How Midway PCA Got Here: An Intimate History of Damage and Denial

David Hall’s financial structure of the Reformation Worship Conference was the match that set Midway ablaze.

It was the fall of 2017.   Longtime church treasurer Fred Warren was once again cutting a Midway check to fund the Reformation Worship Conference.  Treasurer Warren, with 50+ years of experience, had known for some time that something wasn’t adding up with this ministry of the church, but had yet to get a deacon to be willing to look into it.   He talked to the then chairman of the Deacon’s Finance Committee, Deacon Dan Crouse.  This deacon listened to Mr. Warren and decided it would be wise for the finance committee to look at all the bank accounts of the church to ensure they were in order.   In this review, no church records relating to the Reformation Worship Conference bank account could be found.  

After further investigation, including a trip to the bank, it was determined that the Reformation Worship Conference account was not in the name of the church, but owned and controlled by a company created by David Hall.  There were no session minutes giving Mr. Hall ownership the monies of the conference nor did any member of the Session know that Reformation Worship was setup that way.   In effect, David Hall owned “Reformation Worship” without the knowledge of the Midway Session.

The review showed that over several years, tens of thousands of dollars were transferred from the church to this David Hall owned account. The conference had also raised monies in fees that were also deposited into this non-church account.   Churches are exempt from federal tax law, but not “companies” like the one setup by Pastor Hall.  There was no indication that proper tax reporting was done when transferring the monies from the church to David Hall’s company or that his company followed proper guidelines for reporting any income or speaker fees related to the conference.   On September 18, 2017, the session demanded that all monies from this David Hall owned “Reformation Worship Conference” account be transferred to a new bank account owned by the church. The session’s minutes from September 2017 reflect the creation of this new bank account the related transfer of funds.

Unfortunately the story did not end there.   The following year, the deacon that uncovered this questionable financial structure was nominated for elder by RE Phil Dudt.   When the nomination period was over, Deacon Crouse’s nomination for elder was thrown out based on the then unconstitutional vetting process the Session has been using for years.  When the deacon asked for a meeting with the Session to discuss why his nomination was removed, David Hall’s response was “when does the sheep lecture the shepherd”.   The deacon went on to file a complaint that became SJC case 2019-03.  For that, the deacon was not permitted to run for reelection to the diaconate. Elder James Scott represented Deacon Crouse during this process and after 14 months of winding through the PCA court system, the SJC found the deacon to be correct.   The “vetting” process was then scrapped.

Once the Standing Judicial Commission found the nomination process at Midway unconstitutional in the fall of 2019, Elder Phil Dudt insisted that the congregation should be informed of the ruling.   David Hall refused.  With the new nomination rules in place and being fearful that he would lose control of the session, David Hall concocted a plan to “pack” the session by elevating all three assistant pastors to associates which would give them the right to vote on the session.   On the 4th of July weekend in 2020, the session called a meeting for the earliest Sunday possible to elevate those men to associates (two of the three pastors have since resigned).   Many session members were blindsided including Elder Phil Dudt who sent an email to the congregation asking for the meeting to be postponed for “prayer consideration”.  In that email, he included a link to the SJC 2019-03 decision.

RE Phil Dudt’s e-mail to the congregation led to RE Scott Keesee and RE Wes Richardson signing an indictment to charge and later convict Elder Dudt in November of 2020 of several trumped up charges.   Eighteen months later, the SJC unanimously overturned the conviction saying the charges were false and found an unprecedented 22 errors in judgment by both the session and presbytery. The SJC also restored Mr. Dudt to office.

But that was not the only thing that came out of the July 2020 congregational meeting.   The conveners of that meeting, including David Hall, also blindsided the congregation (and most of the session) by not using ballots and voting on the pastors as a slate.   Those and other unconstitutional processes resulted in two brothers, lifelong members of the PCA, to file complaints which eventually became SJC case 2021-12.  The session quickly dismissed the complaints and the brothers then elevated those complaints to the Presbytery.   Then an unexpected twist happened, the Presbytery’s Judicial Commission agreed with the brothers.

That caused a firestorm with David Hall and the leadership of the presbytery.  They then concocted a plan to transfer the complaints to a “study committee” which would delay the process for seven months.  At the January 2021 Presbytery meeting, under the cover of executive session, David Hall and the leaders of the presbytery shredded the constitution of the PCA, where Hall and the other Midway pastors debated and voted to, in effect, stay a complaint filed against their own session.

The total disregard of the church’s constitution caught the attention of thirteen ordained men in the congregation including three sitting elders:  James Scott, Don Barnett, and Clay David.   As a result, they sent a letter to the Stated Clerk of the PCA outlining the various important delinquencies and grossly unconstitutional actions of the NWGP from the installation of the associate pastors to the handling of the complaint.

This BCO 40-5 letter incensed David Hall, who then set out to, as he said to one of the associate pastors, “break the necks of those elders under his foot”.    At that point, two new elders, Paul Fish and Russ Knight, who had served only a few months, along with Bob Whitaker and Ernie Hawley, led the charge in indicting the three veteran elders that had served over 100 years between them at Midway. The charges and suspensions were for the three elders refusing to remove their names from the constitutionally permitted BCO 40-5 document.  Even though the suspensions started in September 2021, the trial for only one of the elders has started in the ten months since, so all three elders stood suspended without appropriate due process. The RPR committee of the General Assembly later determined that the BCO 40-5 letter sent to the stated clerk was credible.

In December of 2021, several concerned members started to discuss the possibility to call a congregational meeting to remove David Hall as senior pastor of Midway.   After obtaining the signatures, the consensus of the signers was to wait until the Phil Dudt decision was final (SJC 2021-13).   The SJC decision was final in May 2022. The organizers then quietly went to Pastor Hall to ask him to consider resigning, but Hall refused and the petition was delivered to the Session on June 27th giving the them 30 days to call the meeting.

The session remained quiet for weeks and then at the last minute, on Saturday July 16th, declared the petition was invalid because only 66 signatures were from members. In the same email, they called a meeting for 9:45 a.m. on Sunday July 24th to vote to “retain” David Hall and “remove” the four elders that had been earlier suspended from their positions on the Session.

Knowing they had 90 signatures, on Sunday, July 17th the organizers of the petition asked for a copy of the membership roll as required by Georgia law.   David Hall and Marc Harrington refused, but then were compelled to do so by church lawyers on Wednesday, July 20th.  Once the membership roll was in the hands of the petition organizers, they quickly realized that 21 communicant members were illegally purged from the roll.   All 21 members also received removal letters in the mail that same day.   By then, both the session and the petitioners had retained legal counsel.

Yesterday, the two sides reached an agreement that was spelled out in an order signed by a superior court judge.   The agreement specifies that the four charged elders would resign in exchange for the 21 longtime members to be restored to the membership rolls.

Tomorrow at 9:45 am, in lieu of Sunday School, will be the long awaited congregational meeting.   The only motion remaining on the ballot is the retention of David Hall as senior pastor.   Once again, games are being played and the session is overstepping its authority.   They have already chosen a moderator, limited the meeting to one hour, and limited only voting members to be in attendance. Two associate pastors and four ruling elders have already resigned.   It is time for the remaining members of the session to follow suit. Midway Presbyterian Church needs a fresh start.

UPDATED (July 25, 2022):

With no debate allowed, David Hall survives vote to retain.

Midway voted to retain David Hall as Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church with slightly more than two-thirds of the vote (69% to 31%). The meeting took place at 9:45 this morning in lieu of Sunday School. Nobody but voting members were allowed in the old sanctuary where the meeting took place. Almost immediately upon calling the meeting to order, before the debate had started, a young deacon ran to the microphone to call the question to cut off debate. That motion passed with slightly more than the required two-thirds vote (279 out of 400 or 69%). After that, the ballot vote was taken and tallied by members of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. The same percentage that voted for “no debate” also carried the vote to retain David Hall as Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church. The NWGP leadership handled the meeting in accordance with both the Book of Church Order and Robert’s Rules of Order.

The original petition that was to “discuss and vote” on the dissolution of the relationship with Pastor David Hall, was deemed out of order by the session when they illegally purge the rolls last week. Those members were reinstated by a judge on Friday. The meeting to “discuss and vote” that was requested by the now valid petition will now never be held and no discussion will ever take place with the congregation about the abuses at Midway.

It is not clear what the longtime members that opposed David Hall will do next. Many of those members have been at Midway since childhood. The Midway Guardian has learned that after the meeting, several longtime members were fellowshipping in the old sanctuary where many had worshipped for decades. However, in a sad move, the deacons insisted they leave.