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Church Discipline at 2BC by Andrew Nash

A few weeks ago, my family and I went out for dinner at Conrad’s Restaurant and Alehouse here in Liberty, where we chanced upon a group of church members eating dinner. It struck me then that if this scene had taken place in the first 75 years of Second Baptist’s history, then we would all likely be headed for church discipline for being seen in a “saloon.”

Church discipline was a recurring subject for the church in the 1800s. Members were expected to attend church regularly, support the church financially, and abide by certain standards of living in the community. When there was a reason to believe there was a need for discipline, then the violators were called before the church.

In some cases, we don’t know much. Church histories note an incident in 1897 mention an ordained minister with “gross immoral conduct” who was in the county jail. The church removed his name from the church rolls and demanded he gives up his credentials as a minister (Adrian Lamkin, p. 98). 

Other cases were more benign and come across as a bit funny in the modern era. 

One man was called before the church for “disorderly conduct in betting, swearing and un-Christian life.” He admitted to using “unguarded language” and betting on the most recent election. He begged for — and received — the church’s forgiveness (Lamkin, p. 98). 

My favorite story of church discipline from our history is the story of Williams Pitts in July 1878. Rumors had flown of his “unchristian” conduct and that he hadn’t kept the Sabbath holy. 

A committee met with him sometime in the next few months and reported in November of that year. Pitts admitted that on Sundays, he would “[ride] out in the country,” but he didn’t think it was harmful since he often went to church in the country. 

He also admitted to an incident when he had “gone calling” with a friend who had a bottle of peach brandy (gasp!). This friend drank from the bottle against Pitts’ wishes (double gasp!). The committee accepted this explanation and dismissed the whole case (Lamkin, p. 78). 

So next time you run into a church member at a place alcohol is served, be thankful that you likely won’t have to appear before the church to explain your behavior. 

Andrew Nash is curating our latest church history publication which will be released in November 2018. You can pre-order your copy here or in the Welcome Center on the first or third Sunday of the month.