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The term discipline conjures up a huge range of actions in most people's minds. A parent disciplining a child could mean time-outs in the corner or a swat on the rear, not getting to hang out with friends, or any number of other things.

Introducing the modifier 'church' probably doesn't do much to clarify. I can imagine the range of things brought to mind by the term church discipline could range from being made to wear a dunce cap during service to 40 lashes.

I have asked about the purpose and Scriptural basis of discipline, but what is an overview of how it is implemented? Is there a common definition for what consequences make up the 'discipline'? What is an overview of methods employed by different traditions?

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Across denominational lines, the range of practical actions to discipline members can include:

  • Confrontation. To some people, simply pointing out that they are doing something wrong is received as a form of discipline - it can certainly be humbling when this happens. This may be done by a peer or even one in a subordinate relationship, but is more typically done by those who have some form of pastoral duty-of-care.
  • (The act of) Penance. Although penance is not exclusively a Catholic term, the particulars of imposed discipline post-confession as part of the wider Catholic sacrament of penance can be a little unique and vary from saying a certain number of prayers, to reading a portion of scripture, or practicing a particular form of self-denial, or performing a particular act of service or kindness to someone (source).
  • (Mandated) Counselling. Although most churches will have avenues for their members to voluntarily receive counsel geared towards assisting them to overcome various problems; if their "problem" is one that affects a wider group, they may be "strongly encouraged" (ie do this or face alternative consequences) or even formally required to receive counselling regarding the issue.
  • (Temporary) Suspension from serving official and/or volunteer ministry duties.
  • Public Admonition. Rarely used, a significant escalation over private confrontation.
  • Withholding the Sacrament (of the Eucharist / Communion).
  • Demotion (loss of title) or dismissal (from a particular role).
  • Excommunication / disfellowshipping.
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  • Re community wiki - feel free to add to or otherwise refine this post with the view to making it a practical resource. May 7 '16 at 6:58

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