Another “Associate Pastor” Announces Departure from Midway Amidst Growing Division

The Session told you they needed 3 additional pastoral votes. 2 depart shortly after.

In an announcement issued on December 6, 2021, Teaching Elder David Barry announced his departure from Midway Presbyterian Church. He announced that another congregation in Florida has voted to call him as their pastor. TE Barry now joins TE Knox in departing Midway shortly after being elevated to the role of Associate Pastor from that of Assistant via controversial procedures that have set the church ablaze with division.

Can anyone blame TE Knox for resigning or TE Barry for finding a call elsewhere? Midway is a mess.

Harder to Restore Peace than to Destroy it

Readers may recall that in 2020 the Session in effect appointed itself as a pulpit committee to propose pastoral candidates (including TEs Knox and Barry) to the congregation. In several rulings, the Northwest Georgia Presbytery and its judicial commissions have determined that the constitution of the church (the PCA Book of Church Order) was violated in how the Session pursued this maneuver condemning it saying:

“BCO 20-2 directs the church to elect a pulpit committee. In effect, the session elected itself as a pulpit committee and thus took away the congregation’s constitutional privilege to determine the pulpit committee. This muting of the congregation’s constitutionally given voice is a theme in the actions of the session.We note that the respondents for the session expressed concern in their brief that a pulpit committee could make choices contrary to the majority will of the session. This suggests to us that the choice to avoid a pulpit committee was, at least in part, a maneuver to control congregational input in the process of electing three associate pastors. The congregation must be allowed to decide which pastor, or pastors, is “most suited to be profitable to the spiritual interests of the congregation” and that begins with a pulpit committee.”

“…the session knew they were entering a contended vote that would reshape the leadership of the church. They should have been sticklers in following the BCO and given the congregation their constitutional right to vote by ballot…the burden is upon the session, not the congregation, to ensure that the meeting and election are conducted according to the constitution.”

“The BCO in 20-5 is seeking to maintain the peace of the church by recommending orderly delay while a congregation works through its differences…The fact that so many of the voters were opposed should have been a strong signal for the moderator to observe the principle and at the least caution the majority to delay the election to continue seeking unity in the congregation.”

Multiple Ruling Elders at Midway warned in writing, proposed less divisive alternatives, and spoke out during the congregational meeting that the election was ill advised, was violating the constitution, and that the church would regret taking this action. Nonetheless, an unverifiable vote as a slate, without ballots, without counting of abstentions, or the use of a the unifying statute of BCO 20-5 was carried out, cementing 3 new permanent voters on the Session at Midway.

Further Moderator David Hall oversaw and perpetrated divisive procedures in how the congregational meeting to elect the pastors was conducted. His failure to unite the church was deepened when it came to light that he made false attestations (these are well documented elsewhere) about the election of the pastors. A matter that resulted in a credible report to the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA which is under investigation.

The meeting itself resulted in multiple complaints against the Session of Midway alleging that the election was invalid and that the 3 Associate Pastors remained Assistant Pastors, the election having been improperly conducted. Illegally using the new pastors as voters, David Hall and his Session dismissed the complaints using questionable prejudicial procedures. The Session’s respondents attempted to suppress a video of the congregational meeting that exposed their actions. Meanwhile despite insisting their apparent missteps were in fact allowable, members of the Session sought to change the rules of the church to retroactively allow their violations.

Voting the Church into Division

The outcome of the congregational meeting of July 2020 has been nothing short of a disaster for Midway Presbyterian Church. The price the congregation has had to pay for 3 new voters that have contributed absolutely nothing additional to the life and ministry of the church that they were not already contributing as Assistant Pastors has been extraordinarily high. Purity and Peace were sacrificed. Division currently prevails at the hands of an illegally constituted Session.

So how have the votes been used? For persecuting anyone who questions David Hall’s desires of course. The Associate Pastor votes have been used to dismiss complaints against themselves, indict and charge RE Philip Dudt (who opposed their election), indict and charge RE’s David, Scott, and Barnett (who also opposed their election), and to solidify dangerous policies for the rest of the church officers that they must submit or face church discipline. The ongoing secret trials the Session continues to conduct only worsen matters.

If you are a member at Midway – ask yourself if it was worth it to elevate the 3 Assistant Pastors to Associates? Might TE Knox still be at Midway having not resigned? Might TE Barry have chosen to stay? We may never know, but it is very hard to believe that the deteriorating situation didn’t have anything to do with both of their departures from the church as they attempt to preserve the integrity of their careers from the toxic culture David Hall has created since his arrival at Midway.

The Editorial Board of The Midway Guardian wishes TEs Knox and Barry blessed success in their future ministry endeavors.

The Session has not Learned its Lesson

David Hall and the Midway Session promised the congregation in 2020 that the election of the 3 Assistant Pastors as Associates was an action that was “thoroughly Biblical, well deserved, and promises enhanced stability and ministry for our church”, would bring “reformed vigor to our Session”, was “very helpful and Biblical” and would be “a positive step” that “strengthens Midway for the future”.

Failed predictions to be sure.

It would seem that given the division that has occurred from elevating Assistant Pastors to Associates in Midway’s long history, that the Session would lay low on the topic. The controversy they unleashed in 2020 was sadly not the first time questions around the role of an Associate Pastor caused division. Some may recall that over a decade ago an emotional congregational meeting ended the pastoral relationship with TE Hunt.

The need for control of the Session and its votes knows no end. In the Session minutes (dated October 5, 2021), the job description for a new pastoral intern were outlined. They say (in part):

While under the daily supervision of the Sr. Pastor, the Pastoral Intern/Asst. Pastor is accountable to the Session, who will appraise his performance of these and other duties as needed, after hearing the Sr. Pastor's report on his effectiveness.

** Note: The goal should be to offer this candidate a final internship (BCO 19) that leads to ordination. If he is promising, such ordination could occur in the second half of 2022. An ordained hire should begin as an Assistant Pastor for up to 2 years after ordination. Toward the end of that 3rd year, that Pastor should either be encouraged to use his gifts to expand ministry elsewhere or to be proposed to become an Associate Pastor here.

It sure looks like there is nothing new under the sun.

A pastoral intern that under the direction of Senior Pastor David Hall, if found promising, is on track to become an Associate Pastor. Written as if it is a forgone conclusion that a pastoral intern selected will result in yet another pastoral staff vote on the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church. Does the above statement guarantee that is what will happen? Not necessarily, but readers may note the lack of any congregational input or involvement in the decision making regarding who their pastors should be.

Even after being called out by judicial commissions at Presbytery for their “maneuver to control congregational input in the process of electing pastors without a pulpit committee – the Session sets the chess board to do it all over again. Remember that Presbytery concluded that the “muting of the congregation’s constitutionally given voice is a theme in the actions of the session.

On November 24, 2021. Midway’s Session announced a new pastoral intern to start in early 2022.

It’s all very not so hypothetical.