I wrote a question which was downvoted probably for multiple reasons. I personally suffer from selective attention (hyperfocussing and the opposite thereof) and poor planning abilities due to ADHD, so I do sometimes struggle to see the woods for the trees, am not that savvy or sensible, and due to this I think I need extra patience in helping me to reformat the question. I was advised to split the question up to avoid conflating the issues and casting some of the people/organisations involved in the question in an overly harsh light. I appreciate that you should ask a question in a constructive way although at the back of my mind I still want to avoid isolating questions from their context, making them sound contrived or uninteresting. Is this the right place to talk about reformatting the question into multiple questions? I made a google doc (original) of the multiple draft questions which I could insert here if appropriate.

Edit: I have written a some draft questions, the first in line of which I thought I should run past you guys before dropping it on the Q&A. I appreciate asking whether the practice of shunning occurs in a specific denomination might not really provide moral or intellectual instruction as such (although a discussion of the real-world effectiveness/outcomes of shunning would probably be, if there is any literature on the topic). However it is a highly relevant and consequential question for me and probably for others. (I think of it this way: like Christian Stackexchange, the academic Warren Throckmorten on his blog would prefer to address controversial evangelical practices in quite an oblique way, conversely zeroing in on things like plagiarism in Mars Hill rather than the dark and controversial sides of it like shunning. However the most important study of Mars Hill, the mammoth podcast series by Christianity Today, did prefer to tackle the controversial issue of shunning head-on, which reduced the edifying nature of the podcast but made it more consequential.) I am in no way suggesting Vineyard is anything like Mars Hill, it is just my analogy and impression of the situation here which stands to be corrected if necessary.

NB, I am not super-fussed about the grounds for shunning where it occurs (see the documentary which I linked to in the comments if you have any doubts that I am sincere in my line of enquiry about being primarily interested by the severity of church discipline or whatever the correct term may be), but in the case of Vineyard the only publicly reported cases of shunning happen to concern LGBT persons.

Here is my proposed question:

The following are excerpts from Vineyard USA’s 2014 position paper, “Pastoring LGBT persons”.

A humble tone, which acknowledges ambiguity, as well as the reality of profoundly difficult pastoral situations, and looks to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and direction goes to the heart of the Vineyard’s approach to pastoring people. Another way to put it is that pastoring LGBT people always involves a communication of our common humanity with those whom we are pastoring.

Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, put it this way:

"It is normal for human beings (whose hearts are always seeking to justify themselves and who are always trying to make the case that they are one of the “good guys”) to divide the world into the good and the bad. If, however, everyone is naturally alienated from God and therefore “evil,” then that goes for everyone from murderers to ministers. The biblical teaching on sin shows us the complete pervasiveness of sin and the ultimate impossibility of dividing the world neatly into sinful people and good people. It eliminates our attitude of superiority toward others and our practices of shunning or excluding those with whom we differ."

So pastoral care does not mean that we never call sin in others “sin,” but it does mean that we never simply see sin as dividing others from us. Rather, the line of sin runs right through the center of our own hearts. - Page 13


Perhaps an illustration would help. Imagine an old Gothic cathedral with stained glass windows. Outside the cathedral, the windows look gray and cloudy. The picture in the window is incomprehensible. But when one steps inside the cathedral, the picture in the window comes to life. One says, “Ah, there is Jesus teaching from a boat in the Sea of Galilee, or there is a portrait of the Risen Christ.” Only inside of a Christian worldview do statements by Christians about sex and sexual morality make sense. Thus, it is wise for a Christian to never offer “sound bites” about same-sex relationships. They are almost certainly going to be misunderstood outside the cathedral. Unless the questioner is willing to engage in a wide-ranging conversation about God, marriage, sin and its effects, and salvation, Christians should simply decline to offer a few sentences about sex or homosexuality, in particular, to the media, on the web, or even in a sermon. The audience will not understand it.

Further, when sex outside of heterosexual marriage is condemned without a broader conversation, regarding the Gospel and how Jesus is good news for all, and without a tone of deep humility and deep apprehension of our own sin, people reasonably hear several things:

First, they hear that a person who does have sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a disgusting person, who deserves to be shunned by God and the church. Second, they hear that the speakers believe themselves to be one of the good people, who is welcomed by God because of their goodness and can self-righteously look down on others. - Page 14

The authors don’t seem to have any positive attitude toward any shunning or ostracism of LGBT persons in a Vineyard church. I can see a parallel here to Chuck Smith Junior, an important early associate of the Vineyard movement who eventually acquired a negative attitude toward the ostracism (which he played a role in initiating) of one of the founders of the Vineyard movement (relating to a months-long romantic or sexual same-sex relationship whilst in a leadership position).

However, according to the Scottish Daily Record (reliability also analysed by Ad Fontes Media), a trans person was outed and shunned or ostracised in a Vineyard church in late 2021 in Hull, England.

Is the shunning or ostracism of a trans person in a Vineyard church inconsistent with written and unwritten positions on (or attitudes toward) the shunning or ostracism of LGBT persons in the broader Vineyard movement?

The vineyard position paper states

“There is also a disclaimer that needs to be made. While we use the term “LGBT,” this paper does not in fact address the issue of bisexual and transgender relationships. This would have made this document too long.” - Page 11

In the Vineyard movement, can the ostracism of trans persons be justified on any grounds which the ostracism of gay and lesbian persons currently cannot, and what would those grounds be?

  • 2
    I have read both the question and the prepared document and I am still not clear as to the core enquiry that is required to be resolved. The question and the document cover many issues, inter-related, and some of these issues are sensitive, personal and are attached to named individuals. This site answers questions about comparative Christianity, both what is believed by self-identifying Christian groups and what is practiced. My own impression is that multiple questions would be required to be asked from the document, one at a time. Whether this would be edifying is questionable.
    – Nigel J
    May 1, 2023 at 20:27
  • I have (perhaps prematurely) been recommending Vineyard, even though I have only had an outsiders view of that denomination, to someone who has become wary of charismatic denominations due to having been in three where abuse occurred (including this one for over 10 years) but now wants to find a safe one. Having recently read about Frisbee being shunned in the 1980s, I want to know whether shunning sometimes occurs in Vineyard today.
    – novice
    May 1, 2023 at 21:57
  • For me the occurrence of shunning is an important marker of whether church discipline is excessively severe in a denomination, and what the risk is that you could end up subject to excessively controlling behaviour. The Frisbee episode is a case in point of what can go wrong with any church discipline as severe as shunning or ostracism: whether or not anybody who played a big or small role in the discipline at the time knows it, their participation in the shunning can turn into an object of regret later on.
    – novice
    May 1, 2023 at 21:58
  • (Chuck Smith Jr certainly seems to express regret over the whole thing, and Wimber seemed to want to forget all about it judging my his tendency to completely omit any mention of Frisbee from his books.) For Frisbee things didn't get any better as a result of being shunned and he seemed to have gone off the rails into a 'dark period' of bitterness (which Chuck Smith Jr excuses as 'justified bitterness' on reflection).
    – novice
    May 1, 2023 at 21:59
  • I believe shunning (eg refusing to invite someone in for dinner anymore) is not that uncommon in the charismatic movement, and I really want to shield the person I have been recommending Vineyard to from any authoritarian structures, they have been through enough already. That is why I want to know exactly whether or not shunning can occur in Vineyard on a formal or informal basis.
    – novice
    May 1, 2023 at 21:59
  • I also have a consideration that I do not want any denomination which I am recommending to be preaching that LGBT persons who can't or won't change their tendency should be shunned or automatically branded non-Christian (and thereby shunned), because the potential shunning of an LGBT family member (daughter/son, who isn't promiscuous by the way and does wrestle with their orientation) is a realistic and potentially destructive prospect in our specific case which is to be avoided.
    – novice
    May 1, 2023 at 22:26

1 Answer 1


It would be fine to ask any of these questions on this site, but not all at once:

  1. What verified acts the Vineyard church officially made in the past which could be reasonably classified as ostracism or shunning.
  2. What the Vineyard church historically taught/currently teaches its members to do to people under church discipline.
  3. What were the Vineyard church's historical or are their current teachings on matters of sexuality and gender?

But it is important that questions remain respectful and fair. This site on a whole takes an academic tone, and neither questions nor answers should usually sound very emotional. And I'm not saying you're doing this, but we sometimes get people come to this site with an axe to grind, who are here to prove a point more than genuinely learn. Questions that appear to be asked fairly in good faith are usually well received.

Almost all denominations practice some form of church discipline, as it is clearly taught in the scriptures. This usually takes the form of some type of cutting off from the full church community of people in unrepentant sins. Excommunication is one method, which only refers to restricting someone from taking community. Many churches want people under discipline to continue coming along to church services and other events because they want them to continue to hear from the scriptures and come to repentance. But if church leaders believe someone is a danger to community (such as if there are credible accusations of abuse), then they may be excluded from church services or other events. These should not be seen as shunning or ostracism, as they refer to specific contexts, not broader social interactions. To my mind, it should only be classified as shunning if a church says someone not only shouldn't be given communion, not even that they're banned from the Sunday service, but also that they can't be invited to dinner, birthday parties etc. Church discipline is about restricting participation in the public life and activity of the church, whereas shunning is about breaking relationships between people as private individuals. There have been some churches that have or even still do tell their members that they need to do the latter, but they are often regarded as cults.

I took the time to explain that in more detail just to ensure that you're not mixing up church discipline with ostracism. If you write in a way that appears to blur the two then people will probably think your question isn't fair, and so they may downvote it. If you can write in a way that clearly distinguishes the two, then you are more likely to have a good response to your question.

Of course you may believe that church discipline like I described should be classified as ostracism or shunning. If that's the case, you're likely to both be confused when answers on this site treat them as very different things, as well as potentially upsetting large portions of this site's membership who consider church discipline a necessary and loving thing and utterly distinct from the cruel practices of shunning.

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