Can EPC Congregations Renounce Jurisdiction?
No, they cannot. Sorta.
This will be my final post for awhile on EPC-polity insider baseball. I can’t keep boring all of my half-dozen readers.
The context and explanation of this question and answer are important for EPC polity. The “renunciation of jurisdiction” is a constitutional principle of the EPC that is a natural consequence of our ecclesiology. Courts of the church (Sessions, Presbyteries, the General Assembly) have spiritual jurisdiction over their constituents (members of the local church, pastors and churches of the presbytery, the presbyteries of the church; BoG 16-2, BoD 1-11, 4-2.) Each court only has authority – which is spiritual in nature and only relates to the function of the court – over the people that belong to it. So local church X does not have authority over the worship and membership of local church Y. Nor does local church X have authority over people who are not members or participants in its worship.
This is relevant to the issue of church discipline. A local church may only exercise discipline over people within its jurisdiction: members and participants in the life of the congregation. But the EPC is not a cult; no one is ever compelled to remain a member of an EPC congregation…