A major inconsistency has been uncovered in the Session’s May resolution…
The Session majority invoked Matthew 18:15-18 in its May resolution, and in doing so revealed an apparent inconsistency in their reasoning.
The 40-5 letter of February reported to the General Assembly public acts conducted by officially convened courts of the church or by otherwise public presbyter action, not private sins.
The problem goes back to the all-night secret trial the Session conducted against RE Dudt. Many of the men who protested in the May meeting by claiming the signers of the 40-5 should have invoked Matthew 18:15-18 are the same men who claimed they did not have to apply Matthew 18:15-18 to RE Dudt for his alleged public “offense.”
From the trial transcript, we read this:
Moderator Hall : [00:07:01] The ruling of the chair is sustianed [sic]. So I will instruct you not to seek to apply Matthew 18 to a public offense. That is Book of Church order twenty nine, dash two.Transcript, Lines 138-140
In February of 2021, three acting members of the Midway Session, along with numerous ordained men who have previously served either as elders or deacons at Midway, sent a credible report as permitted by BCO 40-5 to the General Assembly.
The credible report alleged that important delinquencies and grossly unconstitutional violations were committed in a series of events involving public acts of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. These actions began in early August of 2020 following the controversial Midway congregational meeting held in July of 2020 to elect associate pastors.
On March 8, 2021, as a result of the 40-5 report sent to the GA, the Midway Session approved a resolution calling the three serving elders who signed the 40-5 to repent. It also attempted to refute the issues raised by the 40-5 letter, though its success was questionable.
On April 19 at the stated Session meeting, the signers gave responses to the Session. These responses were rejected, as the minutes noted “In view of the Session’s discussion of the February 14th, 2021 letter, it refers the matter back to all three signers to give them an opportunity to revise their responses to the Session.” They were given three weeks to issue revised responses.
None of the men did.
THE GUILTY RESOLUTION
It was in the approved resolution of the May 17 stated meeting in which the discrepancy appeared. The resolution began:
“The Session …
I. …deems that the various responses from brothers James Scott, Clay David and Don Barnett are inadequate to restore their trustworthiness and credibility in that their attempted responses demonstrate their failure to accept Session counsel which advised them to both:
– revise their previous or joint April conditional “apology” statements and
– comply with the Session resolution of March 8, 2021 to repudiate, repent of, and seek forgiveness for (and implicitly not to re-defend) their participation in the letter they co-signed, dated Feb. 14, 2021 to the General Assembly publicly alleging serious wrongdoing by their fellow elders in 2 church courts. This in light of 1 Tim. 5:19 and Matthew 18:15-18 [*].
[*] Matt. 18 having provided them the sufficient Biblical “standing” to privately approach brother TE/RE’s prior to publicly accusing them in front of higher courts.
Note the asterisk: “Matt. 18 having provided them the sufficient Biblical ‘standing’ to privately approach brother TE/RE’s prior to publicly accusing them in front of higher courts.”
This is where the apparent error creeps in.
Matthew 18:15 states: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
This verse describes the first step in church discipline. When one Christian sins against another, they are to talk in private and try to work it out.
The context is of a private sin. Acts of public sin are addressed differently. This is why Paul confronted Peter publicly for teaching error:
“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?’ (Gal. 2:14).
The acts in question allegedly committed by the members of the NWGP were done so, according to the 40-5, publicly, at Midway, over group email, and at the formal meeting of the NWGP. Some were done, moreover, by members of the court, acting formally in that capacity to install the new associate pastors.
The actions complained against in the 40-5 letter were described as public acts performed largely by members of the church courts acting officially in that capacity.
The 40-5 letter does not actually claim that the acts are sins. It does not call individual men by name. The acts were allegedly committed by men who were operating in official capacity as judges sitting in the courts of God’s church.
If the alleged violations were offenses, then they were public offenses against God and His church, and as such the procedure of Matthew 18 does not apply.
This is the same reasoning the Session accusers used against RE Dudt in justifying why they did not follow the procedure.