Healing the Wounded: The Costly Love of Church Discipline, by John White and Ken Blue (InterVarsity Press, 1985, 238 pp.; $11.95, cloth). Reviewed by W. Ward Gasque, vice-principal and professor of New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Corrective church discipline seems to have gone the way of the horse and buggy. The idea calls up images of strict Anabaptists attempting to keep their families from being corrupted by things like fancy cars, TV, and colorful clothing. Or worse—some poor pregnant teenager being made a spectacle in the name of church purity.

Corrective church discipline has, on occasion, been taken to ridiculous extremes of complexity. For example, in the mid-third century, Christians who committed certain sins were ordered to stand outside the church during its services and weep. Others had to kneel among the standing congregation. And still others could join in the service, but could not partake of Communion. Some, though truly repentant, had to wait years before they could enjoy full fellowship.

The other extreme, of course, is laxity—the more common fault in the North American church.

Sometimes we neglect the responsibility of corrective church discipline because of past abuse. At other times we neglect it because we have given in to modern individualism that says such interference in the life of another is totally unwarranted. Some churches expect sound preaching to do the job. Others treat discipline as a purely personal matter, claiming that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can correct.

Many Christians simply fear confrontation. It is awkward, to say the least, and it could lead to a breach in the congregation and a loss of members and financial support.

And many fail to grasp the seriousness of sin. We recognize the need to confront sins such as murder, theft, and homosexual practice, but we tolerate materialism, pride, gossip, and sowing discord among brethren.

Taking Aim

Yet John White and Ken Blue argue convincingly that to be biblical and healthy, a church must take Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings on church discipline seriously.

According to White and Blue, the church has often erred in the past by limiting discipline’s purpose to purifying the church and restoring the fallen believer. They argue for two more aims: reconciliation and freedom.

“Christ died and rose that we might be reconciled to God and to one another. Church discipline must aim at reconciliation among brethren,” they say.

Christ also died to set us free from bondage, guilt, and feelings of guilt. Therefore, “Corrective discipline when properly carried out should set us free from every fear save the fear of God and the fear of sin.”

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In focusing on reconciliation and freedom, we recognize that membership in the Christian community entails a covenant relationship, joint responsibility in one another’s lives. Only when we keep all four goals—purity, restoration, reconciliation, and freedom—in view and in proper priority, will the church function as God intended.

Practical And Honest

White and Blue’s expositions of the passages dealing with church discipline are a helpful blend of careful exegesis and contemporary application. The book is replete with practical illustrations. Many of these may shock readers who are not ready to be honest with themselves about what goes on—and is swept under the carpet—in their own churches.

The authors believe the key to applying corrective discipline lies in recognizing that the whole church—not just the pastor or elders—shares responsibility for it. Leaders cannot do the work themselves; in fact, when they try to impose discipline “from the top,” it often fails.

It is only when the entire body gets involved, confronting sin, hearing confessions, and affirming forgiveness, that the church will remain healthy. The best setting for this congregational care, the authors suggest, is the small house group.

By taking a fresh look at this urgent subject, White and Blue lay a foundation for countering the frequent allegation that most churches differ little in quality of relationships from that of ordinary social or service clubs. Healing the Wounded challenges the status quo with courage and pastoral wisdom. It is essential reading for all pastors and church leaders.

Sanctuary: A Resource Guide for Understanding and Participating in the Central American Refugees’ Struggle, edited by Gary MacEoin (Harper, 1985, 217 pp.; $7.95, paper). Reviewed by Andres Tapia, a Latin American journalist who works for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

Santana Chirino Amaya, a Salvadorian, entered the United States illegally at Laredo, Texas. He was picked up by immigration officials and deported in June 1981. Two months later, on August 29, his corpse was found not far from his home. Chirino’s body was covered with cigarette burns, his legs were tied with wire, and he had been decapitated.

To prevent this from happening to others, the authors of Sanctuary advocate smuggling such refugees to safety and harboring them in church buildings. According to this book, the civil war in El Salvador that has left 55,000 dead and the iron fist of the Guatemalan army are forcing people like Santana Chirino to flee their homes and seek refuge in El Norte. In order to abide by both international and domestic law, the authors say, the United States should grant these people political asylum.

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However, opponents of the sanctuary movement argue that these are not political refugees, but illegal immigrants in search of better economic opportunities than those in their homelands. And therefore, they are not eligible for asylum. Says Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state-designate for inter-American affairs, “The evidence is simply not there that most Salvadorans in this country are refugees.”


Since 1982 an increasing number of people, including the authors of Sanctuary, has become convinced that the U.S. government is biased against Central American refugees because they are fleeing governments supported by the current administration. (Sanctuary’s authors may have a point: 97.5 percent of the Salvadorians and 99.6 percent of the Guatemalans seeking asylum in 1984 were sent back, whereas 35 percent of Afghans and 70 percent of Poles seeking asylum were refused.) Slowly, there emerged an underground network dedicated to smuggling Central Americans to safe places in the United States and Canada.

At first, Uncle Sam did little to thwart this grassroots movement. But as activity increased, he threw down the gauntlet. On January 14, 1985, 16 sanctuary workers were indicted on several counts of smuggling and harboring illegal aliens. (The trial for 11 of them began October 22.)

Coincidentally, the first Inter-American Symposium on Sanctuary convened a few days after the indictments were handed down. And in Sanctuary, a compilation of papers derived from the symposium, the movement makes its case. This is a landmark book, a sanctuary-movement manifesto. To review it is to review the movement.

Sanctuary’s contributors include such luminaries as Holocaust historian Elie Wiesel, Berkeley ethicist Robert McAfee Brown, Sojourners editor Jim Wallis, activist minister William Sloane Coffin, as well as Jim Corbett, one of the 11 standing trial, and some Latin American activists.

Examining The Evidence

One of the sanctuary movement’s weaknesses is the lack of hard evidence that many who have been sent back have been killed. A 1983 ACLU study concluded that up to 113 deportees may have been either killed or persecuted by the Salvadorian government. They admit, however, that in only 25 cases do they have a better than average possibility of a match. Furthermore, they were not able to establish a single positive identification of a deportee as a human rights victim. In addition, U.S. State Department studies in El Salvador have found no evidence of mistreatment.

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But for those in the movement, the lack of statistical evidence is a moot issue. Says a Christian nursing student who has transported refugees: “All you have to do to be convinced that their lives are in danger is hear their stories and see the scars on their bodies.”

Some refugees tell their frightening stories in the book. Furthermore, some Sanctuary authors say, there is enough circumstantial evidence that lives are in danger that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. Writes James Nickel of the University of Colorado: “It’s better that many fleeing poverty be admitted than that one refugee fleeing persecution be sent back.”

Charles Troutman, former general director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, retired in Tucson where he has been active in the sanctuary movement. Troutman, who also served with the Latin America Mission in Costa Rica, says, “It is sheer nonsense to say that in El Salvador and Guatemala they are fleeing for economic reasons.”

Sanctuary opponents accuse its workers of using the refugee issue to protest U.S. policy in Central America. Most of Sanctuary’s writers don’t deny this. Coffin writes, “We simply have to change U.S. policy there.” Most feel that as U.S. citizens they have a moral responsibility to assist those fleeing Central America because U.S. actions and policies have contributed to the strife that drives people from their homes. Says Troutman, “If we weren’t supporting those governments, we would be accepting these people.”

Religious Phenomenon

The most striking aspect of the sanctuary movement is that it is primarily a religious phenomenon, not a political one. In a recent issue of Esquire, David Quammen writes, “Religious people are doing these things—smuggling, harboring—for religious reasons. The proportion of secular humanists, agnostic liberals, political radicals of the Old and New Left variety is startlingly low. What you have are nuns, priests, ministers, devout Quakers, rabbis, … most of whom sound quite convincing when they explain that abandoning refugees would be equivalent to abandoning their faith.” Over 200 churches have declared themselves sanctuaries and another 1,000 are aiding the movement.

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The Christians involved have to face the issue of civil disobedience. Most would agree with Troutman when he says, “It has to be done. These people are fleeing political persecution, so we have decided to obey God rather than man. It’s that simple.”

The nursing student agrees: “If my desire were just to change U.S. policy in Central America I could simply write to my Representative or join a protest march. Why risk going to jail or losing my citizenship? I want to see God’s justice more than I want to see political change.”

Biblical Base?

Sanctuary’s writers draw on two biblical concepts to make their case. The first, the establishment of sanctuary cities in Old Testament Israel, is a theologically weak argument. These “cities of refuge” were established to protect those who had accidentally killed someone from their victim’s friends and relatives. This is quite different from the purpose of today’s sanctuary network.

(More accurate historical parallels are the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, the smuggling of Jewish refugees during World War II—or even the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt.)

However, the second biblical concept—to love the stranger, to care for the weak and poor—is harder to ignore. The bottom line, beyond the political, economic, and immigration policy issues, is the individual who is seeking help. Can we turn our backs? Those in the sanctuary movement have decided they cannot.

Using Psychology in the Church, by Donald Ratcliff (Alpha Editions, Burgess Publishing Co., 1984, 130 pp.; $11.15, paper). Reviewed by Harold W. Darling, professor of psychology, Spring Arbor College.

Psychology can be used to the glory of God. And Toccoa Falls College professor Donald Ratcliff shows us how, by applying psychology sensitively and effectively to a wide variety of church ministries. He involves readers directly by blending factual information with questions (which readers are expected to grapple with and respond to, comparing their responses to the author’s) and application sections (where the learner deals with intensely practical issues).

Sandwiched between a helpful chapter entitled “Introducing Psychology” and a short, but effective conclusion are chapters on motivation, biological psychology, learning, memory, intelligence, perception, development, personality, abnormal psychology, counseling, and social psychology.

In the appendix, Ratcliff shows his ability to apply his ideas. He includes his own research projects on behavior modification in the Sunday school, personal evangelism, test anxiety, and self-change.

Christians are expected to maintain a difficult stance in ministry—one arm extended vertically to receive from God wisdom, power, love, and insight; and the other arm extended horizontally to channel that which we have received to the lives of others. Future and present Christian workers alike will find this volume helpful as they equip themselves to reach up and reach out.

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