All three men now face trial at the hands of a vengeful session.
If they are found guilty, and they certainly will be by what is left of the Midway Session, they could face excommunication. James Scott was born into Midway, baptized there, and spent 50 years as clerk of the Session. Don Barnett has 30 years as a session member including being a founding and current officer of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. Clay David has 25 years on the Session, Diaconate, and is a founding member and current chairman of the MCCS School Board.
What exactly did they do to deserve such treatment?
What exactly did these indicted elders do to deserve such treatment? It all started with the contentious congregational meeting of July 2020. Several questions arose before, during, and after that meeting concerning the constitutionality of the process. Two brothers, lifelong members in the PCA, noted the Session likely violated BCO 20-2, 20-4, and 20-5 in the meeting and exercised their right, afforded to all members of the PCA, and filed a complaint.
Complaints are not easy. Often some in church leadership take great offense to anyone pointing out they may be wrong. But the brothers went through the steps, were denied by the Session, and elevated those complaints to the Presbytery. Once a complaint gets to the Presbytery, it gets more complicated and more time consuming, but they persevered through the months of procedures, briefs, and a hearing.
They patiently waited for a ruling, and when it came in a few days before the presbytery meeting, the commission ruled the brothers were right, the Session did, in fact, violate BCO 20-2, 20-4, 20-5, 43-2. But then the most influential members of the presbytery started to put their thumbs on the scales of justice.
The next day (Thursday), a revised judgment was sent to the presbytery in effect changing the redress. The complainant did not receive that version. The following day (Friday), the Midway respondents sent a motion to the entire presbytery which would, in effect, stay the judgment. This action was, to the brothers and others, a clear violation of the circulation rule stated in BCO 43-2. And then worse of all on Saturday, under the cover of executive session, while the complainants were barred from of the meeting; the respondents sat, deliberated, and voted on the motion they submitted the earlier day, an obvious, or gross, violation of the BCO 39-2. The result was delaying the judgment for seven months.
Thirteen Ordained men said “this is wrong”
Thirteen Ordained men, including the three indicted elders, all born well before the PCA was formed, all served in various capacities at Midway, heard what happened and said “this is wrong”. They took the only action afforded to them in our church’s constitution and filed a 40-5 report with the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America. The three charged elders were among the thirteen that signed. The purpose of BCO 40-5 is to report “important delinquencies or grossly unconstitutional proceedings” of a lower court to the next higher court. That is what the signers perceived was the case when they filed this report against the lower court which was the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. None of those signers of the 40-5 have recanted.
Needless to say, the majority on the Midway Session took great offense to such filing. Ironically, the Presbytery didn’t seem to be that upset about it. Nevertheless, here we are with four elders, one-third of the ruling elders, all duly elected by the congregation, are now suspended from their sacred duties. Here we are, with three ruler elders now being indicted and facing trial. So sad.
In the SJC 2019-11 written decision concerning the Midway Session, the SJC stated “The right to seek redress of improper actions by complaint or appeal is foundational to our Constitutional system. Both due process and basic charity demand that no member or officer should be ostracized or penalized for the mere filing of a complaint or appeal. The filing of a complaint or appeal may never, standing alone, constitute proper grounds to deny any privilege of membership or office in our church”. But that did not stop the Midway Session from dragging these men through the mud. So, here we are. So sad.