Being Supportive After Church Discipline
Last Sunday, my husband came home from bishopric meetings visibly shaken. Two Church courts had happened that morning resulting in one excommunication and one disfellowship (the two cases were unrelated). Nate shook his head, saying he couldn’t believe that these were the people that this had happened, too. It left him feeling sad and dare I say, vulnerable.
Though I don’t know who was involved (Nate and I have a strict “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy in our household), I have been surprised at how sad it has made me. This is the third time in as many months that I’ve been upset by a Church court, and these events have shaken me more than I’d like to admit.
Sometimes, I’m sad because the Court feels punitive and unnecessary. Other times, I’m sad that someone has sinned, hurting themselves and others. But, always, I am left pondering my own sins and wondering were I fit into this religious community that uses this system of judging and expelling those who aren’t (or who are deemed to not be) worthy.
I wonder…if these courts are so unsettling for me, an individual not directly affected by what has happened, what does it feel like for those who have been disciplined?
And, more importantly, what do they need from me, a member of their community? How can I be supportive to them and their families?
I understand there was a time when excommunications were read over the pulpit. When I initially heard this, I thought, “Good! How shameful that we would make such an announcement!”
While I still don’t think that is the best way to deal with discipline in the Church, part of me looks around and thinks, “I wish I knew who it was so that I could tell them I love them (and so I don’t put my foot in my mouth when I’m talking to them).”
So, I’m left with questions to ponder…How do you support those who have experienced an excommunication or being disfellowshipped? How do you support their families?
If you have been in this position before, what did you find helpful? And, what was upsetting or hurtful?