By Robert F. Turner, April 1965
When one congregation is disciplining a brother who is in sin, what is the responsibility of neighboring congregations? Should they receive one who is rejected by the first congregation?
Reply: Common sense, and respect for the actions of brethren whom we hold to be sound in the faith, should make a church wary of one who is disciplined by another church. It seems reasonable that the “home” church would be better able to determine the light or darkness of his course than others.
However, it is error to consider the rulings of one congregation binding upon all others. Fellowship is hinged upon truth (God’s word), not upon the actions of any congregation (1 Jn. 1:3-7; 2 Cor.10:12). Sometimes men keep fellowship with one who has walked in darkness and is no longer in fellowship with God (1 Cor. 5). It is also possible for men to refuse fellowship with some—putting them out of the church—whom God continues to fellowship (3 Jn. 9-10).
Disfellowship calls for collective action (Mt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:4), and the organizational structure of the church is limited to that of a single congregation. One church cannot take disciplinary action for another, any more than it can take any other action on behalf of another. Each must make an independent decision as to whom they receive into their number, with a view to pleasing God, according to His word. Any other standard will denominationalize the church.