Culture of litigation infects the Church
Acton Institute Powerblog

Culture of litigation infects the Church

The current issue of Christianity Today magazine examines the lack of discipline in evangelical churches, and is presenting the themed articles in a series on its website. The litigious nature of American culture has become one of the great contributing factors to the decline of church discipline.

A brief article by Ken Sande, an attorney who serves as president of Peacemaker Ministries, testifies to this reality. In “Keeping the Lawyers at Bay,” Sande writes that one way to combat the tendency for members to sue the church or its leadership is for the pastor to “obtain ‘informed consent’ from your congregation for your disciplinary practices…. This requires that all members be fully informed of your disciplinary policies and agree to submit to those policies.”

A key part of this “informed consent” is for the pastor to “ask all members to sign a written covenant that makes reference to your disciplinary commitments. Although a written agreement is not required, it makes proving informed consent easier, and gives you something to fax to a threatening attorney to show him that this is a case he probably can’t win.” I wonder how many of us would balk if our pastor approached us with something like this?

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.