Even after the accused ruling elder requested that his trial be kept open to the public…
Dozens of people showed up to support Ruling Elder Phil Dudt during his trial before the Session.
After opening with prayer, Elder Ernie Hawley moved that the remainder of the trial be held in executive Session. He read a pre-prepared motion which would disallow all but a few people from remaining in the room.
In response, Elder Dudt quoted Rev. J. Gresham Machen, who advocated for an open trial in his case in the 1935. Machen stated that “[c]ourt proceedings ought to be open and above board. That right is accorded the most degraded criminals under our civil laws. If men are deprived of it in church courts, that means that the church is standing on a lower moral plane than the world at large. Religion will seem to many people to be little more than a delusion and a sham when it is made the cloak for tyranny such as this.”
Elder Clay David, as the defense, pointed out that no motions could be voted on in executive session. The moderator then called a vote and the vote passed to enter executive session.
The dozens of members who came to witness the trial and support Elder Dudt were then ejected. Elder Scott moved to allow Elder Dudt’s wife, Sue, to remain to support her husband. The moderator disallowed this and ejected her as well.
UNDERMINING CONFIDENCE IN THE CHURCH COURTS
This is a shameful lack of transparency on the part of the Session and apparently reveals a complete unwillingness to provide a fair and unbiased trial. It is made all the more egregious by disallowing Mrs. Dudt to remain, which is an affront to the marriage relationship that the Session would claim to uphold.
Ultimately, after running all night, at around 6:00 am on the morning of November 12, 2020, the Midway Session voted to convict Elder Dudt on both charges alleged in the indictment. On the first charge, RE Dudt was found guilty by a vote of 10-2 with 1 abstention. On the second charge, RE Dudt was found guilty by a vote of 11-2.
The censure of indefinite suspension from office passed on a vote of 9-3 with one abstention.
Elder Dudt immediately provided notice of appeal before leaving the room.
RE Dudt was indicted in part for communicating with the congregation via email in opposition to the motion proposed at the July congregational meeting, urging delay and indicating that the Session’s motion to elevate pastors to the status of associate was unconstitutional in that it violated BCO 20-2.