The dangers associated with withdrawing the right hand of fellowship
As members of the Christian faith, individuals are required to maintain good and regular standing within the church at all cost. But oftentimes, having been 'born into a world of sin and shaped in inequity', some may lose their way and at some point, are reprimanded for their actions.
One such example of being reprimanded is being excluded from active service within the church or having the right hand of fellowship withdrawn from them. Some individuals may recommit their lives to God, but others feel judged, highly ridiculed and they never return to the congregation.
Family and Religion sat down with pastor of the Providence Church of the Firstborn, Everton Tyndale, to discuss the impact of such an act.
"I think the withdrawing of the right hand of fellowship is in extreme cases where that person - let's say for example - fails to abide by all the principles of the Bible and the principles of the church. I have written letters to members stating that they have slackened up in a particular area and I wish to speak to them about it. In the workplace, if an employee is not doing well he gets a memo and it could go as far as stating that his or her services are no longer needed. The church is an organisation and it's unfortunate that people see the loving kind God but not the God that will correct."
Pastor Tyndale revealed that in his 15 years of pastoral ministry he has never had to withdraw the right hand of fellowship; rather he has written letters of council and placed members on suspension.
"In our congregation, we have some basic principles, some of which include; the member should attend church regularly or contact the secretary or the pastor if he or she is unable to do so; paying tithes and offering and being present at members' meeting. If a member fails to do any of the following he or she would automatically exclude him or herself from fellowship. We don't exclude people, people automatically exclude themselves."
With different churches having their unique fundamental beliefs and ways of operating, Tyndale explains that the success of the act in question is not reliant on why it is done, but how it is done. He informed that how a pastor carries out this function will determine whether members return or not.
"Looking at the history of the some of the churches, those are the strongest in membership, those persons who were suspended or had the hand of fellowship withdrawn are the ones who returned or stayed on."
He added, "Essentially, people need correction but it's correction with comfort and love. It is biblical: if anyone is overtaken with a fault ye who are spiritual should correct that person in a spirit of love."
The pastor admitted that too many times individuals are reprimanded but are not assisted in returning to the place where they ought to be.
"We have had a lot of teenage pregnancies, but what we do as a church? During the period of the pregnancy, we encourage them to come to church; I visit them. Nine out of the 10 persons I have had in those situations have recommitted their lives. People need correction in a spirit of love."
In his final words, Tyndale encouraged his fellowmen to forgive as they would want to be forgiven and offer and helping a hand to falling brothers and sisters.
"The Bible has a lot of examples of how we should love and correct people and the greatest gift I believe that the church could ever get is the gift of forgiveness, learning to forgive people and allowing people to grow and flow. Let people be forgiven, let them feel light, share their burden and let them grow."