Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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What is the excommunication procedure for the oriental orthodox churches? Do they practice shunning? Would anyone be expected to shun family members whom they rely on? Thanks.

The procedure for excommunication requires a thorough and just review and evaluation by a clergical delegation. A comprehensive report then follows and is presented for further deliberation by the Holy Synod. It is not an easy matter. The Church desires to bring all her children to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. When family members stray, we ought to help them repent and ask the Church for prayers and solicit the aid of the clergy and the Church servants. Despite these efforts, if the person insists on practices that are misleading to others and rejects the counsel of the Church, then family members are not obliged to keep close familial ties.

In chapter 5 of his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul mentions one who strayed and committed sexual immorality with his father's wife. He instructed the church at Corinth to reject such a person from the congregation in order to eradicate this notoriously flawed and spiritually destructive practice. When he refers to a "brother", St. Paul is referring to a church member, and not someone who is an unbeliever and is, therefore, not obliged under the same standard of Christian conduct.

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortionerónot even to eat with such a person" (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Shunning in itself is unacceptable as a form of public humiliation and rejection of a sinner who admits his sins. Excommunication is a process of the strictest discipline to admonish any person that deliberately teaches, practices, and persuades others of his erroneous beliefs. Thus, the Church takes a stand to prevent the spread of such behavior.

"Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6)?

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 2, St. Paul revisits the scandal of this same person who was mentioned in 1 Corinthians who had an affair with his fatherís wife. St. Paul teaches the church how to restore such a penitent. The ultimate goal is repentance and restoration. Many times people are overwhelmed with grief when they sin. St. Paul instructs the church at Corinth to be ready to accept the penitent with love even if he committed grave sins so that Satan would not ridicule this person with more shame that he does not seek repentance but rather falls deeper into despair.

ďBut if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent-not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

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