Faithful Servant Profile: Ruling Elder Don Barnett

Midway Presbyterian Church’s Peacemaker.

Given that Midway Presbyterian Church is in the unprecedented situation of having a third of the Ruling Elders elected by its congregation indicted, charged, and suspended in recent times by the Session majority led by Senior Pastor David Hall, the Midway Guardian Editorial Board is pleased to continue the series: Faithful Servant Profiles. This series is intended to highlight a faithful servant from Midway’s Session who has been on the receiving end of misused church discipline.

Ruling Elder Don Barnett

Don Barnett began attending Midway Presbyterian Church in 1980 and soon joined the covenant family with his wife Karen. Not long after, Don was elected to serve as a Deacon at the church. Later, in the early 1990s, he was elected to the office of Ruling Elder.

Don was one of the founders of Midway Covenant Christian School. He served as its first Chairman and held that position for a decade. During his tenure, the school grew from seven students in its first year to nearly 300 across grades K4 through 8th when he rotated off the board in 2010. Don then returned to the school board for four years starting in 2017 and oversaw the building of the new Middle School complex and guided the school through the Covid-19 crisis.

Don is considered by many to be extraordinarily knowledgeable on matters concerning Presbyterian polity, church governance, and the inner workings of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). His service is well known to extend beyond the local church as he has repeatedly served as a delegate to the PCA General Assembly throughout his tenure as a Ruling Elder and has represented his church and presbytery faithfully in so doing. He served on the Overtures Committee to the General Assembly as the Northwest Georgia Presbytery’s representative in 2018. He has volunteered for various trips through Mission to the World (MTW) – the PCA’s mission sending agency. He currently is the Treasurer of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery where his careful financial management has blessed the wider Presbyterian community for well over a decade. Having served also as a Trustee of the presbytery, a position he still holds, his steady and wise presence is a staple in the life of the presbytery.

His contributions to Midway Presbyterian Church are profound. He has led domestic mission trips, served on relief trips, and currently serves as a Sunday School teacher where he shares the Gospel faithfully. He has been involved in a variety of important committees over his tenure in office including the mission committee and the committees that studied how to expand the campus of Midway responsibly. He served as the chairman of the building committee that oversaw the gymnasium construction. He participated on a committee that developed the interior design of Midway’s large 2009 sanctuary. He served on the pulpit committee for the church in the early 2000s.

Known far and wide as a peacemaker, Don was unquestionably the right Ruling Elder with the right temperament to lead Midway’s Discipline Committee. A wise and gentle man who understands that the purpose of church discipline is to reclaim and restore brothers in Christ.

Any objective look indicates that Don Barnett delivers nothing less than the picture of a man who is a soft spoken peacemaker. He strives to be a uniter in all situations and is never a divider. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Surely Ruling Elder Don Barnett is among those who can rightly be called a child of God.

Charged and Suspended…

Sadly, Ruling Elder Don Barnett was indicted and suspended from his office and is awaiting trial for a manmade offense (outlined in a secret report) by the Session majority under Senior Pastor David Hall’s leadership following his signing of a credible report. The Session insisted he repent for signing the report, but then did not accept Don’s apology for any unintended offense that his participation in the credible report caused. Worse, the Session insisted that Don take his name off of the credible report, suggesting that doing so would end the pending disciplinary process against him. Don bravely refused, rightly determining that to remove his name from a letter he signed, the contents of which he stands by as truthful, would be the equivalent of lying. Don refused to lie. Further, the Session has denied him reasonable indulgences at his upcoming trial, including a request for an independent moderator and a court reporter. Don will be tried in secret against his will – just like his fellow Ruling Elders Clay David, James Scott, and Philip Dudt. He was charged alongside his brothers Rulings Elders Clay David and James Scott who stand accused of the same manmade offense of signing a credible report.

It is a sad irony that the proper procedures for church discipline have been ignored by the Session in their charging and suspension of Don Barnett – the very man who as the chairman of the discipline committee under ordinary circumstances would ensure that church discipline is properly carried out in accordance with the Book of Church Order.

Does the Session expect the church to believe that this man who served faithfully for decades in a variety of positions has all of the sudden become a slanderer who has signed his name on a divisive letter? Interestingly, multiple entities with the denomination have determined that the letter is not slanderous but in fact credible and worthy of investigation.

Don’s crime? Signing a credible report to the PCA’s Stated Clerk outlining alleged unconstitutional behavior at the local presbytery. Don stands charged even though the signing of a credible report of this nature is a constitutionally protected right and Midway’s Session has been warned in the past by the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) that asking higher courts for review is a protected right of all members of the church. 

How can it be that a man who has served the Lord faithfully over decades, committed to peacemaking and finding reasonable solutions to disagreements in his local church, is all of the sudden charged and suspended for exercising his right alongside 12 other ordained men to alert higher courts of the PCA of procedural missteps in lower courts? Perhaps his conviction was more motivated by the politics of control on the local Session than by any “offense” he has committed.