This is Josephine King. She is a 92 year old shut-in that has been removed from the membership roll at her local Baptist church, where she has been a member for over 50 years. According to a letter she received, signed by the pastor, she has been non-supportive in the areas of “constant and consistent financial and physical participation.” Did I mention she was 92 years old? You can read the full story here.
On the one hand: Every local Baptist church, even those in the Southern Baptist Convention, are for the most part autonomous. If they have a written policy outlining what one must do to become and remain a member, such as be physically present and pay a regular tithe, then they are well within their rights to remove her from fellowship. It is the responsibility of each member to know and abide by the institution’s rules and regulations whether the rest of us agree or not. There is not – nor should there be – any state board or denominational council that can force a local church to change their policy on membership.
On the other hand: This is the kind of thing that would have Jesus flipping over tables and declaring woe unto the Pharisees. This is exactly the kind of thing going on that caused Jesus to say “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Luke 11:42
Now, I am not in a position to go that church and tell them they are wrong. But as a leader in my own church I will point to this example and say “We will never do that.” And if I were a church member and not in a leadership role, I would go to the leadership and say “Would our church ever do this?” If so I would look for another church to join.
If this woman lived closer to us than Baibridge I would call and invite her to our church. And offer her a ride. I wonder if anyone in her church ever thought of that.