I did not want this comment to be lost in the shuffle.
This is interesting. Darryl, what you say makes sense in the context we live. Our churches are like regional centers. People travel from miles around to gather to worship in our conservative Reformed and Presbyterian Churches. But this is a unique, and maybe unfortunante, aspect of our present setting.
What if our congregations served our neighborhoods, villages, ect. What if our neighbors where also members of our congregation. What if we all moved into the same neighborhood or village. How would this change the dynamic.
By your agreement, the Session would be answer many questions that were not â€œspiritualâ€ in nature. The courts of the church would be a parallel court of originial jurisdiction not under the authority of the magistrate. Such courts would have a significant limiting impact on the civil courts, no? Set in an earlier context this explains the rise of canon law over against the civil law. At the very least this represents a Christian limitation on the soverignty of the state but it also implys that the church will have to deal with many â€œsecularâ€ issues.
I wonder if this change of context has caused the office confusion of the last three decades. What is the role lay elders if the church us purely spiritual and not also an incarnate community?