Actually, the Southern Baptists probably wouldn’t call it excommunication. “Disfellowshipping” might be the word they would use. But it’s about the same thing, and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) just disfellowshiped and expelled the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC). (If only the U. S. A. could expel the District of Columbia and suburbs, but I digress.)
DCBC tolerates in its midst a particularly vile congregation, Calvary Baptist Church. Yes, it is hard to imagine a “Calvary Baptist Church” going whole hog apostate, but it happened. The SBC had had enough and gave DCBC 90 days to expel Calvary Baptist. They did not, so DCBC in turn got expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention.
And for that, the SBC is to be commended. The sad history of mainline Protestantism and of much of Anglicanism is that jurisdictions that fail to exercise church discipline against apostate leaders and congregations eventually become more and more apostate themselves. Scripture does not warn about how leaven spreads for nothing. Church discipline, including expulsion, is a sad necessity.
It is easy to forget that the Southern Baptists once were going down the road to apostasy themselves. Back during my long church search in the late 80’s, I ruled out the Southern Baptists in part because they did not have adequate will power to expel apostates. Pullen Memorial Baptist Church of Raleigh really stuck in my craw at the time. And, yes, ruling out Baptists when moving to Texas rules out a lot of options!
Since then, they have become more willing and able to exercise tough love even to the point of expelling congregations and conventions. Those who reformed the SBC in the last decades of the 20th Century are reviled in “moderate” Baptist circles. But they are to be thanked for saving the Southern Baptists from becoming another failed mainline Protestant denomination.
I wonder if my Anglican Church in North America has that much backbone. For the time will come – it always does in this modern fallen world – when it will be necessary to cut off cancers of apostasy. Will we have the will power so to exercise church discipline? Or will we use our federal structure as an excuse to tolerate apostasy in our midst – even after seeing the consequences such tolerance had for The Episcopal Church?