My son’s podcast out of First Methodist discussed church discipline, which got me thinking, and I recalled a couple of incidents. I am obscuring the details, which is especially important as I may have some of them wrong anyway. I was not directly involved in either. Two women who were pillars of their church were in ongoing argument that was disrupting the congregation’s ability to do ministry. I don’t know if communion was ever denied, or if it was just that the pastor sat them down and said he would henceforth deny communion if they did not reconcile, but it apparently worked. A later pastor identified the act as a turning point in the seriousness of the church and the growth of its ministries.
There was a couple in the church, both successful and prominent – one locally, one statewide – who were living together unmarried and wanted to join the church. This was denied until after they married, at which point they reapplied and were accepted. Interestingly, they were not denied communion during this period. The reasoning, as it came to me secondhand, was that the Lord’s Supper is a point in time. One’s approach to the sacrament extends back in time, so that it is also part of a week or a season, but one’s attitude at the moment of partaking cannot be known to the pastor or congregation. In contrast, both marriage and joining the church are products of lifetime decisions and involve ongoing intentionality. Membership and communion were not being judged as greater or lesser than the other, but along different axes. I don’t know if those are the answers I would come up with, but I at least see the reasoning.