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The impact and effects of trauma resulting from excommunication

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Abstract

This article will attempt to critically analyse various aspects of the state of trauma. It will analyse the impact, consequences and effects of trauma resultant from excommunication of clergy and how the practice has been handed down through the ages. The ultimate aim of the authors is an understanding of how excommunication evolved throughout the ages and the nature of its impact on the victims or survivors thereof. The author's own first-hand encounter prompted him to research this subject. It is imperative to look at the scientific application of the ritual as it affects all the stakeholders and participants, active or passive. An overview of various biblical eras will be given, including the Old Testament prophets, Christ's own views as well as the period of St Paul in the New Testament.
HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies
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Original Research
Article #803
(page number not for citation purposes)
The impacT and effecTs of Trauma resulTing from
excommunicaTion
Authors:
Mpiyakhe J. Kubeka1
Maake J. Masango1
Afliations:
1Department of Practical
Theology, University of
Pretoria, South Africa
Correspondence to:
Maake Masango
email:
maake.masango@up.ac.za
Postal address:
PO Box 84173, Greenside
2034, South Africa
Keywords:
trauma; effects; impact;
pain; stories
Dates:
Received: 17 Feb. 2010
Accepted: 29 May 2010
Published: 11 Oct. 2010
How to cite this article:
Kubeka, M.J. & Masango,
M.J., 2010, ‘The impact and
effects of trauma resulting
from excommunication’,
HTS Teologiese Studies/
Theological Studies (66)1,
Art. #803, 13 pages. DOI:
10.4102/hts.v66i1.803
This article is available
at:
http://www.hts.org.za
© 2010. The Authors.
Licensee: OpenJournals
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1Vol. 66 No. 1 Page 1 of 13
ABSTRACT
This article will attempt to critically analyse various aspects of the state of trauma. It will analyse
the impact, consequences and effects of trauma resultant from excommunication of clergy and
how the practice has been handed down through the ages. The ultimate aim of the authors is
an understanding of how excommunication evolved throughout the ages and the nature of its
impact on the victims or survivors thereof. The author’s own rst-hand encounter prompted him
to research this subject. It is imperative to look at the scientic application of the ritual as it affects
all the stakeholders and participants, active or passive.
An overview of various biblical eras will be given, including the Old Testament prophets, Christ’s
own views as well as the period of St Paul in the New Testament.
INTRODUCTION
A distinct period in church history will be analysed, namely the Reformation period. Martin Luther will
be the key person focussed on. An analysis of Luther’s own response and reaction to excommunication
will be given. Excommunication leaves the victims or survivors thereof with indelible scars and marks,
often of an unbearable nature. It is for this reason that the author would cite the practical experiences of
excommunication of three victims/survivors. Since this is an age-old church practice, it is viewed in this
article from the perspective of the younger Luther, who was himself a subject of the same humiliating
experience. Martin Luther is considered as one of the most uncompromising reformers of all times:
In the present century much Luther scholarship has followed Holl in concentration upon the younger Luther.
The presupposition appears to be that the creativity, vigour and distinctiveness of Luther’s contribution to
theology must be sought in these early years.
(Trigg 1994:3)
‘Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that, by indulgences of the Pope, a man is
loosed and saved from all punishment’ (Hyma 1928:37).
The foregoing authorities provide a base that prompted the author to choose as a historic reference the
person of Martin Luther. Hyma (1928:70) quotes the following about Martin Luther: ‘Believe me; I am
exposed in this quiet hermitage to a thousand devils incarnate, than against the “spirits of wickedness,
dwelling in high places”’ (Ephesians VI:12).
Luther stands therefore both as a model of and uncompromising contributor to the theology that was
later to usher in a new historic era.
This vigorous approach that led to the transformation of various church practices and rituals is more
imperative now than in Luther’s time, an opinion upheld by the author who is backed up by Gerkin
(1997):
It is little wonder that the eld of pastoral care is in a time of transition and controversy. How to sort out all
of the diversity within theology and make use of it in setting new directions for pastoral care practice becomes
an interesting but difcult problem.
(Gerkin 1997:105)
DEFINITION OF TRAUMA
Webster’s New World Dictionary denes trauma as ‘an emotional shock, often having a lasting psychic
effect’ (Guralnic 1973:607).
It is evident from the foregoing denition that trauma is a deep-rooted and deep-seated long-lasting
pain. The pain is drawn as having devastating effects that result from shock.
The notion of the wound dened by Guralnic (1973) is bolstered by Mills (2007), writing on the subject
of alterity, pain and suffering:
At the centre of atrocious pain is the tension between what can be conceived and what is. It is when domination
and terror become absolutes…that we cannot discover in ourselves a possible scenario to explain what
happened. We want to say, it is inconceivable, yet we know it was conceived. The likely response to such
tension is to reconcile the balance on the side of ‘usual’ meaning.
(Mills 2007:148)
The results of trauma as portrayed by Mills (2007) manifest themselves not only in illusions but also in
misconceptions about the actual and factual realities.
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The state of shock, the depth of the wound and the gruesome
brutality of the shock are further portrayed by Mills (2007) as
follows:
Atrocious pain is an embodiment of space in which pain passes
beyond any normal borders, both materially and metaphorically.
Like Absurd pain it calls on the reader to stay still, to be in that
space of uncontrollable violence and loss, to let it grow fully,
outside of giving it a good/bad prole.
(Mills 2007:149)
The author views both opinions as pivotal in the understanding
of trauma in both religious and secular circles. He therefore
agrees that trauma is actually both the embodiment and
personication of the incurred pain. The ethos of such a pain
will be understood, internalised and interpreted differently by
different people.
This means that people differ in degrees of absorption of pain.
There is an age-old adage in Sesotho (one of the 11 ofcial
languages of South Africa) that says, Bohloko baseeta bo utlwiwa
ke monga sona’. An equivalent English translation would state,
‘The best interpreter of the pain is the recipient thereof.’ The
inference here is that the best person to relate to the pain is the
one who had the rst-hand encounter with the plight, whatever
its nature.
It is important at this stage to introduce the subject of
excommunication and seek to understand its implications
primarily within the religious context because the subject is of
vital importance in church circles. This subject appears to be
an abstract quagmire that has caused more harm than good
in church or religious circles. If the message of the Gospel is
to be presented with the care and sensitivity inherent in the
reconciliatory intention of He who created humanity in His own
image, what Gerkin (1997:57) says should be taken into account:
‘We schematized pastoral care as a quadrilateral structure
involving care of the tradition, care of the culture, care of the
individual, and care of the gathered community of Christians.’
Any practice and behaviour contrary to the foregoing proposition
by Gerkin will suggest that the adherents of the faith are mere
confessors rather than practitioners thereof. This tendency
immediately qualies the denition of excommunication
provided by Guralnik (1973:204): ...to exclude from the
communion with a church’.
Within the community of faith there should be an element
of inclusion, even with regard to the offender, so that the
community would be seen as not excluding or discriminating
against any of its members. The author agrees with this
proposition of inclusion by Guralnic (1973).
He further agrees with Gerkin (1997) that pastoral care should
be holistic. Moreover, it should provide a multifaceted quadrilateral
and accommodative environment characterised by care and a
reciprocally benecial atmosphere of safety where no member
will feel threatened.
The traditional Old Testament view of
excommunication upheld by the law
The Law of Moses propagated corrective action, which took
various forms such as being set in isolation:
But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and does not
appear to be deeper than the skin, and its hair has not turned white,
then the priest shall isolate the one who has the sore seven days.
(Lv 13:4)
Now if the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and
his head bare; and he shall cover his moustache, and cry, ‘Unclean!
Unclean!’ He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall
be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling
shall be outside the camp.
(Lv 13:45)
Both scriptures indicate that the fair portion of the ‘unclean’
person is a place somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The
author sees the legalistic practice of the Old Testament regarding
isolation and excommunication not as having destructive effects
but rather as having a redemptive overall intention.
Israel as a nation suffered a great deal of rejection, the kind that
can be equated with excommunication itself, as portrayed by
Pieterse (2004):
The Old and New Testament show that God champions and cares
for the poor people in a very special way. When Israel was an
insignicant, enslaved nation in Egypt, subject to oppression and
poverty, God revealed Himself to Moses with these words: ‘The
cry of the people of Israel has come to Me, and I have seen the
oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.’
(Pieterse 2004:82)
The prophets
The prophets were adherents of the law and as such believed in
the full might thereof. Hezekiah said, ‘What shall be the sign
that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?’ (Is 38:22).
This scripture indicates that leprosy, a symbol of uncleanness,
was treated through being denied access to the house of God
and being cast out of the community.
The New Testament view of excommunication
upheld by Jesus Christ
Jesus indicates that excommunication should be the last resort
when all other avenues of corrective action are exhausted and
the offender blatantly and deliberately refuses to repent:
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he
refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen
and a tax collector.
(Mt 18:17)
The early church
In the early church, Paul had this to say about the practice of
excommunication:
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan
for the destruction of the esh that his spirit may be saved in the
day of the Lord Jesus.
(1 Cor 5:4–5)
The Afro-centric view of excommunication
The journey of Jesus with his Church is evidently one of
encouragement, guidance and correction in its daily activities. It
is his pastoral care for those who believe in his name.
(Waruta & Kinoti 2005:219)
Contrary to the notion of isolation suggested by the denition
of excommunication provided by Guralnic (1973) above, the
author agrees with the concept of a bond and communal life
advocated by Magesa (quoted in Waruta & Kinoti 2005:221)
to the effect that ‘... this community translates necessarily into
practical actions of affectivity in the form of active love’.
Throughout the entire Bible, as observed in the above references,
excommunicating an individual is an explicit redemptive
endeavour. The author agrees in no uncertain terms that the
offender should be excommunicated with the overall objective
of redemption, as suggested by the Old and New Testament
writings.
The author further agrees with the Afro-centric redemptive
emphasis espoused by Waruta and Kinoti (2005), as cited above.
He aligns himself with the therapeutic and reconciliatory
approaches proposed by Scripture and supported by Waruta
and Kinoti, inasmuch as such a rite intends to bring one to
ultimate wholeness.
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EFFECTS OF TRAUMA
As a result of excommunication, one will suffer trauma that will
manifest itself in various forms. This traumatic encounter will
leave one with terrible scars and effects; regarding which J.L.
Herman (1997) say the following:
Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the
desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work.
Folk wisdom is lled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves
until their stories are told.
(J.L. Herman 1997:1)
As a result of the traumatic experiences, people reect what
Patton (1990:14) portrays in the following way: ‘Many people
have a limited ability to share what has happened to them in
their lives.’
He further states, ‘If persons are genuinely to experience their
human being, they need to reect on, re-create, and share what
has happened to them’ (Patton 1990:15).
It is important to note that the practice of bottling up emotions
is a breeding ground for trauma, as attested by Freud (1939) in
the following way:
The effects of the trauma are twofold, positive and negative. The
former are endeavours to revive the trauma, to remember the
forgotten experience, or, better still, to make it real – to live once
more through a repetition of it.
(Freud 1939:122)
Sipe and Rowe (1984:153) argue as follows: ‘One must be
cautious when forecasting the long-term results of trauma or of
a deprived environment. The effects may not appear for many
years.’
The author agrees with the above three propositions inasmuch
as it is in venting one’s hurts that one will be able to combat the
brutal effects of trauma.
The effects of trauma need to be considered within the scope of
an empathic understanding, regarding which Neethling (2002)
states the following:
Empathy on the other hand is something completely different. It
is the ability to see and experience things from the perspective of
another, and consequently we do not only understand how others
feel, we share those feelings, we also feel for them with our very
being.
(Neethling 2002:23)
The author agrees with Neethling (2002) that it is important not
only to understand how others feel but also to share in those
feelings. This is the identication pointed out by Sipe and Rowe
(1984) in their indication that the effects of trauma may not
appear for many years, hence the need to identify fully with
those who are going through traumatic encounters.
Kinds of trauma
Various kinds of trauma result from excommunication. Drawing
from the life of Paul, Freud (1939) highlights the following:
Paul, a Roman Jew from Tarsus, seized upon this feeling of guilt
and correctly traced it back to its primaeval source. This he called
original sin; it was a crime against God that could be expiated only
through death.
(Freud 1939:139)
A single trauma does not usually produce permanent damage.
When a single trauma appears to produce permanent damage, it
is usually found that other factors are present, such as separation,
as during the trauma of hospitalization, or the manner in which
the trauma was handled, for example, an absence, of emotional
support.
(Sipe & Rowe 1984:153)
Trauma causes indelible damage, the impact of which may
become clear later in life, as indicated by Sipe and Rowe (1984)
above. In Paul’s life, as proposed by Freud (1939), there was a
sense of guilt traceable to the primaeval source. In this regard,
the author quotes the words of Estardt (1983):
One of the personal factors that impact the outcome of a crisis
is past experience: Does this situation evoke an unsuccessfully
resolved crisis in a person’s life? To the extent that a person is
relying on defence mechanisms that are maladaptive, there is the
likelihood that a stressor in such a case will evoke longer-lasting
disorganization.
(Estardt 1983:142)
It is worth noting that trauma resulting from isolation is as old
as humanity. During His earthly ministry, Christ dwelt among
a people traumatised by the class-stratied system, of which
Wimberly (1999) says the following:
In this class-stratied system, a person’s worth was value-laden,
based on honour and shame. There were those who were considered
highly valued, and there were those who were not. Those who were
deemed unworthy were the marginalized and disenfranchised.
(Wimberly 1999:23)
The situation has not altered from the time of Christ’s earthly
ministry. The author is of the opinion that if the situation has
changed in terms of classication and preferential treatment of
people today as compared to Christ’s time, it has changed rather
for the worst.
Stress resulting from trauma
The stress resulting from a traumatic encounter cannot be
overlooked, hence this opinion by Estardt (1983):
Studies about stress show that expectation is an important
factor in how a person will experience stress. Stress is often the
disappointment ratio of the difference between the expectation and
the reality.
(Estardt 1983:149)
In the faith community, one would anticipate some form of
system that can address issues in a Christocentric manner,
notwithstanding the fact that wherever there are people, there
exists a likelihood of differences in many aspects of life. It is
for this reason that everybody in such a community holds some
form of hope of protection by the institution that advocates the
values Christ espoused on the very cross where He was crucied.
Failure by the faith community to meet the expectations of the
members results in the following, according to Oden (2007):
This has spawned a dilemma of self-esteem. The oral traditions
of African traditional religion have seemed to have less value
or authority than written texts. The comparison of orality to
textuality always seems tilted and unfair. The cultural and
intellectual richness of native African religion is wrongly thought
to be largely primal and oral. So it imagines itself as burdened with
a desperate disadvantage in relation to written traditions. This is
not a fair playing eld.
(Oden 2007:270)
In support of the foregoing arguments, the author strongly
believes that as a result of a people who have become a law
unto themselves, who can hire and re willy-nilly, the faith has
become subject to scrutiny and even the authority of procedures
and disciplinary processes and mechanisms employed to
execute discipline can be questioned.
It is because of this failure to meet the Christ-like virtues and
expectations addressed by Estardt (1983) above that processes
qualify to be seen as only traditional, in the words of Oden
(2007). Stress is bound to occur as a result of rejection since
human beings are by nature creatures that wish to belong, which
Browning (1996:169) portrays as follows: ‘Humans have social
needs to belong to, cooperate with, and sustain the groups to
which they belong.’
Behavioural patterns or characteristics resulting from
excommunication
There are distinct characteristics as well as behavioural patterns
that will be observed in a person who was excommunicated.
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In the light of the denition of excommunication, it becomes
evident that such characteristics or traits are both irresistible and
inevitable.
The superego is not only the giver of laws; it is the source of self-
satisfaction and self-esteem, the supplier of necessary elements of
narcissism, elements which replace in part the praise and devotion
of parents. To be loved and approved by one’s superego becomes
as important as being loved and approved by parents and other
important people in one’s life.
(Sipe & Rowe 1984:158)
The author agrees with the proposition by Sipe and Rowe (1984)
that the knowledge of being loved and cherished is extremely
therapeutic. He further believes that annihilation of the sense
of being and degradation of one’s esteem will result when one
has been subjected to the torture and torment of rituals such
as excommunication. This notion is supported by Wimberly
(1999:11) who discusses it with emphasis on the process of
forgiveness: ‘To forgive prematurely, I emphasized, could lead
us back into relationships that increase our shame and feelings
of self-degradation.’
The natural tendency for one who feels rejected is to align him or
her with deviant conduct so as to create a defence mechanism.
The victim or survivor tends to show extremes of uncalled-for
behaviour. This picture is painted well by Wimberly (1999) in
one of his interviews:
Drugs and alcohol made me more sociable and less shy. I needed
those substances to feel secure when I was around others. I always
wanted to be popular and outgoing, and the drugs and alcohol
allowed me to be more outgoing.
(Wimberly 1999:107)
The ultimate shame, and one from which it is almost impossible
to recover, is the feeling that one is unloved by God. The root of
shame, according to Leon Wurmser,
... is believing that one is unlovable and will never be loved. If such
a humiliating conclusion is true from God’s perspective, then there
is no ground for hope at all.
(Wimberly 1999:51)
The above process affects clergy who are excommunicated
unjustly in the Pentecostal Church. Since the author is the
survivor of a similar plight, he can deeply identify with this
hopelessness, which has created a deep hunger to consider
including a chapter on the subject of being excommunicated by
God in his PhD work. He unequivocally identies with the state
of shame Wimberly addresses. He understands and feels the
deep-seated pain articulated by Wimberly in his conversations
on Job. There is, however, an immediate solution that Wimberly
(2003) proposes:
For example, some conversations are self-esteem building and
others are not. If we encounter negative conversations over
and over again, they tend to have a pejorative impact on how
we feel about ourselves. Negative conversations produce negative
evaluations of ourselves.
(Wimberly 2003:17)
The author agrees that the most helpful way out of the
frustrations presented by the effects of trauma, which ultimately
lead to a sense of worthlessness will be the solution proposed by
Pollard (1997), who is an advocate of positive deconstruction.
It is in the state of self-acceptance, the desire to break out of the
prison of self-pity and the courage to soar through the limitless
skies that we can nd our healing:
The process is called ‘deconstruction’ because I am helping people
to deconstruct (that is, take apart) what they believe in order to
look carefully at the belief and analyse it. The process is positive
because this deconstruction is done in a positive way-in order to
replace it with something better.
(Pollard 1997:44)
EXCOMMUNICATION DURING THE
REFORMATION
The theology of the church reached an inection point during
the Reformation era. Martin Luther in particular informed the
church anew of many fallacious practices that were adopted
foreign heresies. He addressed the authorities and implied that
they were drinking impure water and called them to return to
the source of the Divine Word: ‘You ask to be permitted to hear
the Gospel in liberty. Can’t you change your residence and come
here to drink at the source of Divine Word?’ (Hyma 1928:75).
According to Yule (1985:58), Luther was emphatic about the
Gospel that sees Christ in others. He actually went to the extent
of advising about the dethronement of a certain people:
My brethren, (sic) the peasants, the princes who oppose the
propagation of the Gospel light among you are deserving of God’s
vengeance; they merit dethronement. But would you not be also
guilty, were you to stain your hands and souls with the blood
which you intend to shed?
(Hyma 1928:75)
The author would like to reinforce the stated opinions by
pointing out that though Luther was a victim of the ritual of
excommunication himself, he also advocated for the same, as
pointed out by the notion of dethronement he addressed, as
noted above.
This argument leads us to the next level of spelling out some of
the reasons that could lead one to being excommunicated. The
study therefore intends to examine the measure of justice, truth,
honesty and love when excommunication is practised, with the
ultimate aim of not only restoring the victim or survivor but also
of fully bringing him or her to appreciate the ritual as a necessary
act of chastisement. From the early writings of theologians such
as Luther it emerges that excommunication had always been
used as a process of discipline by the church against a few.
Allen (1974) states the following:
Thus, excommunication was being used to enforce the political
aims of the papacy, and it was also being used to enforce economic
aims of various branches of the church. For example, it was used to
force the timely payment of tithes, annates, or other ecclesiastical
debts, and to force town councils to stop taxing religious bodies,
which were selling beer, wine, fabrics, etc.
(Allen 1974:35)
The author disagrees with the manner in which excommunication
was exercised and sees this practice as an unbiblical imposition
of power on defenceless subjects and people who were meant to
be rather recipients of the Gospel of grace. This shows that the
ritual was not based on the Word of God or even exercised as
Christ Himself would have done. This is apparently the spirit
that was handed down the ecclesiastical generations.
Excommunication as a result of pursuing a
questionable doctrine
According to Hyma (1928),
There was a time when the faith had no need of defenders; it had
no enemies. Now it has one who exceeds in malignity all his
predecessors, who is instigated by the devil, who covers himself
with the shield of charity, and, full of hatred and wrath, discharges
his viperish venom against the Church and Catholicism.... What
similar pestilence has ever attacked the Lord’s ock?
(Hyma 1928:73)
Against the practice of his day, Luther is stated to have reasoned
as follows:
In the rst part of the treatise, Luther argues that everything
derives from faith. If a man (sic) has faith, he has everything; if a
man has no faith, nothing else sufces him.
(Atkinson 1983:102)
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Those in authority had seen a new and threatening theology
introduced by one they called the enemy of the faith, who
nevertheless derived his theology from his focus on Christ:
Faith, once it ceases to be completely other-directed (Christ-
directed), becomes a self-conscious and self reliant human piety,
in other words, a work. Properly understood, however, faith ‘is a
constant gaze that looks at nothing except Christ’.
(Trigg 1994:90)
The author sees two bodies at loggerheads with each other:
the authorities who had a vested interest in the status quo and
Martin Luther who was an advocate of ‘new theology’, as it was
interpreted. In this respect he agrees with Gerkin (1997:145) who
strongly believes, ‘Each community, with its unique story and its
unique values, vies for the delity of its members.’
It was in this era that Martin Luther emerged to challenge
the heretical teachings that were prevalent and vehemently
perpetuated by the church, to the detriment of the innocent and
ignorant.
Martin Luther’s attitude
‘Suffering is unavoidable, but the proper understanding of it,
and an ability to welcome and use it spiritually, was the acid test
of sincerity and true godliness’ (Yule 1985:52).
It is two years since I published a small book, entitled The Captivity
of the Church in Babylon. It has annoyed the Papists, who spared
neither falsehoods nor abuse against me. I willingly forgive them.
(Hyma 1928:74)
The author draws a lesson from the life and character of
Luther. He is reminded of the time he took his own ‘saga’ to
the press and can only wish that he had learnt the therapeutic
mode applied by Luther, namely that of willingly forgiving
one’s persecutors. He further agrees that though suffering is
inevitable, there is a bigger cause to stand for, which the Lord
Jesus taught His followers, as applicable now as it was during
His earthly ministry: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we forgive
our debtors’ (Mt 6:12).
It is this therapeutic attitude that carried Luther amidst his trials,
attested to by A.E.S Wimberly (2004) as follows:
Just as nurturing faith and hope in the Holy Spirit is not a matter
of presenting propositions, so also nurture is not simply a matter
of the leading of the mind. Nurture is a matter of engaging our
whole selves-of enkindling our minds, emotions, and behaviours
to the end that we truly see, move, and have our being in life in
response to God’s Spirit.
(A.E.S Wimberly 2004:58)
Martin Luther was fully aware of the extent and impact of the
truth inherent in the foregoing reasoning by A.E.S Wimberly
(2004). He had personally discovered the truth the author
applauds as both credible and sacred:
For I have not found in Latin or German a more wholesome
theology or one more constant with the Gospel. Taste, therefore,
and see how sweet is the Lord, where formerly you have seen how
bitter everything in us is.
(Hyma 1928:32)
Luther challenged, fought and confronted the ills of his day
and forged a new way, leaving behind him trails of integrity
that would immortalise him throughout all history. Yet he
maintained a very humble and sober attitude in his state of
rejection and excommunication:
Luther claimed to have created no new theology.... I beg that my
name be passed over in silence, and that people call themselves not
Lutheran, but Christians. What is Luther? My teaching is not
mine. Saint Paul did not want Christians to be called Paulinians,
but Christians (1 Cor 3).
(Hyma 1928:70)
Only when the fullness of divine mystery is experienced can one
speak, like Luther, in a way that does not seek self-glory but that
acknowledges the truth:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being
in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with
God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a
bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found
in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient
to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
(Phlp 2:5–8)
As was the case with Christ, labelling as a form of humiliation
and psychological torture did not change Luther, according to
Nestingen (1982):
One of the nicknames given to Luther and his early compatriots,
besides the originally taunt ‘Lutheran’, was the ‘sola-ists.’ The
latter word, which comes from the Latin word for ‘only’, was
intended partly as a barb. It was aimed at the Lutheran love for
exclusive sayings, such as the word alone – grace alone, and faith
alone.
(Nestingen 1982:27)
The author notes with appreciation the uncompromising spirit
and courage of Luther, as further emphasised by Nestingen
(1982):
Whatever else Luther might have been – monster of the medieval
midway or prophet of the new age, heretic or reformer, co-father
of acquisitive capitalism or herald of freedom – he most certainly
was a preacher. He understood himself to have been called by God
to be a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether holed up in
his ofce for the third straight sleepless night, off on a trade in a
lecture, climbing into the pulpit, visiting with friends, or playing
with his family, this calling shaped Luther’s life.
(Nestingen 1982:27)
Even though he was treated with contempt and rejection, as
observed from the labelling he suffered, he stood for what he
believed uncompromisingly, as witnessed by Lohse (1986):
Luther, however, was unique in his understanding of God and the
devil as directly intervening in historical events. The principle is
the same one Luther followed in understanding the meaning of
the cross.
(Lohse 1986:194)
Another factor contributing to the plight of the excommunicated
is the attention such people draw, which is in itself traumatic.
Lilje (1983) spells this out as follows:
The attention of the public was directed towards Martin Luther.
Insofar as the news system of the day allowed, the glorious advance
of the Wittenberg monk had been followed across Germany.
(Lilje 1983:61)
The author agrees with Lilje (1986), Lohse (1980) and Nestingen
(1982) that a person, though rejected directly or indirectly by the
ecclesiastical body, should stay focussed on the One who called
his or her and should not be swayed, for his or her reward will
come from God and not from the church.
Rejection resulting from excommunication
The one burden any victim of excommunication will have to live
with is the sense of rejection. This kind of rejection manifests
itself in various forms. Martin Luther was diagnosed as follows:
‘Luther’s life was deeply marked by the kind of nightmare
terror, now sometimes being identied by psychologists as birth
or pre-natal trauma’ (Yule 1985:52).
Luther became a reformer out of urgent pastoral concern. It was not
his rst intention to begin a theological revolution; it was certainly
not his aim to lead an ecclesial revolt. These steps followed, to be
sure, but (as he himself later insisted) they were not yet in view
‘when I began that cause’.
(Yule 1985:72)
The originality of Luther’s theology is in the way he interwove its
anti-Pelagian slant with the central afrmation of the Christian
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faith, that Jesus Christ, though of one nature with God the Father,
became our brother man. His whole discussion took on a fresh and
personal approach which was often lacking in the later Mediaeval
Theologians whose works on this subject often read like a text book
on symbolic logic.
(Yule 1985:87)
As I wrote in my treatise against the peasants, so I write now. Let
no one take pity on the hardened, obstinate, and blinded peasants
who will not listen; let anyone who can and is able, hew down, stab
and slay them as one would a mad dog.
(Hyma 1928:76)
The author views Luther’s engagement in the Reformation as
crucial in protecting the dignity and integrity of the Gospel. He
agrees with Luther’s pastoral concern that prompted in him the
desire to afrm the Christian faith to the extent of demanding
the stabbing, slaying and hewing down of those who were
hardened and obstinate. Luther propagated these actions out
of passion for protecting the Christian values and introduced
extremely strict measures of excommunicating these hardened
and obstinate people. The pain of the rejection he experienced
himself as a result of his doctrinal stance was automatically
transferred to the subjects who were meant to be recipients of
his message of grace.
The author agrees with Yule (1985) and Hyma (1928) that at the
heart of excommunication lies the pain of rejection, the scars of
which cannot be eradicated even by the passing of time. The
rejection resulting from excommunication, the author believes,
equals in all aspects the rejection experienced in incarceration.
It is in the light of these facts that the author believes that the
worst that could befall a person is to be buried alive through the
rite of an indenite excommunication, the brutality of which is
spelt out by Luther who calls for the stabbing and slaying of the
peasants.
The author holds a totally different view from Luther, though,
and believes that the victims of rejection, the excommunicated
and the hurting, need to be listened to before they are axed
or stabbed. This belief is echoed by Wimberly (2003) in the
following way:
There is liberation available through talk therapy. But to be
effective, therapy needs a mentor who exhibits care and who has
the necessary experience to provide the kind of empathy that aids
the care seeker to anticipate the future.
(Wimberly 2003:64)
EXCOMUNICATION AS OBSERVED IN THE
OLD TESTAMENT
The Leviticus code
This set of laws required that a person with leprosy be removed
from the community:
This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing. He
shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the
camp, and the priest shall make an examination.
(Lv 14:2–3)
The four lepers
In the Book of Kings there are four men whose encounter is
narrated as follows: ‘Now there were four men who were lepers
at the entrance to the gate; and they said to one another: “Why
do we sit here till we die?”’ (2 Ki 7:3).
Both instances reect the isolation and the removal of people
infected with leprosy from the community. Isolation was used
in the Old Testament as a way of protecting the community from
being contaminated by the leper. There was a point, however,
when such a person would be restored to the community. In my
case the church does not think of any form of restoration. This is
the trauma I am referring to.
The church discipline of excommunication is applied for the
good of the church and person until such a person is restored.
This poses a question in the case of the author’s own encounter.
The author strongly believes that whatever the cause of his
excommunication, this can by no means be beyond the forgiving
and restoring blood of Christ Jesus and grace of the Father, the
Son and the Holy Ghost.
THE AFRICAN CONCEPT OF
EXCOMMUNICATION
The African concept of excommunication is holistic in that
it deals with the totality of the person in relation to his or her
environment. It is a concept that contains elements of ubuntu
(humanity). This system works with a person until he or she
repents, to the point where he or she will be fully restored to the
community.
If excommunication is applied unjustly, it may cause the person
to react with anger, which may lead to violence, hence the need
for an honest medium of empathy and ventilation, regarding
which Mbiti (1986:94) states, ‘African prayer seems to be very
honest, very open, very sensitive to both physical and spiritual
aspects of human life.’
The author thinks that the Pentecostal religion is only concerned
with what one has to offer and not with the total salvation and
restoration of a person, dened by sensitivity to the whole
person, as evidenced by the Afro-centric way of praying and the
belief system described by Mbiti (1986) above.
Mbiti (1986:229–230) further states, ‘So Christians do not
theologize rst and then pray afterwards. Prayer is a natural
aspect of their life, as if there is an inbuilt inclination to pray.’
It becomes evident that an Afro-centric way of dealing with
excommunication entails more than disciplining a person but
intends to restore a person to unquestionable wholeness. This is
further attested by Kourie and Kretzschmar (2000:12): ‘Christian
spirituality has for many decades been identied with a radical
world-denying, anti-materialistic, ascetic philosophy of life.’
The author believes that the ecclesiastical body has to make an
admission proposed by Mbiti (1975:52): ‘While God has made all
things, he himself is not made.’
This admission will be therapeutic and create a spirit of
acceptance and tolerance when dealing with excommunication.
It also presupposes the sovereignty of God. It is at this stage that
the author would love to present the stories of the victims or
survivors who were actual recipients of the excommunication
ritual. Though the degrees of their hurts differ marginally, the
scars and bruises these people sustained bear the same testimony
to the impact and effects of trauma.
REAL EXCOMMUNICATION ENCOUNTERS
First, the theology of Pentecostal churches regarding
excommunication is expounded. Whereas the essence of
excommunication is about protecting the honour of Christ, in
Pentecostal circles or maybe only the one the author as well as
his interviewees was exposed to, the victims or survivors of
excommunication seem to be at the mercy of the powers that
be. These authorities exercise their powers in whichever way
serves their best interests. This section will therefore analyse the
processes of excommunication in place within Pentecostalism by
telling the stories of three victims or survivors.
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In the previous sections the author indicated the theological
basis of excommunication in both the Old and New Testament.
However, modern Pentecostalism, the variety the author and
his interviewees have been exposed to in particular, denes and
practises the rite in a totally different manner from the basic
biblical precept. In the author’s own case he was summarily
removed, without any hearing, formality or procedure, hence
his resorting to the press.
The author initially planned to interview three ministers from
Pentecostal churches. As soon as he started engaging with the
three victims or survivors, it became clear that the interviewees
were more offended, hurt and broken than they had actually
realised, each in his own way. This afforded the author an ample
opportunity to listen to their stories with empathy and attempt
to visualise the impact and effects of the trauma incurred by the
victims or survivors.
Listening to the stories told served as a window through which
the author realised how much healing he needed himself. The
interviews actually served as a catalyst for the author’s own
much-desired healing. The stories shared by the victims or
survivors of excommunication in this section reveal rather
sensitive and emotional information on how people are mere
objects of the powers that be, concerning which Neuger (2001)
states,
A theology of ownership suggests that humanity was granted
dominion over creation by God and that dominion was interpreted
to mean ownership. Along with ownership is the tendency to
objectify that which is owned so that the needs of the owner are
considered primary and the purpose of the owned (or objects) is to
serve the needs of the owner.
(Neuger 2001:97)
Such abuse of power and display of ownership lead to feelings
of insecurity and defencelessness. According to Kalsched
(1998:164), ‘One of the healing factors in this working-through
period is the fact that this time, the therapeutic “trauma” comes
after a period of essential self-object “illusion.”’
The author agrees with Neuger (2001) that the misconception
of those in authority that they own the ock of God, leaves the
vulnerable ock under the illusion spelt out by Kalsched (1998)
that the ock is meant to be mere objects. Gerkin 1997:114 warns
strongly against this misappropriation of power and authority
in the following way: ‘The role of the pastoral leadership must
more clearly and intentionally than in the recent past develop a
quality of interpretive guidance.’
Gerkin (1997:115) further continues to argue, ‘Pastors have been
taught to think of their ministry as a collection of specialized
functions.’
The author believes that if the church leadership can start to
consider itself as mere stewards of God’s mercies and not as
dispensers of judgment and further view each individual as
part of the whole, this can serve as a platform of healing and
acceptance of others.
Understanding the art of story-telling
In remembering our own stories and those told us by other
members of clergy families, ve interrelated themes of challenge
consistently appear: the challenge of moving, the challenge of
meeting expectations, the challenge of making family life count, the
challenge of meaning-making in parsonage living, and managing
catastrophic events and other devastating circumstances.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2007:20)
It is hoped, therefore, that Africa’s genuine believers across the
spectrum of faiths will keep radiating an unequivocal message
of inner sincerity instead of outward show. It is also to be hoped
that such a message, even if it is spread by small numbers of
real believers, will have a decisive impact on the supporters of
fundamentalism and related extremes of literalism, dogmatism,
ceremonialism and traditionalism.
(Malan 1997:66)
The Wimberlys (2007) portray storytelling as helpful in meeting
challenges, a notion reinforced by Malan who believes that in
such a practice believers of all faiths will be helped to learn to
portray inner sincerity as opposed to the outward show. The
author agrees with both authorities that there is inherent therapy
in dialoguing, which is further reiterated by Malan (1997:93):
‘Usually the initial discussions lead the parties into the mode of
negotiating, which can be as frank and direct as the discussions.’
It is at the point of admitting that there is a need for discussion
that listening to someone share his or her story can be viewed
as valuable.
The author supports the above authorities to the extent that
he also agrees with Bujo (1992:72): ‘In the same way, African
theologians too must speak with a prophetic voice. They should
not begin by elaborating theories which they themselves do not
put into practice.’
This is a clear call to the clergy to be contextually relevant
and allow those they are leading to tell their stories while
they themselves are prophetic in the execution of their duties,
with special emphasis on the African context researched by
the author. Ultimately the impact and effects of trauma can be
handled in such a manner that identication with the victims or
survivors can be sought for effectively.
Story-telling: A pivotal practice
We want to emphasize here that story-sharing is pivotal to the
discovery and ongoing formation of resilient faith through which
clergy families discover an unfolding story plot through a vital
relationship with God.... For all who embark upon the experience
of shared story, it will mean making sense of the stories and
envisioning not only what facing forward means, but also what
must be done to move forward with the purpose and hope.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2007:37)
‘The roots of pastoral counselling in many cultures lie in the
healing and restorative activities and arts practiced by priest-
healers in ancient times’ (Lartey 2003:16).
The importance of the resilient faith espoused by the theories
of the Wimberlys (2007) will be evidenced later in the stories
shared by the interviewees. It is true that the unfolding of the
story should be centred on a vital relationship with God. The
author supports the notion that is echoed by Lartey (2003), who
traces pastoral counselling back to time immemorial when the
priest was considered not only as a spiritual leader but as the
agent of healing as well.
Story-telling as a practice that seeks to bring about healing
should take into account what Gillespie (2000:12) expresses in
the following way: ‘The foundation for all Christian theology is
the revelation of Jesus as attested in scripture.’
Anything in the church or anywhere else that is held in higher
esteem than the aforementioned biblical requirements quoted
by reputable authorities is not only subject to intensive scrutiny
but is also bound not to result in the healing addressed in this
work and hence tends to be a fallacious superimposition aiming
at nullifying the work of Christ on the cross.
Unmasking as a tool for healing
But, the full nature and depth of these stories may remain
submerged or stilled within family members, while at the same
time, there is a deep yearning to give personal account of what has
happened or is happening, For this reason, unmasking is the rst
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practice in the process of story-sharing. Unmasking refers to our
allowing internal and unspoken happenings and circumstances of
our lives – challenges and promises – to come to life in narrative
form. Thus, we may also refer to sharing our stories as ‘narrative
unmasking’.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2002:37–39)
‘Radical and systematic approaches focus on changing social
systems so that all their members will be freer to grow towards
wholeness’ (Lartey 2003:86).
The author agrees that in an attempt to seek healing, it is
extremely important to unmask past experiences and events. In
this way one will be able to reach a place of emotional catharsis,
which can serve as a platform for therapy. Lartey (2003) expresses
this in a powerful way by conceptualising it as a radical and
systematic approach that is capable of producing growth to
wholeness.
The Wimberlys (2007:38) further state, ‘This story-telling exercise
allows us to be creative agents in seeing as assessing our lives
and in envisioning God’s activity and plan for our lives’.
Finally, we view narrative unmasking as a vital way of renewing
our lives and updating the purpose for which God called us as
individuals, marital partners, and family members. This is what
we call the unmasking of a master story.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2007:40)
The author agrees with the belief espoused by the Wimberlys
(2007) in their conceptualisation of unmasking. He maintains in
the strongest possible sense that everyone does have an original
story of his or her own that the whole world has long been
waiting to hear. This story is in itself the liberator from future
fears and the trauma of the past, an original personal package
second to none, the need of which for genuine therapy Rogers
(1942) indicates in the following way:
Therapy, it cannot be stressed enough, is not merely being ‘nice’ to
a person in trouble. It is helping that person to gain insight into
himself, to adjust to human relationships, with their positive and
negative aspects, in a healthy fashion.
(Rogers 1942:105)
This creates a base for potential healing for the hurting, especially
the excommunicated. In this condemning world, there is a great
need for a platform to unmask the hurts and frustration we daily
encounter. One such platform is described by A.E.S Wimberly
(2004) as follows:
In addition to baptism, the sacrament of Holy Communion, also
called the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, is a highly revered ritual
in the life of the black worshiping congregation because of its
nurturing effects.... The event became known as the Welcome
Table where no one is turned away and where the meal becomes
the bread and substance of life or the spiritual food for the journey
ahead.
(A.E.S Wimberly 2004:17)
The author agrees with A.E.S Wimberly (2004) that the sacraments
such as the Eucharist should serve as a platform on which
people can vent their personal frustrations in an environment of
safety, better described by Christ in the invitation He extends to
everyone: ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28).
This invitation extended by Christ allows each person to unmask
his or her story with the assurance of condentiality. In his
treatment of the subject of privileged conversations with God in
the character of Clifford, A.E.S Wimberly (2003) has this to say:
Now all other conversations had to be interpreted by this new,
liberation conversation. His transformation healed him when
he was able to maintain the privileged position he had given
conversation with God, letting this conversation push the old,
binding ones away. His transformation became healing for others
when he began to tell his story letting others see the benets of
being God’s beloved child.
(A.E.S Wimberly 2003:23)
This is the attitude the author supports as desirable in the
process of unmasking our stories since it provides room not only
for condentiality and transparency but also for transformation
and renewal of the true identity and reinstatement of the true
self. The author views this as classical rapport.
The mythology
In unfolding the master story, the Wimberlys (2007) introduce
the concept they call ‘the mythology’ as follows:
... the beliefs and convictions of clergy family members form a
mythology that cannot be ignored in the story-telling process.
Indeed, the mythology may be a key factor in developing individual
and family resilience in the face of challenges.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2007:41)
At the centre of the Hebrew story is a God of compassion who
suffers with the world to keep it from falling apart. A feeling of
dependence on an Order-Of-Things and Beings beyond us and on
an Ever-Ordering-Being or Vital Force which led Abraham to walk
away from the delta that was gradually getting overpopulated.
(Oduyoye 1986:67)
In reinforcing the foundational truths echoed by the two above
authorities, the author would reiterate that it is imperative for
anyone to create a mythology of some kind. Be it for families,
communities and individuals, as the Wimberlys (2007) point
out, or be it for a nation, as pointed out by Oduyoye (1986), the
principal factor is all encapsulating. The mythology becomes the
driving force, the sustaining activity and lubricant during the
most difcult times of our journey. An equivalent expression
is employed by A.E.S. Wimberly (2004:117) who states, ‘...
becomes the bread and substance of life or the spiritual food for
the journey ahead’.
The Wimberlys (2007:45) regard the family ministry mythology
as an often nurturing inuence when the family is in crisis, and it
functions as a shared story that provides them with perspective
and meaning in difcult times. The World Council of Churches
(WCC) (1997:24) furthermore states, ‘There can be no valuable
relationship in which each does not desire the well-being of the
other’.
The author agrees with the Wimberlys (2007) that the family
mythology is a helpful instrument that can sustain the family
when it is going through a crisis. The principle holds equally
true for an individual. One can be sustained during the most
hurtful moments if one has a mythology to reect on.
Real stories told
In this section the author will reveal the stories of three ministers
in Pentecostal churches in the Sebokeng area (a township in
Gauteng Province, South Africa), which happened to be the
geographical territory he researched. They are between the
ages of 33 and 45 years. They were all assured anonymity in the
recording of their painful encounters.
The interviews were granted voluntarily without any coercion
whatsoever. The author explained the background of the study
and the importance thereof to the interviewees. He emphatically
indicated that the intention of the study was not to throw
stones at the church but rather to create an instrument that will
be a reference point for Pentecostals when they contemplate
disciplining one of their own.
The author chose to use the names of three characters in the Bible
as pseudonyms for the three interviewees, the reason being that
he regards these men as those
... on whose bodies the re had no power; the hair of their head was
not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of re
was not on them.
(Dn 3:27)
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These three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, had but
one immovable testimony: ‘Our God whom we serve is able to
deliver us from the burning ery furnace’ (Dn 3:17).
The strength of the conviction that sustained the three men who
were cast in the furnace is the same that sustained the three
interviewees. This is best illustrated by the Wimberlys (2007:41)
in their subject of the mythology, an analogy that has become a
helpful tool to the author himself.
The format of the interviews, though not xed, was guided
by the following questions to usher the interviewees into the
discussion. In each case the author started by sharing his own
ordeal and allowed the interviewees to unpack their own stories
through the method the Wimberlys (2007:44) describe as relating
empathically and unpacking personal stories.
• What actually happened?
• When did it happen?
• How did it affect you?
Your own recommendations (It is important to note at this
point that the recommendations made by the interviewees
served as building blocks towards the envisaged methodology,
instrument and tool the author was attempting to create through
this research.)
This was a helpful exercise to discover the extent of the impact
and effects of the traumatic encounter that the victims or
survivors had to endure.
It was in the stories of others as they were venting their
harrowing past that the author was able to stretch out his hand
and touch his own long-overdue healing. The process was about
more than listening to the stories of others; it was about coming
to grips with the reality of what had happened and thus embrace
one’s own healing.
Due to the lack of a clearly dened theology related to
excommunication among Pentecostals, the following accounts
were treated with maximum condentiality by the author:
Story 1
Shadrach (not real name) unpacked his story as follows:
‘I was a very active member of the church, so much so that the
Senior Pastor would leave the entire church responsibility with me.
This element of trust that had developed between us encouraged me
to grow in faith and desire to seek the Lord and learn how I could
best serve Him, His servant and the congregation.’
‘I walked before the Lord and the congregation with integrity,
trembling and fear. I was responsible for the nances and
administration of the church. Not once was I ever accused
of misbehaviour or mismanagement of my duties. I was also
responsible for evangelism and very helpful in the arranging of the
sound system in the church.’
‘Everything took a turn for the worse when the elders called for
a meeting in the presence of the Senior Pastor and advised that I
should no longer help with the sound system since this engagement
was degrading me. I was told it would be handled by some junior
church members. At this point I was also told the church would buy
me all necessary equipment and assist me to set up the evangelism
ministry, something which was meant to happen very soon.’
‘The same day in the evening someone came to my place and
told me that the Senior Pastor wanted to meet with me urgently.
Excitedly I left, hoping that I was heading for good news. To my
shame and surprise, the Senior Pastor told me that I had to wait
and put everything that was discussed in abeyance since he would
be going to the USA. He would expect me to be responsible for the
church affairs in his absence.’
‘However, the Senior Pastor did not go to the USA. The elders
even changed the position I used to sit in. I was now positioned
right up front, in a more prestigious position. Little did I know that
this was where I was going to be getting my answers from. I had
asked the Senior ‘Pastor a few days earlier about the developments
regarding the evangelism ministry since he had not gone to the
USA. He did not answer me. I instead got re and brimstone
responses from the pulpit.’
‘In one of those sermons he said, “Some play important in the
church. They need special attention to the extent that they have
even relinquished their roles and have assumed important positions
in the church. They do this in the name of getting special attention.
If you believe to be called of God, why then don’t you ask the same
God to provide for you and to set you up in what you consider your
gifting in the vefold ministry?”
‘In good faith I played deaf to all those horrendous verbal attacks
coming from the pulpit. It worried me that the river that was
supposed to be gushing waters of life was gushing bitter water.
I pursued my cause by requesting an audience with the Senior
Pastor and the church elders. The church elders told me that they
understood everything but had little or no authority whatsoever
to give me the go-ahead. They actually indicated that the Senior
Pastor was the only one who could bless my intentions and that I
should approach him.’
‘Every approach I made towards the Senior Pastor was blocked
by his bodyguards, who always told me that he was busy. My
one-time condant, the Senior Pastor, was now miles away and
inaccessible. To crown it all, he was tirelessly attacking me from
the pulpit, so much so that some of the congregants were starting
to question some of the sermons.’
‘At this stage I was labelled as a devil worshipper, a label
that not only troubled me but so affected me that even in my
personal moments of silence I could hear the shout in my ears:
devil worshipper. Not only was my integrity affected but my
relationship with the other church members was also strained.
Some of the people who used to be very close to me, started treating
me with serious suspicion, especially now that I was known to be a
devil worshipper. Soon, I decided to leave the church in search for
peace and true tranquillity. Just a stone’s throw from this church,
I planted mine.’
Story 2
Meshach (not real name) welcomed the author for an interview
that lasted for only three-and-a-half minutes after he had shared
his own ordeal. This is how he told his story:
‘In the year 2001 during a Sunday service, without any form of
consultation, the administrator stood up after the church service
and announced that “Pastor Meshach will no longer be our pastor,
effective from this very moment”’.
To the author’s surprise, Meshach said that was all. He refused
to continue and xed his eyes on the television until the author
thanked him for his time. He asked him how the congregation
responded to that and this served to unblock the impasse that
had taken place.
Meshach started opening up and responded as follows:
‘This person, the administrator, must have been sent by the
Senior Pastor since he was not in the church that day. He arrived
just after the service and requested the congregants to heed the
announcement. The congregants demanded an explanation but no
one gave any. Though there was a constitution in the church, this
was not utilised. The charismatic and Pentecostal churches do not
observe the constitution. One is suspended or excommunicated
at the will of the Senior Pastor and maybe the elders or church
council in other instances.’
‘The procedure was not available, no counselling was provided
and no pastoral care measures were entertained. In the Pentecostal
Church when they excommunicate, there are no systems
put in place for restoration. It is practically like people enjoy
excommunicating others.’
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‘They will just excommunicate you and not check what happens
thereafter. Excommunication is seen as such as a licence to send
the culprit to hell. Maybe it is because people do not understand
the reasons for excommunication. The discipline exercised is more
punishing than disciplining with the intention to restore the
offender. It should be noted that the excommunicated person is
a candidate for repentance. I think discipline should be about the
maintenance of both the integrity and purity of the church. It is
currently done haphazardly.’
‘In my case the Senior Pastor must have felt threatened, apparently
by my leadership gifting. We as Africans do not observe unity in
diversity. Some important facts to note are the following:
• We should know the reasons for excommunication.
• Unity in diversity should be observed in the church.
• Different gifts should not threaten anyone.
• Concepts of understanding the ministry are important and
should be known.
• In conclusion, we should learn to work together in tolerance.’
‘Ministry should be understood to be about God. Pastors do not work
together because people are working to build their own kingdoms and
not God’s kingdom.’
‘In my case excommunication was a blessing in disguise.
Other people will ght you if you are blessed in their midst.
Excommunication can have a positive side too, namely:
• The building of character.
• Separating you from other people so that God can bless you
apart from them; that is why God said to Abraham, “Leave
your own people.”’
‘I took it positively, hence my success in the present ministry that
I started not very far from where I was excommunicated without
a reason.’
‘Isaac Newton said, “It was in standing on the shoulders of giants
that I could see the future.” Today I am feeding 300 orphans,
victims of HIV/AIDS, I am running HIV support groups and I
have three qualied social workers and a nurse fully available in
the service of the church.’
‘If you do not want to leave when God indicates that you should
leave, rest assured that He Himself will push you out.’
Story 3
Abed-Nego (not real name) told his story as follows:
‘In 1999 I submitted a letter to the Church Council and the Senior
Pastor requesting to be released from active pastoral work as I was
one of the assistant pastors. This was as a result of the perceived
fears, stress and pressure I was going through. I was released
and went to join another church. A month later I decided to come
back and informed the Church Council and the Senior Pastor. I
requested to be active again.’
‘I was called in and asked what had actually made me require being
passive at rst and why I had changed my mind about my initial
decision. One of the painful experiences I had was when one of the
Council members asked me how I would feel to be called an ordinary
member and no longer a pastor. I told him I had no problem with
that. He must have been angered by the fact that I could not be
provoked. Little did I know that the worst was still to come. He
bashed me with a question I never expected: He asked whether I
was HIV positive in full view of all the Council members.’
‘This must have been the cause of the depression I had suffered
in the process of what I was going through. Then they told me
that the Senior Pastor had decided to excommunicate me in his
personal capacity until he was satised. No reference was made to
the constitution, nor was it actually used to execute the sentence
on me.’
‘This indenite excommunication lasted for two years, in other
words “until the Senior Pastor was satised”. I was attending the
church as a regular church member even though the Lord would
use me in an extraordinary way outside the church where my
services were required and valued.’
‘After two years of passivity, I was called by the Church Council
and the Senior Pastor. They told me that on a certain day I should
be available at church. I obliged and on this particular day they
announced that they had tried all they could to make “it hard for
me”. The meaning of this phrase was not explained to me. They
further afrmed that I had proven that I am really called of God.
As the church and the leadership of the church, they respected
me. I was restored by public declaration. Since then it has become
extremely difcult for me to hold any active position in the church.
I have been one of the pastors without portfolio for a period of 10
years this day.’
‘I am still passive by personal choice. God is using me outside the
church where people value my services. But on Sundays if there
is no outside invitation, I do attend church. Whenever the Senior
Pastor assigns me to assist with the crusades in the branches, I
will carry out the task with pleasure. Should he require me to
conduct a funeral or render any other service, I gladly assume the
duty. Whenever my services are required at church, I serve with
commitment and humility.’
These encounters led the author to the following conclusions:
• Excommunication has no healing effects in Pentecostal
circles whereas the Gospel of Jesus Christ advocates
restoration.
• Restoration as portrayed in the pastoral care theology
advocated by Gerkin is lacking in Pentecostalism.
• Jesus Christ restored Peter in fullness and even entrusted
him with the task to tend His sheep (Jn 20:16).
Lessons from the real-life stories
As the victims or survivors shared their stories, the author was
taken back to a point in time when he had a similar encounter.
The scars and the marks are as bright as though they happened
yesterday. He was stirred in his spirit to seek for a deeper and
more meaningful way of relating to the realities of his own
nightmares. With empathy, the author identied with the
victims/survivors as he recalled the stripes that Christ bore for
the sole purpose of healing the impact and effects of trauma.
Brown (1992) explains how Niebuhr found solace in the
following statement:
Despite a stroke in 1952 that slowed his pace, he made a two-thirds
comeback and did some of his best work, journalistic and reective,
during the placid 1950s and the stirring 1960s. He produced
more books that elaborated, complemented, and rened themes of
theology and social philosophy set forth in the 1940s.
(Brown 1992:7)
Freedom of conscience has reference not simply to the constitution
of ecclesiastical bodies but also to the unofcial ‘laws of society,’ or
what is called political correctness. Christian conscience is bound
to God and not to the ideologies of a society.
(Leith 1993:205)
All the interviewees indicated that the constitution of the church
was overlooked, not considered or not even available in some
instances. This proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that what
Leith points out is very true, namely that freedom of conscience
has reference not only to the constitution of the church but also
to unofcial unwritten laws. It is this reality that the author
supports. He believes that if one can square one’s shoulders and
dene one’s own role and purpose in life, there is bound not to
be unnecessary squabbles in ecclesiastical gatherings. Instead,
people will leave with an ever-refreshing feeling of hope, like
Niebuhr who was renewed when there seemed to have been no
hope in his state of affairs.
As a result of the impact and effects of trauma resulting from
excommunication, the victims or survivors tend to resort to the
following behavioural mechanisms:
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Withdrawal
There are invaluable lessons Herman (1997:133) points out
regarding the behaviour displaying itself through withdrawal.
He draws the following picture: ‘The core experiences of
psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection
from others.’
It is evident from the above that in psychological trauma
there is not only the disempowerment aspect but there is also
a very critical element known as disconnection from others.
The author aligns himself with this call for a more sensitive
pastoral approach when dealing with victims or survivors of
excommunication. This need is best illustrated by Wimberly
(1999:7): ‘Pastoral counselling embraces a more non judgmental
and accepting attitude while preaching embraces a more moral
perspective in which people are challenged to change their
attitudes.’
It is in the spirit of false acceptance of their own plight that
people such as Abed-Nego are not only disempowered but also
disconnected from others. This is veried by his confession that
he has chosen to be passive in church affairs for a period of 10
years. This disconnection manifests itself through the yielding
he is displaying by believing that it is the meekest, the most
appropriate and humble conduct to be passive in the church.
The author agrees with Wimberly (1999) in this regard that the
kind of pastoral care required is one that will embrace a more
non-judgemental approach so that the victims or survivors of
excommunication will feel both welcome and challenged to
change his or her attitude and live a life connected to others.
Sense of guilt
As a result of the difculty of the excommunication encounter,
one is bound to internalise a sense of guilt. In addressing the
subject of the human nature and destiny, Brown (1992) states,
The Christian understanding of human nature, Niebuhr pointed
out, appreciates the unity of body and soul as part of the goodness
of creation. It further regards the human person as made in the
‘Image of God.’
(Brown 1992:9)
It is in the internalisation of a sense of guilt that one will be
tempted to overlook the reality of the completeness with which
one is created, namely the image of God, against which there is
no gainsaying, including a sense of guilt.
In support of his intention to pursue the course of caring,
Browning (1996:98) states the following: ‘It was from the
beginning a concern to relate theology and social sciences to
inform caring practices in concrete situations.’
In buttressing the trend of thought advocated by Browning
(1996), the author strongly supports the notion of an informed
minister, hence the great need to educate the clergy about the
importance of synthesising theology with other disciplines of
the social sciences. An informed clergy will at least know the
basics of administration, such as reference both to Scripture and
the guiding document of the organisation, in other words their
own church constitution.
With this knowledge will also come sensitivity in dealing with
those deserving of sanction such as excommunication. The
primary objective of excommunication will as such full what
Browning (1996) addresses in the subject of human nature.
Although excommunication is not a desirable course of action,
the ultimate redemptive aim of restoring the beauty of the
image of God in humanity will be appreciated by the victims or
survivors once this practice is carried out in a more responsible
and informed manner, as alluded to by the above authorities.
The author further agrees that a sense of guilt is not natural.
These are hurtful feelings resulting from the imposition of
circumstances.
Extra-cautiousness/-carefulness
There is an English proverb that says, ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’
The implications are that once one has become the prey of
circumstances beyond one’s control or a victim of an unfortunate
situation, an extra measure of caution is likely to be exercised in
all future similar circumstances.
On this subject A.E.S. Wimberly (2005), initially speaking on
account of the youth, says the following:
Given the current context of marketing forces affecting the lives
of our black youth, and the relative impotence of the church to
respond, black youth are left oundering without compass or
rudder.
(A.E.S. Wimberly 2005:43)
In support of A.E.S. Wimberly (2005) view on the forces that
affect the youth, the author would love to agree that a vacuum
exists in the Pentecostal Church, reecting the lack of a rudder,
so much so that the church seems to live in the commercial world
of co modication, addressed at length by A.E.S. Wimberly
(2005:42–43). This oundering in which the church is left due
to the state of ignorance gives birth to the very fear inherent in
the above-quoted proverb, whereby one would be prompted to
exercise extra caution in whatever one does henceforth.
According to Brown (1992:75), ‘The law of human nature is love,
a harmonious relation of lives in obedience to God.’
The author afrms the truth upheld by Brown to the effect that
whereas it is a healthy practice to be cautious, extra-cautiousness
or -carefulness tends to be more of an ailment or abnormality
than normal conduct. This affects and destabilises the leading
of a life in obedience to God. One will automatically start to
live one’s life in abject fear of an unpredictable future, hence
affecting the harmony that should exist in life.
To this end, Oden (2007) proposes a position that should rather
be pursued by the church:
Early African believers gave a lasting gift to world Christianity.
The gift was not given without blood and torture. When the
evidence is rightly digested, which has not yet occurred, it will
again reshape modern African Christian identity and motivation.
(Oden 2007:124)
The author endorses Oden’s (2007) opinion that as a way of
resuscitating the belief the early African martyrs upheld, it is
incumbent upon those who would love to stand for the truth to
commit themselves to such uncompromisingly, fully knowing
that like our forebears, there is a price of blood and torture
to bear. It is in this knowledge and these practices that extra-
cautiousness or -carefulness will be exercised with the joy of
discipleship and boldness.
There is therefore no need to live one’s life in guilt, withdrawal
and self-condemning extra-cautiousness. In the words of Paul,
this truth is reected as follows: ‘There is therefore now no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not
walk according to the esh, but according to the Spirit’ (Rm 8:1).
This scripture clearly shows that the spiritual home and
environment should serve as a place of solace, a shelter for the
homeless and a fortress for the destitute and not as an abattoir
and should enable the victims or survivors of excommunication
to recover from the effects and impact of the resultant trauma.
The world has countless abattoirs in various forms, shapes and
sizes. The church should be a place where all and sundry can
come and enjoy not only fellowship but also the ow of healing
grace she has been bestowed with. The Psalmist draws the
following picture of such companionship anticipated from an
ecclesiastical gathering: ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it
is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ (Ps 133:1).
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The author believes that the brutality of the effects of trauma
needs even more intense attention now than ever before.
This consideration can serve as a platform of healing for the
individual victims or survivors of excommunication, the church
organisations they belong too and their own equally hurt family
members.
CONCLUSION
The author elaborated on the impact and effects of trauma
resulting from excommunication in this article. He analysed
a few biblical eras, namely the time of the prophets in the Old
Testament, the Pauline era and Christ’s era during His earthly
ministry in the New Testament, and the Reformation era, under
Martin Luther in particular. He looked at the agility and courage
Martin Luther displayed against the powers and authorities
of his era. He engaged scholastic approaches in the subject of
trauma and its effects on the behavioural patterns of the victim/
survivor.
The term pastoral is considerably more than an adjective referring
to the clergy. Although in the various Christian traditions there
have been a number of meanings for the term, most of those
meanings have involved either a pastoral ‘attitude’ or pastoral
‘accountability’. The pastoral attitude, perspective, or way of
looking at things has most often been interpreted through the use
of the biblical image of the shepherd.... Thus when the term pastoral
is used in some contexts it inevitably means an attitude of care
and concern.
(Patton 1990:64–65)
The author believes that every single person who goes through
the test and trial of excommunication actually shakes the
mountain where Christ was crucied once again. The author
looked at real encounters with excommunication. He journeyed
through real-life stories, employing the Wimberlys (2007) art of
story-telling, about which they say the following:
As part of sharing stories of our lives as clergy family members,
it is important to create a safe space within which persons can
experience catharsis. Cathartic moments are occasions when we
feel freed to unburden ourselves by ‘telling it like it is’.
(Wimberly & Wimberly 2007:43)
The author shares the belief of the Wimberlys (2007) that the
telling of the story should not be sanctioned by any external
stimuli if it is to have the desired therapeutic results. This has
been proven to be true with the interviewees who shared their
moments of undiluted pain as they expressed the effects and the
impact of trauma resulting from excommunication.
The crux of the matter was reached when real stories were
shared. These were emotional moments, bearing real-time
lessons. They left indelible marks and brought back to life the
experience the author once went through while at the same time
they served as what Kalsched (1998) describes as follows:
Archetypal defences, then, allow for survival at the expense of
individuation. They assure the survival of the person, but at the
expense of personality development.
(Kalsched 1998:38)
This behaviour was noticed very clearly in the life of Abed-Nego,
who lived in denial of the reality that he was actually hurting,
hence his withdrawal from all church activities except when his
services were invited. This is a clear indication of the survival
of the person at the expense of personality development, as
pointed out by Kalsched above.
There is therefore a burden resting upon the Pentecostal
movement to revisit its method of excommunication since the
current practice seems to be doing more harm than good. The
effects and the impact of trauma currently experienced by the
victims or survivors of excommunication cannot be adequately
described in any terms.
The lesson that needs to be learnt by all those who call upon the
name of the Lord, including Pentecostals, is described by Gerkin
(1997) in the following way:
More than any other image, we need to have written on our hearts
the image most clearly and powerfully given to us by Jesus, of
the pastor as the shepherd of the ock of Christ. Admittedly, this
image originated in a time and place in which the shepherd was a
common-place gure, and we live in a social situation in which
shepherding is as scarcely known, even marginalized vocation.
(Gerkin 1997:80)
The author strongly supports the notion of the pastor as a
shepherd upheld by both Gerkin (1997) and Patton (1990). This
concept and practice provide the desired healing when the
impact of trauma cannot be addressed in any other possible
human way.
This article went on to discuss story-telling as a pivotal practice.
Unmasking was introduced as a way of venting hidden hurts.
The concept of the mythology that every individual and family
need to have was discussed at length. It emerged in the strongest
terms, nally, that the effects and impact of trauma leave an
indelible mark on individuals.
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... Individuals who are rejected by the collective find this state as quite distressful. The experience of ex-communication has been found to be very negative in a large number of studies and also found to have implications for the health and wellbeing of individuals(Bloom, White & Asher, 1979;Kubeka & Masango, 2010;Major & O'Brien, 2005;Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002). It affects the whole being of an individual, his perceptions, cognitions, emotions and in fact, his overall behaviour.Ravi (2007) presents an interesting analysis of 'metissage'( racial and cultural mixing) based on novels written by three mixed race individuals, a Franco-Vietnamese, Mauritian-Creole and Vietnamese-Senegalese, in societies in which race is considered an essential category and mixed-race individuals, whether male or female, are considered inferior objects. ...
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This chapter undertakes a conceptual analysis of the relationship between the individual and the collective with a view to understanding the processes and conditions, which bring about ‘unity’ of the two within diverse cultures. The individual is seen as being constituted by several types of selves, which seek unity with several types of collectives. The chapter discusses the processes and factors that explain how a collective comes to inhabit the individual, and individual the collective. Another question that is examined is how certain processes and cultural contexts create permeable and impermeable boundary conditions between self and the other, between the individual and the collective. The chapter draws from the discourses and approaches in disciplines other than psychology.
... According to Hanneki (1998:91), Mpiyakhe and Maake (2010), both Old and the New Testaments show that God champions and cares for the poor in a very special way. When Israel was an insignificant, enslaved nation in Egypt, subject to oppression and poverty, God revealed himself to Moses in verse 8 to 'rescue' the Israelites and take them to a 'land of promise'. ...
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The derivation of the name Moses from the Egyptian vocabulary and the divergence of the Moses legend from all others support the hypothesis that Moses was an Egyptian. If Moses was an Egyptian, he may well have been a monotheistic worshiper of Aton, a man of status who lost power with the overthrow of the 18th dynasty and of Ikhnaton, and who chose the Hebrews in Egypt as his people in order to promote his religion and found a new nation. Freud suggests such a hypothetical historical account as likely from the psychoanalytic implications of the legend of Moses and of the belief of the Jews that they are the chosen people. Freud also considers the possibility that Moses was murdered during the course of the Exodus, and he reasons that the Levite priests kept alive the legend, compromised with the followers of Jahve but kept the practice of circumcision and gradually made Jahve over into the God of Moses. Thus Moses created the Jewish character by giving the Jews a religion which heightened their self-confidence, kept them segregated, and opened the way to intellectual attainments by requiring further instinctual renunciations. These effects were produced only after a very long period and in a fashion analogous to the return of the repressed in the life of a neurotic. Freud considers the hatred toward the Jews to be a hatred toward Christianity displaced to the people who historically gave Christianity to the world. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Controversy forced Luther into a confessional position which history has hardened almost into a kind of denominationalism. The subsequent rise of the ‘Lutheran’ Church, and of ‘Lutheran’ theology, owing to Luther's excommunication and his exclusion from the Roman Catholic Church, have contributed to a general acceptance of this evaluation. Save for a few distinguished Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars, who have worked on the sources and allow Luther to speak for himself, most historians, and certainly the general reader, work on the assumption that Luther is such a ‘confessional’ figure. To find a truer understanding of Luther, of what he was concerned to say to the Church of his day, it is necessary to detach him from this confessional, denominational location by setting him in the Catholic environment in which he was born, in which he was educated, and to which he felt called by God to speak the Word of God. He should be seen as a reformer of a Catholicism which had largely become de-spiritualised and secularised. He offered a reformatio of that which had suffered a de-formatio, and did so for the sake of God, propter deum, as he put it. He sought only to reform a Catholicism which he loved, and to reform it, not as he thought fit, but according to the intent of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, and that on the lines of solid biblical scholarship, authentic tradition and fair argument.