An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The disciplinary exclusion of a person from receiving communion by competent religious authority. It represents exclusion from the corporate life of the church. Excommunication was intended to encourage repentance and not meant to be a punishment. The Prayer Book Disciplinary Rubrics for the Holy Eucharist provide that if the priest “knows that a person who is living a notoriously evil life intends to come to Communion,” the priest shall tell the person not to come to communion until the person “has given clear proof of repentance and amendment of life.” Similarly, the priest shall not allow those who have wronged their neighbors and are a scandal to the other members of the congregation to receive communion “until they have made restitution for the wrong they have done, or have at least promised to do so.” When there is hatred between members of the congregation, the priest shall deny communion to those who refuse to forgive. If one side is open to forgiveness and the other refuses forgiveness, the priest shall allow those who “desire and promise to make up for their faults” to receive communion. The priest shall refuse to allow “those who are stubborn” (BCP, p. 409). These rubrics are a modern language version of disciplinary rubrics in the 1549 Prayer Book. The 1662 BCP added the requirement that the Bishop be notified within 14 days of an excommunication. This safeguard against unwarranted excommunication is continued in the 1979 BCP. It states that in all cases of excommunication the priest must notify the bishop within 14 days, “giving the reasons for refusing Communion.” In pastoral practice, the disciplinary rubric for excommunication is rarely used. Penitent persons at the point of death may not be refused communion.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.