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"None To Haunt, Frequent, Nor Intercommon With Them." The Problem Of Excommunication In The Scottish Kirk

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Chapter Summary

Excommunication was rarely used by either session or presbytery to enforce compliance to the strict moral and doctrinal standards of the Reformed church in Scotland. In part their reluctance reflects their desire to avoid the proclivity of the pre-Reformation church to excommunicate for minor offenses, often for profit. But the records of Perth's session and the Perth presbytery for the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries suggest that two other factors were important. First, elders and presbyters saw the penalty as appropriate only as a last resort; instead, they went to great lengths to persuade offenders to repent, even if years of effort were required. Secondly, they were clearly horrified by the severity of penalty, since exclusion from communion also required, in effect, banishment from the neighborhood- a measure both socially devastating and difficult to enforce in a society in which the traditional bonds of kin and community were strong.

Keywords: excommunication; Perth presbytery; Reformed church; Scotland



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