General Assembly – Threat of Censure Now Hangs Over Northwest Georgia Presbytery For the Next Year For Installing Midway Pastors

An attempt by Midway Session ally TE Dominic Aquila to rescue the NWGP from the judgment of the SJC failed…

It was certainly the hope of Midway Session and NWGP members that RPR’s recommendation to call the NWGP before the SJC to be held accountable would be defeated entirely.

Despite their best attempts, however, this plan failed, and RPR’s recommendation has been returned to the committee intact, essentially deferring the final decision until next year’s General Assembly. RPR’s recommendation will hang over the NWGP until that time, possibly ending, as one elder argued on Wednesday, in a public censure of NWGP for its actions.

The Midway Guardian previously reported that the CRPR unanimously agreed with the judgment of the men who signed the 40-5 report that important delinquencies or grossly unconstitutional actions were committed by the NWGP. The 40-5 report has been called slanderous and divisive by the Midway Session under David Hall’s leadership, using these accusations to charge and suspend three ruling elders from office who signed it.

However, a member from the CRPR in the June 22, 2022 session of General Assembly, armed to the teeth with facts, argued passionately, logically and coherently for the General Assembly to cite the NWGP to appear before the SJC to answer to evidence that “the Presbytery acted improperly in approving the calls and installing the three candidates” after the July 2020 congregational meeting.

Aquila’s Failed Attempt to Rescue NWGP

The Midway Guardian proposed that some plan was in place by NWGP to make an attempt at defeating the recommendation. It appears we were correct.

TE Dominic Aquila stood and asked the moderator to rule the citation out of order. He claimed it violated constitutional restrictions that prevent a 40-5 report being filed against the same act as a complaint (BCO 40-3).

This was an unusual argument to make for anyone familiar with the facts, especially for someone like Aquila who has served many years on the SJC.

Aquila claimed that the same matter was adjudicated by the SJC in case 2021-12. This was not accurate; readers of The Midway Guardian are aware that the SJC ruled the complaint judicially out of order and did not adjudicate the case or argue its merits. The complaint was also over actions of the Midway Session, not about actions of the NWGP as the RPR report stated.

Aquila’s argument sounded reasonable on the surface for anyone who did not know the details, but an investigation of the facts would show otherwise. His attempt to delete the recommendation almost worked; the moderator was about to rule RPR’s citation out of order, and there the matter probably would have ended.

Reasonable Heads Prevailed

Providentially, however, a ruling elder and member of the SJC stood and spoke on the matter, stating that the complaint and the 40-5 citation were, as he recalled, against different issues. Since the issues were not the same, he argued that the point of order should not be well taken. Having cast doubt on the validity of Aquila’s argument, this confusion caused the moderator to postpone the issue until the facts and the issues could be investigated and resolved.

The issue was taken up again in the afternoon session. Aquila offered no new details, again arguing that RPR’s 40-5 citation was against the same actions as the complaint of SJC 2021-12. A member of RPR stood in opposition against him, however, stating that RPR knew the facts and were aware of the complaint and BCO requirements when they recommended the citation. The citation by RPR was not, he said, against the same actions as the complaint.

The matter then went to a vote of the assembly, which defeated Aquila’s attempt to delete the recommendation entirely.

However, the same RPR member then stood and argued to delete the recommendation entirely, but for different reasons. He explained that there is nothing that can be done, the pastors were already installed, and the CRPR did not notice this discrepancy earlier at a previous assembly when it should have.

Another Elder Defends the RPR Citation

These arguments seemed to carry some weight–that is, until another member of CRPR spoke before the assembly on the matter. He refuted the arguments using facts and logic, and he made an appeal to justice.

He admitted that the CRPR had not noticed anything when first reviewing the NWGP minutes, but the 40-5 report brought new facts to light. And in that light, it became clear to many that “important delinquencies or grossly unconstitutional” actions had occurred, and the NWGP needed to answer for them.

He said this 40-5 report and the NWGP actions were the most debated and discussed all year.

He explained that he thought it unlikely that the associate pastors would be removed, but did offer the possibility that the SJC could censure the NWGP for their behavior. Because of that, he asked the assembly to support RPR’s recommendation.

The General Assembly then voted, again, against this second attempt to strike the recommendation from the report.

But on the final vote to accept RPR’s recommendation, the assembly narrowly voted no, 54% to 46%. Consequently, the recommendation was returned to RPR. Whatever decision RPR makes will be put before the GA again next year for another vote. However, RPR’s language and judgment remain intact, reminding everyone that evidence shows the NWGP improperly installed Midway’s three associate pastors and, therefore, should be held accountable.

Curious Fact

It is unknown why TE Aquila would have chosen to make such a flimsy argument to bail out NWGP if he had been as familiar with the facts as the men who served on RPR, especially given his history of serving as a judge on the Standing Judicial Commission.

Two other witnesses, both closer to the issue and armed with knowledge and facts, stood up to testify against and refute Aquila’s version of the story.

Midway church records show that the Session, through its ACTS fund, has contributed a little over $10,000 to The Aquila Report since 2016, most recently with a $2,500 payment in December of 2021. Dominic Aquila is a PCA teaching elder who co-founded The Aquila Report, a popular and influential reformed news site, and is listed as Vice President, Editor in Chief, and Co-founder on its website. Aquila served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 2006.

Surely these contributions did not factor into his decision to speak on behalf of NWGP for the errors committed at Midway, the presbytery’s largest and wealthiest church. No Christian man of integrity would despise his birthright for such a cheap mess of pottage.