An ancient mosaic depicting Christ serving His apostles communion. John wrote in I John 1, “What we have seen, what we have heard, what our hands have handled declare we unto you that you might have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and the Son.” The ultimate purpose of Church discipline is not to punish or injure, but to heal and deliver offenders, and maintain the unity or fellowship of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
1. Each apostolic ministry and its network of related ministries and churches shall be responsible for the discipline and correction of the ministries and churches under their respective jurisdictions in accordance with clearly defined biblical standards and requirements and with the spirit and principles of the Constitution of the Communion of Apostolic Churches with the ultimate purpose of restoration and redemption.
2. The ultimate goal of Church discipline should be the restoration and salvation of the offending ministry, congregation, or church member and the peace, good order, and well being of the corporate body.
3. Each apostolic ministry and its related network of ministries and churches should provide a valid structure of appeal within their respective spheres of jurisdiction. Wherever possible the principle of containment should apply: a problem or difficulty should be handled as near to the problem as possible, appealing as necessary to the next level of authority until the problem has been resolved.
4. The various networks of ministries and churches within the Communion of Apostolic Churches shall voluntarily work together with each other at various levels of jurisdiction: local, regional, national, and international to establish the appropriate appeal courts to help adjudicate disputes and differences within the communion and its related ministries and networks in order to ensure righteous judgment and proper discipline and good order.
5. The General Council or Synod shall be responsible to discipline its members and resolve disputes in accordance with biblical standards of discipline and in harmony with the spirit and principles of the Constitution of the Communion of Apostolic Churches. The General Council shall be the final court of appeal within the communion.
6. Should it become necessary to remove a senior pastor from his office, great care should be taken to protect, not only the future well-being of the congregation, but as far as is possible the well-being and future usefulness of the minister in question. Such action must not be undertaken by the direct action of the congregation lest judgment be released upon them. Instead, it is the responsibility of the proper apostolic overseer, in council with the appropriate network ministers and elders.
Raphael’s painting above depicts the death of Ananias which was followed shortly by the death of his wife Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira had secretly held back proceeds from the sale of property, while deceitfully telling the Church they had laid it all at the feet of the apostles for distribution to the needs of the saints in Jerusalem. Peter rebukes them for their deceit and townspeople react in shock as first Ananias and then Sapphira fall down dead before them. Luke records in Acts 5:11 and 12, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.”
This episode is symbolic of the punishment of simony, the embezzlement of funds from the Lord’s Church, a serious problem throughout the Renaissance. Ironically, Pope Leo himself was accused of improperly diverting Church money for the commission of tapestries. Sadly, church discipline is a missing dimension among Christian leaders and Church life today. If the Church of the 21st century is ever to recover Kingdom or apostolic life and power, today’s apostles must take the lead in disciplining first themselves, and then the churches for which they are responsible under God.