2 the act of banishing a member of the Church from the communion of believers and the privileges of the Church; cutting a person off from a religious society [syn: excision]
- Rhymes: -eɪʃǝn
- Chinese (simplified): 逐出教会 (zhú chū jiàohuì)
- Chinese (traditional): 逐出教會
- Czech: exkomunikace
- Dutch: excommunicatie
- Estonian: ekskommunikatsioon
- French: excommunication
- German: Exkommunikation
- Greek: αφορισμός (aforismos) , απαγόρευση (apagorefsi)
- Hebrew: חרם (kherem) , נידוי (niddui)
- Italian: scomunica
- Japanese: 破門 (はもん hamon)
- Korean: 파문 (pamun)
- Latin: (Neo-Latin) excommunicatio nominative, excommunicationis genitive; (Classical Latin) excommunio nominative, excommunionis genitive
- Norwegian: ekskommunikasjon
- Polish: ekskomunika
- Russian: отлучение (otlučénije)
- Spanish: excomunión
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive or suspend membership in a religious community. The word literally means putting [someone] out of communion. In some churches excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group. Censures and sanctions sometimes follow excommunication; these include banishment, shunning, and shaming, depending on the group's religion, the offense that caused excommunication, or religious community. This article addresses excommunication and spiritual condemnation often associated with excommunication, but not the religious censures and sanctions that follow excommunication.
ChristianityThe Biblical basis of excommunication is anathema. The references are found in Galatians 1:8 — “But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be anathema!" Then also, 1 Corinthians 16:22 — "If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be anathema." The word can be translated several ways; the King James Version translates it as accursed.
The New Testament contains limited examples of excommunication. Jesus, in Matthew 18:17, teaches that those who repeatedly offend others should be treated as "Gentiles or tax collectors." In Romans 16:17, Paul writes to "mark those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them", (meaning from Jesus and the apostles); and in 1 Corinthians 5, he instructs the Corinthians to expel an immoral member of their community. Also, in 2nd John vv. 10 & 11, the elders write unto the elect lady "whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house [οικιαν, residence or abode, or "inmates of the house" (family)], neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds".
Anathema was used in the early church as a form of extreme religious sanction beyond excommunication. The earliest recorded example was in 306. The Roman Catholic church still makes use of the sanction, though it is rarely used against an individual. Some modern churches refer to any form of exclusion as anathema.
Roman Catholic ChurchExcommunication, in the sense of a formal proceeding, is not a penalty at all but simply a formal proclamation of a pre-existing condition in a more or less prominent member of the Roman Catholic Church. When such a person commits acts that in themselves separate him from the communion of the Faithful, particularly when by word, deed, or example he "spreads division and confusion among the Faithful", it is necessary for the Church to clarify the situation by means of a formal announcement, which informs the laity that this is not a person to follow, and notifies the clergy that this person, by his own willful acts, has separated himself from the Church and is no longer to receive the sacraments, with the exception of Reconciliation. The decree may also indicate the mode of Reconciliation required for re-entry into the Church, specifying whether the local bishop may administer the process or it is reserved to the Pope. In other words, the Church never throws anybody out; but from time to time she must make it plain that a person has thrown himself out. Excommunication is never a merely "vindictive penalty" (designed solely to punish), but is always a "medicinal penalty" intended to pressure the person into changing their behavior or statements, repent and return to full communion.
Excommunicated persons are barred from participating in the liturgy in a ministerial capacity (for instance, as a reader if a lay person, or as a deacon or priest if a clergyman) and from receiving the eucharist or the other sacraments, but is normally not barred from attending these (for instance, an excommunicated person may not receive Communion, but would not be barred from attending Mass). Certain other rights and privileges are revoked, such as holding ecclesiastical office.
Excommunication can be either ferendae sententiae (declared as the sentence of an ecclesiastical court) or, far more commonly, latae sententiae (automatic, incurred at the moment the offensive act takes place).
The excommunicant is still considered Christian and a Catholic as the character imparted by baptism is indelible.
In the Roman Catholic Church formal excommunication is normally resolved by a statement of repentance, profession of the Creed (if the offense involved heresy), or a renewal of obedience (if that was a relevant part of the offending act) by the excommunicant; the declaration of the reconciliation itself, by a priest or bishop empowered to do this; and then the reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation. In many cases, this whole process takes place within the privacy of the confessional and during the same act of confession.
Offenses that incur excommunication must be absolved by a priest or bishop empowered to lift the penalty. This is usually the local ordinary (bishop or vicar general) or priests whom the local ordinary designates (in many dioceses, most priests are empowered to lift most excommunications otherwise reserved to the bishop, notably that involved with abortion).
The Roman Catholic Church, especially during the Middle Ages, was obliged to issue formal pronouncements of excommunication in regard to officials and monarchs who had personally excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church. After the Reformation, with many princes announcing the separation themselves, the practice was discontinued.
An analogous penalty, interdict, arose as a form of excommunication of a whole area, barring celebration of the sacraments in a town or region.
Before the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there were two degrees of excommunication: vitandus (shunned, literally "to be avoided", where the person had to be avoided by other Catholics), and toleratus (tolerated, which permitted Catholics to continue to have business and social relationships with the excommunicant). This distinction no longer applies today, and excommunicated Catholics are still under obligation to attend Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist or even taking active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). Indeed, the excommunicant is encouraged to retain some relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.
In the Middle Ages, formal acts of public excommunication were accompanied by a ceremony wherein a bell was tolled (as for the dead), the Book of the Gospels was closed, and a candle snuffed out - hence the idiom "to condemn with bell, book and candle." Such public ceremonies are never held today, but exactly the same principles apply: only in cases where a person's excommunicable offense is very public and likely to confuse people - as in an apostate bishop ordaining new bishops in public defiance of the Church - is a person's excommunicated status even announced, and that usually by a simple statement from a church official.
Automatic excommunicationThere are a few offenses that, in and of themselves, lead to automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication from the Catholic Church:
- Apostasy (canon 1364),
- Heresy (canon 1364),
- Schism (canon 1364),
- Ordination of female priests (canon ),
- Desecration of the Eucharist (canon 1367),
- Physical violence against the Pope (canon 1370),
- Attempted sacramental absolution of a partner in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue ("Thou shalt not commit adultery.") (canon 1378 §1),
- Ordination of a bishop without papal mandate (canon 1382),
- Direct violation of the sacramental seal of confession by a confessor (canon 1388),
- Procurement of a completed abortion (canon 1398), or
- Being a conspiring or necessary accomplice in any of the above (canon 1329).
These excommunications are not incurred when certain mitigating circumstances apply (canons 1323 and 1324), e.g., if the person is of minor age, is ignorant of the penalty attached to the act, or has diminished culpability due to force or fear used against them. In short, a person must be old enough, knowledgeable enough, and free enough in his or her action to incur the full weight of such a penalty.
Unless the local ordinary or an ecclesiastical court finds that the offense in question occurred, the obligation to observe an automatic excommunication lies solely on the excommunicated (Can. 1331 §1). Thus, even though an automatic excommunicant is forbidden to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, the excommunicant still retains the offices and all such acts are still valid acts under the law unless there has been a trial and finding of fact. Once this occurs, all subsequent acts become void and all offices lost (Can. 1331 §2).
The removal of the excommunication incurred by offenses 4 through 8 is reserved to the Apostolic See, either personally by the Pope or through the Apostolic Penitentiary. Those who have incurred such a penalty normally go to a priest to confess, and the priest communicates anonymously and confidentially with the Penitentiary to receive delegation to lift the excommunication.
Additionally, local bishops and other ordinaries of the Catholic Church have limited authority to create other grounds for automatic excommunication. For example, from 1884 to 1977 in the United States, an automatic excommunication applied to divorced Catholics who remarried outside the Church without obtaining an annulment. (See Excommunications of the Third Council for details.) As another example, since 1996 in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, an automatic interdict (and, under certain conditions, automatic excommunication) applies to members of certain organizations, including Call to Action, the Society of St. Pius X, and DeMolay International. As with latae sententiae penalties specified in church-wide law, penalties imposed by the local ordinary are invalidated by certain mitigating circumstances. For example, no one under the age of 16 can receive a penalty under canon law, including excommunication, so most members of DeMolay would be exempt from this sanction.
Some ecclesiastical offenses incur an automatic interdict, which for a lay person is virtually equivalent to excommunication.
Eastern Orthodox CommunionIn the Orthodox Church, excommunication is the exclusion of a member from the Eucharist. It is not expulsion from the Church. This can happen for such reasons as not having confessed within that year; excommunication can also be imposed as part of a penitential period. It is generally done with the goal of restoring the member to full communion. The Orthodox Church does have a means of expulsion, by pronouncing anathema, but this is reserved only for acts of serious and unrepentant heresy. Even in that case, the individual is not "damned" by the Church but is instead left to his own devices.
Although Lutheranism technically has an excommunication process, some denominations and congregations do not use it.
The Lutheran definition, in its earliest and most technical form, would be found in Martin Luther's Small Catechism, defined beginning at Questions No. 277-283, in "The Office of Keys." Luther endeavored to follow the process that Jesus laid out in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. According to Luther, excommunication requires:
- 1. The confrontation between the subject and the individual
against whom he has sinned.
- 2. If this fails, the confrontation between the subject, the harmed individual, and two or three witnesses to such acts of sin.
- 3. The informing of the pastor of the subject's congregation.
- 4. A confrontation between the pastor and the subject.
- 2. If this fails, the confrontation between the subject, the harmed individual, and two or three witnesses to such acts of sin.
- 1. The confrontation between the subject and the individual against whom he has sinned.
Beyond this, there is little agreement. Many Lutheran denominations operate under the premise that the entire congregation (as opposed to the pastor alone) must take appropriate steps for excommunication, and there are not always precise rules, to the point where individual congregations often set out rules for excommunicating laymen (as opposed to clergy). For example, churches may sometimes require that a vote must be taken at Sunday services; some congregations require that this vote be unanimous http://www.lutheransonline.com/servlet/lo_ProcServ/dbpage=page&mode=display&gid=20051505062631281101111555&pg=20051578012321128501111555.
The Lutheran process, though rarely used, has created unusual situations in recent years due to its somewhat democratic excommunication process. One example was an effort to get serial killer Dennis Rader excommunicated from his denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) by individuals who tried to "lobby" Rader's fellow church members into voting for his excommunication.http://www.dakotavoice.com/200508/20050816_5.asp
Church of EnglandThe Church of England(which was started by King Henry VIII, who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church) does not have any specific canons regarding how or why a member can be excommunicated, though there are canons regarding how those who have been excommunicated are to be treated by the church. Excommunication is seen as an extreme measure and very rarely used. For example, a clergyman was excommunicated in 1909 for having murdered four parishioners.
Episcopal Church of the USAThe ECUSA is in the Anglican Communion, and shares many canons with the Church of England which would determine its policy on excommunication. No central records are kept regarding excommunications, since they happen so rarely. In May 2000, a man was excommunicated for "continued efforts to attack this parish and its members" who had been publishing highly critical remarks about the church and some of its members in a small local paper, many of them about the pro-homosexual stance the church had taken.
Calvin's view on excommunicationIn his Institutes of The Christian Religion, John Calvin wrote (4.12.10):
- For when our Saviour promises that what his servants bound on earth should be bound in heaven, (Matthew 18: 18), he confines the power of binding to the censure of the Church, which does not consign those who are excommunicated to perpetual ruin and damnation, but assures them, when they hear their life and manners condemned, that perpetual damnation will follow if they do not repent. [Excommunication] rebukes and animadverts upon his manners; and although it ... punishes, it is to bring him to salvation, by forewarning him of his future doom. If it succeeds, reconciliation and restoration to communion are ready to be given. ... Hence, though ecclesiastical discipline does not allow us to be on familiar and intimate terms with excommunicated persons, still we ought to strive by all possible means to bring them to a better mind, and recover them to the fellowship and unity of the Church: as the apostle also says, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3: 15). If this humanity be not observed in private as well as public, the danger is, that our discipline shall degenerate into destruction.
Anabaptist traditionWhen believers were baptized and taken into membership of the church by Anabaptists, it was not only done as symbol of cleansing of sin but was also done as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ and to conform one's life to the teaching and example of Jesus as understood by the church. Practically, that meant membership in the church entailed a commitment to try to live according to norms of Christian behavior widely held by the Anabaptist tradition.
In the ideal, discipline in the Anabaptist tradition requires the church to confront a notoriously erring and unrepentant church member, first directly in a very small circle and, if no resolution is forthcoming, expanding the circle in steps eventually to include the entire church congregation. If the errant member persists without repentance and rejects even the admonition of the congregation, that person is excommunicated or excluded from church membership. Exclusion from the church is recognition by the congregation that this person has separated himself or herself from the church by way of his or her visible and unrepentant sin. This is done ostensibly as a final resort to protect the integrity of the church. When this occurs, the church is expected to continue to pray for the excluded member and to seek to restore him or her to its fellowship. There was originally no inherent expectation to shun (completely sever all ties with) an excluded member, however differences regarding this very issue led to early schisms between different Anabaptist leaders and those who followed them.
AmishJakob Ammann, founder of the Amish sect, believed that the shunning of those under the ban should be systematically practiced among the Swiss Anabaptists as it was in the north and as was outlined in the Dordrecht Confession. Ammann's uncompromising zeal regarding this practice was one of the main disputes that led to the schism between the Anabaptist groups that became the Amish and those that eventually would be called Mennonite. Recently more moderate Amish groups have become less strict in their application of excommunication as a discipline. This has led to splits in several communities, an example of which is the Swartzedruber Amish who split from the main body of Old Order Amish because of the latter's practice of lifting the ban from members who later join other churches. In general, the Amish will excommunicate baptized members for failure to abide by their Ordnung as it is interpreted by the local Bishop if certain repeat violations of the Ordnung occur.
Excommunication among the Old Order Amish results in shunning or the Meidung, the severity of which depends on many factors, such as the family, the local community as well as the type of Amish. Some Amish communities cease shunning after one year if the person joins another church later on, especially if it is another Mennonite church. At the most severe, other members of the congregation are prohibited almost all contact with an excommunicated member including social and business ties between the excommunicant and the congregation, sometimes even marital contact between the excommunicant and spouse remaining in the congregation or family contact between adult children and parents.
MennonitesIn the Mennonite Church excommunication is rare and is carried out only after many attempts at reconciliation and on someone who is flagrantly and repeatedly violating standards of behavior that the church expects. Occasionally excommunication is also carried against those who repeatedly question the church's behavior and/or who genuinely differ with the church's theology as well, although in almost all cases the dissenter will leave the church before any discipline need be invoked. In either case, the church will attempt reconciliation with the member in private, first one on one and then with a few church leaders. Only if the church's reconciliation attempts are unsuccessful, the congregation formally revokes church membership. Members of the church generally pray for the excluded member.
Some regional conferences (the Mennonite counterpart to dioceses of other denominations) of the Mennonite Church have acted to expel member congregations that have openly welcomed non-celibate homosexuals as members. This internal conflict regarding homosexuality has also been an issue for other moderate denominations, such as the American Baptists and Methodists.
The practice among Old Order Mennonite congregations is more along the lines of Amish, but perhaps less severe typically. An Old Order member who disobeys the Ordnung (church regulations) must meet with the leaders of the church. If a church regulation is broken a second time there is a confession in the church. Those who refuse to confess are excommunicated. However upon later confession, the church member will be reinstated. An excommunicated member is placed under the ban. This person is not banned from eating with their own family. Excommunicated persons can still have business dealings with church members and can maintain marital relations with a marriage partner, who remains a church member.
HutteritesThe separatist, communal, and self-contained Hutterites also use excommunication and shunning as form of church discipline. Since Hutterites have communal ownership of goods, the effects of excommunication could impose a hardship upon the excluded member and family leaving them without employment income and material assets such as a home. However, often arrangements are made to provide material benefits to the family leaving the colony such as an automobile and some transition funds for rent, etc. One Hutterite colony in Manitoba (Canada) had a protracted dispute when leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. About a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States were filed between the various Hutterite factions and colonies concerning excommunication, shunning, the legitimacy of leadership, communal property rights, and fair division of communal property when factions have separated.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon) practices excommunication (as well as the lesser sanctions of private counsel and caution, informal probation, formal probation, and disfellowshipment) as penalties for those who commit serious sins.
According to the Church Handbook of Instructions, The purposes of Church discipline are (1) to save the souls of transgressors, (2) to protect the innocent, and (3) to safeguard the purity, integrity, and good name of the Church. Excommunication is generally reserved for what are seen as the most serious sins, including committing serious crimes; committing adultery, polygamy, or homosexual conduct; apostasy, teaching false doctrines, or openly criticizing LDS leaders. In most cases, excommunication is a last resort, used only after repeated warnings. A 2006 revision to the Church Handbook of Instructions states that joining another church is also an excommunicable offense, however merely attending another church does not constitute apostasy.
As a lesser penalty, Latter-day Saints may be disfellowshipped, which does not include a loss of church membership. Once disfellowshipped, persons may not take the sacrament or enter LDS temples, nor may they participate actively in (as opposed to merely attending and listening to) other church meetings, though disfellowshipped persons may attend most LDS functions and are permitted to wear temple garments. For lesser sins, or in cases where the sinner appears truly repentant, individuals may be put on probation for a time, which means that further sin will result in disfellowshipment or excommunication.
The decision to excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood holder is generally the province of the leadership of a Stake, which consists of several local wards. Excommunications occur only after a formal "church disciplinary council" (what was once called a "church court;" the change was apparently meant to avoid talking about guilt and instead focus on repentance).
The procedure followed by a church disciplinary council is described in church handbooks and the Doctrine and Covenants . For a regular member, the bishop (leader of the ward) determines whether excommunication is needed. He does this in consultation with his two counselors, but there is no vote: the bishop makes the determination in a spirit of prayer. That decision is appealable to the stake leadership.
A Melchizedek Priesthood holder, however, starts at the stake level. There, the stake presidency and Stake High Council handle matters. Six of the twelve members of the high council are assigned to represent the member in question to "prevent insult or injustice." The member is invited to attend, but the council can go forward without him. Again, the members of the high council consult with the stake president, but the decision about which discipline is necessary is the stake president's alone. Officially, it is possible to appeal this decision to the Church's world leaders.
Considerations used in what form of discipline to use follows the following factors, listed in order from those that suggest a stern dicispline, to those that suggest a more lenient discipline:
- 1. Violation of Covenants: Covenants are made in conjunction
with specific ordinances in the LDS Church. Covenants that might be
broken, are usually those surrounding marriage covenants, temple
covenants, priesthood covenants, etc.
- 2. Position of Trust or Authority: Area of responsibility factor into discipline. Leaders in the church have important responsibilities, and the same action committed by a member of the congregation may not result in as severe a discipline as a leader might receive.
- 3. Repetition: Repetition of a sin is more severe than a single instance.
- 4. Magnitude: How often, how many individuals were impacted, and who knows all play a part.
- 5. Age, Maturity, and Experience: Those who are young in age, or immature in their understanding are afforded leniency.
- 6. Interests of the Innocent: How the discipline will impact family members may be considered.
- 7. Time between Transgression and Confession: If the sin was committed in distant past, and there has not been repetition, leniency may considered.
- 8. Voluntary Confession: Did the person voluntarily come forward, or were they caught in the act.
- 9. Evidence of Repentance: Sorrow for sin, and demonstrated commitment to repentance, as well as faith in Christ all play a role in determining the severity of discipline.
- 2. Position of Trust or Authority: Area of responsibility factor into discipline. Leaders in the church have important responsibilities, and the same action committed by a member of the congregation may not result in as severe a discipline as a leader might receive.
Those who are excommunicated lose their church membership and the right to partake of the sacrament. Notices of excommunication may be made public--especially in cases of apostasy, where members could be misled--but the specific reasons for individual excommunications are typically kept confidential and are seldom made public.
Persons who have been excommunicated are usually allowed to attend church meetings, but cannot participate in the meetings: offer prayers for the congregation, give talks, etc., cannot enter LDS temples, or wear temple garments. Excommunicated members may be re-baptized after a waiting period and sincere repentance, as judged by a series of interviews with church leaders.
Some critics have charged that LDS leaders have used the threat of excommunication to silence or punish LDS researchers who disagree with established policy and doctrine, or who study or discuss controversial subjects. A notable case is the so-called September Six.
However, LDS policy dictates that local leaders are responsible for excommunication, without influence from General Church leadership, arguing this policy is evidence against systematic persecution of scholars. In contrast, some claim that LDS leadership keeps watch on certain apostate groups such as Sunstone and the message boards at exmormon.org and report on speakers (and topics) to their local leaders. Apologists further suggest that some alleged excommunications never take place, or are used as a publicity stunt. They cite the case of Thomas W. Murphy, who they say only claimed he was threatened with excommunication or other disciplinary action because of his research of how DNA research challenges LDS teachings. Recent evidence, such as witnesses at the meeting with the stake president and the letter requesting Murphy's attendance at the court, refute this claim that the disciplinary action was simply a publicity stunt.
Jehovah's WitnessesJehovah's Witnesses practice something similar to excommunication — using the term "disfellowshipping" — in cases where a member actively violates requirements of the Watchtower Society. In excess of 30 disfellowshipping offences have developed over time, some actions specifically stated as wrong in the Bible and others indirectly implied.
When a member confesses or is accused of a disfellowshipping offence a "judicial committee" of at least three local lay clergy called "Elders" is formed. This committee will investigate the case and determine guilt, and if the person is deemed guilty, the committee will determine if the person is repentant. Repentance is completely based upon evidence of repentance, which includes the attitude of being sorry and ‘works befitting repentance,’ as referred to in Acts 26:20 and 2 Corinthians 7:11, such as trying to correct the wrong, making apologies to any offended individuals, compliance with earlier counsel, principles, and laws based on the Bible.
If the person is judged guilty and is deemed unrepentant, he or she will be disfellowshipped. This is done as a firm form of discipline to motivate an erring individual to renounce and change their current course of action. If within 7 days no appeal is made, the disfellowshipping is made formal by an announcement at the next congregation Service meeting. Appeals are granted to determine if procedural errors are felt to have occurred that may have affected the outcome.
Disfellowshipping is a severing of friendly relationships between all members of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the one disfellowshipped by reasoning on 1 Corinthians 5:11, which says: "What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don't even eat with such people." Even family interaction is restricted to the barest of minimums such as presence at the reading of wills and providing essential elder care. The exception is if the disfellowshipped one is a minor and living at home, wherein such cases the parents are allowed to continue to attempt to convince the child of the value of the religion's ways and share in family activities. Although viewed as harsh, this discipline encourages the disfellowshipped individual to conform to Biblical standards and keep the person from influencing other members of the congregation.
Several policies are set forth to disfellowshipped persons to continue motivating a change of action. Yearly, the Elders are required to consider meeting with disfellowshipped individuals and try to determine if any change of lifestyle has happened and to encourage the said person. Disfellowshipped persons can talk and meet with Elders at anytime. Disfellowshipped persons can also write a letter requesting reinstatement back into the congregation at anytime. It is ultimately up to the disfellowshipped person to become a member of the congregation again.
Disassociation is a form of disfellowshipping where a member vocally or in writing renounces their faith or by their actions renounces their faith. An example of this would be joining another religious or military organization or taking a blood tranfusion. Disassociated members are viewed the same as disfellowshipped members.
After a period of time, a disfellowshipped person may apply to be reinstated into the congregation. The original judicial committee will meet with him to determine repentance, and if this is established, the person will be reinstated into the congregation. He may now participate with the congregation in the public ministry (house to house preaching), but is prohibited from commenting at meetings or holding any privileges for a period set by the judicial committee. (Or, if the applicant is in a different area, the person will meet with a local judicial committee that will communicate with either the original judicial committee if available or a new one in the original congregation.)
Recently there has been some controversy with their disfellowshipping practices in regards to recent sex abuse scandals, which has led to changes in this regard. Jehovah's Witnesses are now instructed to report all cases of sex abuse to the local authorities in states where it is a legal requirement to do so. Those who are found guilty of child/sexual abuse by a judicial committee are themselves subject to mandatory consideration for disfellowshipping and remain permanently sanctioned from teaching in or holding a position of authority in any congregation. This is a safety mechanism to protect against future incidents. This is supported by the legal system where individuals found guilty of a sex offense are required to register as sex offenders. In several cases, recurrent sex offense has occurred. With this in mind, Jehovah's Witnesses will not allow someone found guilty of a sex offense to be "appointed" to a position of trust.
Excommunication as exists in Christian faiths does not exist in Islam. The nearest approximation is takfir, a declaration that an individual or group is kafir (or kuffar in plural), meaning a non-believer. However this does not prevent an individual from taking part in any Islamic rite or ritual if he/she wishes to and indeed a declaration of takfir is prima facie null and void against an individual who denies the accusation (see below).
"Takfir" has been practiced usually through courts. More recently cases have taken place where individuals have been considered kafirs. These decisions followed law suits against these individuals mainly in response to their writings which some have viewed as anti-Islamic. The most famous cases are of Salman Rushdie, Nasr Abu Zayd, and Nawal El-Saadawi. The implications of such cases have included divorcing these people of their spouses, since under Islamic law, Muslim women are not permitted to marry non-Muslim men.
However, Takfir remains a highly contentious issue in Islam primarily since there is no universally accepted authority that it has sanction in Islamic law. Indeed, according to classical commentators, the reverse seems to hold true given Muhammad reportedly equated the act of declaring someone a kafir itself to blasphemy if the person concerned maintained that he was a Muslim.
Cherem is the highest ecclesiastical censure in Judaism. It is the total exclusion of a person from the Jewish community. Except in rare cases in the Charedi community, cherem stopped existing after The Enlightenment, when local Jewish communities lost their political autonomy, and Jews were integrated into the greater Gentile nations in which they lived.
HinduismHinduism has been too diverse to be seen as a monolithic religion, and with a conspicuous absence of any listed dogma or ecclesia (organised church), has no concept of excommunication and hence no Hindu may be ousted from the Hindu religion. However, some of the modern organized sects within Hinduism may practice something equivalent to excommunication today, by ousting a person from their own sect.
South IndiaIn medieval and early-modern times (and sometimes even now) in South Asia, excommunication from one's caste (jati or varna) used to be practiced (by the caste-councils) and was often with serious consequences, such as abasement of the person's caste status and even throwing him into the sphere of the untouchables or bhangi. After excommunication, it would depend upon the caste-council whether they would accept any form of repentance (ritual or otherwise) or not.
- Encyclopedia of American Religions, by J. Gordon Melton ISBN 0-8103-6904-4
- Ludlow, Daniel H. ed, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan Publishing, 1992.
- Esau, Alvin J., "The Courts and the Colonies: The Litigation of Hutterite Church Disputes", Univ of British Columbia Press, 2004.
- Gruter, Margaret, and Masters Roger, Ostracism: A Social and Biological Phenomenon, (Amish) Ostracism on Trial: The Limits of Individual Rights, Gruter Institute, 1984.
- Beck, Martha N., Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith, Crown, 2005.
- Stammer, Larry B., Mormon Author Says He's Facing Excommunication", Los Angeles Times'', Los Angeles, CA.: Dec 9, 2004. pg. A.34.
- As told to Keirna Mayo, "My Family Disowned Me: Lauren Parsons, 19, Gave up her Family for a Chance to Live the Life She Always Wanted", http://www.cosmogirl.com/history, Feb 2004. (Mennonite)
- D'anna, Lynnette, "Post-Mennonite Women Congregate to Address Abuse", Herizons, 3/1/93.
- Anonymous, "Atlanta Mennonite congregation penalized over gays", The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA: Jan 2, 1999. pg. F.01.
- Garrett, Ottie, Garrett Irene, True Stories of the X-Amish: Banned, Excommunicated, Shunned, Horse Cave KY: Nue Leben, Inc., 1998.
- Garret, Ruth, Farrant Rick, Crossing Over: One Woman's Escape from Amish Life, HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.
- Hostetler, John A. (1993), Amish Society, The Johns Hopkins University Pres: Baltimore.
- MacMaster, Richard K. (1985), Land, Piety, Peoplehood: The Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America 1683-1790, Herald Press: Kitchener & Scottdale.
- Scott, Stephen (1996), An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups, Good Books: Intercourse, Pennsylvania.
- Juhnke, James, ''Vision, Doctrine, War: Mennonite Identity and Organization in America, 1890-1930, (The Mennonite Experience in America #3), Scottdale, PA, Herald Press, Pp 393, 1989.
- De Fide, a non-profit association, uses Canon Law to defend the Roman Catholic Church from Heresy by filing lawsuits in Ecclesiastical Court, seeking the excommunication of impenitent offenders.
- [http://126.96.36.199/cgi/listings.cgi?id=20041209abc02 Elizabeth Vargas Reports on Sexual Abuse Inside The Amish Community on ABC's "20/20", Friday, December 10, 2004]
- Excommunication, the Ban, Church Discipline and Avoidance (from Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online)
- Ritual and the Social Meaning and Meaninglessness of Religion (Social science study of Old Order Mennonite methods of baptism, discipline, etc.)
- Ostracism on Trial: The Limits of Individual Rights (Amish)
- Catholic Encyclopaedia on excommunication
- The two sides of excommunication
- Episcopal Church of America excommunication
- ECUSA excommunication and Church of England
- Jehovah's Witnesses press release regarding expulsion of child molesters
excommunication in Bosnian: Ekskomunikacija
excommunication in Catalan: Excomunió
excommunication in Czech: Exkomunikace
excommunication in Welsh: Ysgymuno
excommunication in Danish: Ekskommunikation
excommunication in German: Exkommunikation
excommunication in Estonian: Ekskommunikatsioon
excommunication in Modern Greek (1453-): Θρησκευτικές ποινές
excommunication in Spanish: Excomunión
excommunication in Esperanto: Ekskomuniko
excommunication in French: Excommunication
excommunication in Croatian: Ekskomunikacija
excommunication in Indonesian: Ekskomunikasi
excommunication in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Excommunication
excommunication in Icelandic: Bannfæring
excommunication in Italian: Scomunica
excommunication in Hebrew: נידוי (הלכה)
excommunication in Lithuanian: Ekskomunika
excommunication in Limburgan: Excommunicatie
excommunication in Dutch: Excommunicatie
excommunication in Japanese: 破門
excommunication in Norwegian: Ekskommunikasjon
excommunication in Polish: Ekskomunika
excommunication in Portuguese: Excomunhão
excommunication in Russian: Отлучение от церкви
excommunication in Albanian: Çkishërimi
excommunication in Simple English: Excommunication
excommunication in Slovak: Exkomunikácia
excommunication in Slovenian: Ekskomunikacija
excommunication in Serbian: Екскомуникација
excommunication in Finnish: Ekskommunikaatio
excommunication in Swedish: Bannlysning
excommunication in Turkish: Aforoz
excommunication in Chinese: 绝罚