of Church Discipline
OF DISSOLVING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN A PASTOR AND HIS CHURCH
1. The connection between a pastor and his church is very binding, not unlike that between man and wife, and, like that, it should not be dissolved for every cause.
2. A manifest and material breach, however, of the contract between them, will justify a separation.
3. To which we may add one cause more; i.e. when variance, disagreement, animosity, and ill-will, take place between them, or between him and many of them, to such a degree as to preclude a rational prospect of his future usefulness among them.7
4. In this case it will not be very material, as to the separation, who may be to blame. Nor will a majority, even a pretty large one, in the minister?s favour, make it prudent for him to continue, any more than it would justify his first settlement, among them, Acts 22, 18.
5. As a pastor in such circumstances ought not to stay among them in support of a party, so neither ought he to run away from them, nor yet should they use harsh measures with him: but matters of difference ought to be first accommodated in the best manner they can, that they may part in love so far as may be.
6. For this purpose, it will be necessary to call a council from a neighbouring church or churches, the very same, if they can be had, as were witnesses of the settlement.
7. At this meeting, peace and an accommodation of all matters of variance should be laboured after, that the pastor may be dismissed and recommended in as respectful a manner as circumstances will admit, in order that his character may not suffer abroad more than need be, nor his usefulness elsewhere be prevented.
8. Should the church prove refractory, and in their ill-humour, refuse to give the pastor such a character and dismission as he deserves, the council may and ought to give him, from under their hands, a brief statement of matters in variance, together with their opinion, and such a recommendation as they can answer for to God and their own consciences.
9. If convenient, public worship may close the meeting.
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