In what was likely a surprise to many Midway members, the Session announced via email on Thursday that an important meeting will be held in 10 days.
The text of the email read:
The Session hereby calls a Congregational Meeting following the morning worship on July 19, 2020, for the purpose of acting on a recommendation that the pastoral relations (BCO 22) of the three existing Assistant Pastors be changed to that of Associate Pastor.
Whether turnout will be comparable to years past is unknown considering the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and the fact that many people remain sheltered in place at their homes.
The email contained an attached letter signed by the moderator which discussed the Session’s rationale for the meeting. There is no mention of a pulpit committee in the rationale, as seems to be required in BCO 20-2.
The bulk of that letter’s contents is reproduced below:
Dear Members of Midway, We are happy to announce to you a recommendation by your Session to change the titles of our three pastors from Assistant Pastor to Associate Pastor, which will not change their work, but will allow them to fully participate on your Session. Many members may not have realized this, but Assistant Pastors (which Pastors Harrington, Barry, and Knox have been) presently are not permitted to initiate ministry ideas themselves, bring motions, or vote at Session meetings. Our Book of Church Order defines: "An assistant pastor is called by the Session, with the permission and approval of Presbytery . . . He is not a member of the Session." (Book of Church Order, 22-3) The simple and only change that we are proposing to you, which would allow these experienced pastors to vote and fully participate on the Session, is to change their title to Associate Pastor, with no increase of salary, as per the constitution below: "The pastor and associate pastor are elected by the congregation using the form of call in BCO 20-6 [see below]. Being elected by the congregation, they become members of the Session." (Book of Church Order, 22-2) We gladly and heartily endorse this change to you. As the Summary Rationale below suggests, we think this is thoroughly biblical, well-deserved, and promises enhanced stability and ministry for our church. We hope you will join us on July 19, 2020, following the morning worship to encourage these ministers and take a strong step forward, recognizing truly qualified pastors. David W. Hall, Moderator of Session ************************* Summary Rationale for Our Congregation * According to 1 Tim. 3:1-7, these biblically qualified pastors are certainly competent, and as helpful in guiding the church as the other elders. Thus, according to the historic interpretation of many passages, Presbyterianism has normally had pastors as voting members of a Session, based on the biblical qualifications for office and calling. * Further, 1 Tim. 5:17 is compelling and applicable when it calls for honor to be given to elders, "especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (as many other conservative Reformed denominations have long recognized). * Also, 1 Tim. 4:11-14 speaks of pastors as examined and ordained by a regional presbytery. * If we open our pulpit to and receive the Word and its application from these pastors (1 These. 2:13), surely we should welcome their governing voice in shepherding the congregation. Pastors who serve honorably should not be diminished or excluded from full Session membership. * These fine pastors have always served well, especially during the recent stressful time. Having come to know these gifted pastors, they will bring new energy, youthfulness, strength, added congregational insights, and Reformed vigor to our Session. Each is qualified, each serves in Presbytery, and these pastors are respected leaders in the PCA, in seminaries, and elsewhere. * We consider ourselves very blessed to have these committed servants regularly among us to minister Gods' [sic] Word, disciple, counsel, perform weddings and funerals, encourage you in small groups, aid the mission work of this church, and contribute in countless ways--for which we believe you are most grateful. * Adding these fine pastoral voices, hearts, and minds strengthens Midway for the future. * We have prayed earnestly about this and believe it is very helpful and biblical. We and you know these men, their office, their particular and devoted service, and our church. This, we believe, is a positive step forward for the future. * This does not increase any pastor's salary. We recommend that you attend and support the proposed change in pastoral relation as below. The financial terms, which are already part of our present budget, must be approved in this call. [Subsequent details of call omitted for privacy.]