A tone deaf presbytery restricts others from “litigation” while allowing Midway Session to bathe in it.
At the April 05, 2022 meeting of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery, a resolution banning all future litigation was proposed and passed with near unanimous support!
The Midway Guardian has learned that mere minutes after voting to deny complaints from Midway members that would end the ongoing divisive trials at Midway Presbyterian Church, the court proceeded to propose and debate a resolution that was aimed at staying what was called “litigation” across the presbytery.
It has been reported to The Midway Guardian that Northwest Georgia Presbytery’s most influential operator of all, Midway Senior Pastor David Hall, was quick to seek clarification from the court that any such suspension of litigation would only apply to future propositions of charges and complaints and would have no bearing on pre-existing activities of his court – which to date has active disciplinary processes ongoing against more Ruling Elders than most churches in the presbytery have on their entire Session.
Ultimately, that the presbytery adopted this nonsensical resolution (the non-binding nature of which is characterized by its grossly unconstitutional nature) signals a lot about their mindset and how they view the congregants of their member churches in relation to their own members (which include all the Teaching Elders).
A child could see the illogical nature of taking disagreeing parties and simply passing a rule that they “be friends” from now on. But in this case, it is worse than that – in this case the presbytery proposed that those disagreeing with the Session at Midway are barred from utilizing the church courts to hold men accountable while allowing the Session to continue its divisive secret trials against its own members based on charges rooted in a discredited and debunked misinterpretation of church officer vows.
The Northwest Georgia Presbytery is attempting to mandate friendship among parties while allowing one of those parties to continue to pursue processes rooted in the misuse of church discipline.
Proverbs 2 refers to how the “paths are confused” of men whose wisdom is lacking. Confused messaging is oozing from the Northwest Georgia Presbytery, given past liberties taken with process and rules, seems to be the norm. If the presbytery truly wanted to end judicial processes at Midway, they would have sustained complaints to that end, and its Moderator would not have failed in his duty to call a meeting to hear said complaints. Instead, this move only makes logical sense if presbytery’s aim is to protect Midway’s pastoral staff and Session from accountability.
Total Abdication of Responsibility
It is hard to understand how the presbytery could make a proposition as a ridiculous as banning litigation, let alone pass it, given their duties as a court charged by the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Book of Church Order (BCO).
The BCO outlines the duties of presbyteries with regard to handling complaints, appeals, and requests for investigations arising from lower courts. Chapter 13 specifically describes their duties to enforce the exercising of the Constitution by Sessions – a duty they were very recently reminded of by the highest court of the PCA in a recent ruling specifically regarding Midway. It is interesting to note that this same Chapter 13 is the section appealed to by the presbytery when establishing the commission to investigate “disorder and contention” at Midway just a few months ago.
No court of the church, including a presbytery, can just decide to no longer exercise their duty. This is a total abdication of their responsibility as stewards of Christ’s church and worse – demonstrates that they are either not taking their role seriously, or fail to understand what that role is.
Proverbs 28:5 says “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” It is not just or proper to abandon the vital role of managing and administering church discipline in Christ’s church. Since the purpose of church discipline is restoration of the offending party – by attempting to ban litigation, the presbytery must have decided that the restoration of sinners is not valuable, nor is their role as Teaching Elders to instruct their officers and congregations in church discipline (BCO 27-4).
Presbytery Clerk TE David Gilbert reportedly expressed that the litigation arising from Midway was time consuming for the court and signaled that they lacked the manpower to sustain operations in the face of all the litigation. The fact that there is disorder and contention at one of their member churches should spur them on as shepherds to find the truth and solve the problems as mediators or judges as necessary – not give up because they are tired or because it’s hard. Maybe they should instruct the member of their court, TE David Hall, to ease off the litigation a little bit.
Further highlighting the presbytery’s inability to understand the BCO is how they define “litigation” as a term. Their interpretation seems to span complaints and charges. This unto itself demonstrates a massive misunderstanding of the differences of between the two… a complaint per BCO 43 is a “written representation made against some act or decision of a court of the church.” That is very different than charges brought under church discipline.
James 2:8-9 “If you keep the royal law found in Scripture, “love your neighbor as yourself” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin, and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter replied, “In truth I perceive that God shows no favoritism.”
It is interesting that this step of staying litigation was not taken when the Midway Session brought charges against RE Philip Dudt. It was not taken when the Midway Session brought charges against RE Clay David. It was not taken when the Midway Session brought charges against RE James Scott. It was not taken when the Midway Session brought charges against RE Don Barnett.
It was, however, a step the court sought to take only after receiving a request for an investigation of Midway Senior Pastor TE David Hall and TE David Barry, and Midway Clerk TE Marc Harrington in connection to their behavior in the process of bringing false charges against RE Philip Dudt.
The presbytery is clearly signaling to all that Teaching Elders and their Sessions can do whatever they want to litigate against their own, but the moment someone suggests an investigation of their own members (in this case Teaching Elders David Hall, David Barry, and Marc Harrington), a line must be drawn that enough is enough. This is favoritism at its worst.
Proverbs 11:1 says “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
The presbytery, in showing favoritism in its court through this nonsensical resolution banning litigation, is characterizing itself as a “dishonest scale”. The presbytery has allowed Midway Senior Pastor TE David Hall to unlawfully influence the court to stop judgment against himself, rubber stamped Midway Clerk TE Marc Harrington’s proven evidence tampering in the RE Philip Dudt appeal, and voted to reject complaints that would have ended unlawful judicial process perpetrated by the same. Members of the local church take note: expect no justice from the Northwest Georgia Presbytery.
A casual observer may easily draw this conclusion: the Northwest Georgia Presbytery is attempting to ban investigations into the actions of influential pastors that may lead to legitimate charges, while preserving the right of those same pastors to persecute their political enemies unjustly.
This blind presbytery may not see the injustice in that. But the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.