Excommunication literally means 'out of communion' and is the removal of a member from standing in a church body. Excommunication is a drastic step that may result in cutting ties with other members of that church as well. In the Roman Catholic Church, to be excommunicated mainly results in being prohibited from receiving the sacraments (but not removed from the jurisdiction of the Church). If certain conditions are met, the order may later be lifted.
The concept of excommunication is discussed in the New Testament and was made famous during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods in references to the Catholic Church. It continues to be practised into the 21st century. It is also utilized by churches such as the Conservative Mennonites, Amish, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The former two practice 'shunning' and the Witnesses refer to their practice as 'disfellowshipping'.