interest and hope that an appropriate balance can be restored to the SBC churches, I have some grave concerns about some of the recommendations that Leeman has made, and the underlying theology.
For example, I cannot find direct New Testament support for propositions such as not allowing someone to leave your church who wants to leave. Or the idea that if a member is trying to avoid discipline, and decides instead to leave church, that the church should not let the person leave, but they should keep the member – only for the purpose of excommunicating him.
I cannot find direct New Testament support for the idea that church members submit themselves to the Church physically, socially, affectionately, financially, vocationally, ethically, and spiritually. In one article, Leeman suggests that your church might have something to say about where you and your family buy a house or how you spend your money. Leeman does not say this outright. And he spends quite a bit of time deploring abusive authority. But he never recognizes social and spiritual boundaries beyond which churches and church leaders should not tread without the invitation of the member.
Leeman and those who advocate a return to some form of 19th Century Baptist disciplinary structure do not want to see church members abused. That is clear. But I believe their recommendations, if followed, make it almost a given that abuse will occur.
The latest Church Discipline fiasco that occurred at the Village Church in Dallas, Texas, under the leadership of Matt Chandler is a classic example of the kind of trouble that awaits churches that adopt Leeman’s interpretation.
I believe at the bottom of my concerns are some fundamental ecclesiological misunderstandings.
I am not smart enough to articulate my concerns in the best manner. But today I located an article that I believe asks some really good questions and points out some flaws in Leeman’s approach.
Read it. It can be found here: https://minicheism.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/thoughts-on-church-authority
This article is written by a very Reformed writer. I am sure that I would not agree with this writer about some things. But I do believe this writer has touched on something fundamental.
I am interested in what this readership thinks about the topic and this article.