In the event that the ministry decides somebody needs to be punished by excommunication they will ask members to remain seated after church while all non members are dismissed. The sinner is called out by name and his sin publicly announced. He is then asked to leave the room while everyone votes whether or not they agree that he should be excommunicated. The two ministers walk around the room pausing in front of each member so they can whisper their vote into his ear. Choices were:
- Yes, I agree. God's blessings wished.
- No, I don't agree.
- Leaving the decision up to the church. God's blessings wished.
After all the votes have been taken the ministers return to their seats and announce what the votes had been, and the offender is asked to come back inside where he sits in front of the ministers. The bishop then tells him that the church agreed to his punishment, reads 1 Corinthians 5, and then proceeds to give him over to Satan. He is then required to leave the room immediately, while the bishop talks a little more about the seriousness of what just occurred.
During the next six weeks the excommunicated person can not eat with anyone, no one is allowed to take anything from his hand, or do any business with him. They are encouraged to be kind to him though, they will fill his plate with food and serve him, he can't sit at the same table as the rest of his family, but a few inches away where he can still be included in conversation.
After those six weeks are over he is reinstated into the church, if proper repentance is evident. Most times it is, because nothing is as terrifying as the thought of dying during that time and being lost forever.
If someone leaves the Amish they excommunicate them. For most Amish churches that means unless they return to the Amish church there is no hope for them.
The community we lived in when we left was a little different, they remove the excommunication if the ex-Amish join a church they somewhat approve of. We do not believe they have power to give our soul to Satan, and never worried about what would happen if we died, but after four years we decided to move to the church they okayed, for family reasons. We are no longer excommunicated, which makes it ever so much nicer when we visit our Amish families.