Midway Deacon Elevates Third Complaint to Northwest Georgia Presbytery

The complaint is against a measure to censor officers and control public debate…

Deacon Dan Crouse, who in 2019 prevailed at the Standing Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church in America, elevated a third complaint to the NW Georgia Presbytery. This complaint was against the September 21, 2020 resolution passed by the Midway Session making it an offense to for officers to publicly disagree with the Session.

Here is the content of the letter sent to the Clerk of the Presbytery on February 11, 2021:

To the Members of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery:

Whereas, on September 21, 2020, the Midway Session passed the following resolution:

WHEREAS, public dissent of Midway officers to matters decided by the Session of Midway Church has resulted in disunity; and

WHEREAS there has been confusion and apparent disagreement about the application of Officer Vow #5 (BCO 24-6) to such public dissent;

NOW, THEREFORE, the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church does hereby declare and adopt the following interpretation and application of Officer Vows #5 and #6:

1. RESOLVED, that the words, “subjection to the brethren” in Vow #5 means that each ordained officer will respect, obey and prayerfully seek to find agreement and personal contentment with all decisions of the Session unless he finds such decision to be either heretical or in violation of the Book of Church Order.

2. RESOLVED, that should a church officer in good conscience find either heresy or constitutional violation in any decision or action of the Session, it is his duty to make complaint to the Session under BCO Chapter 43 and pursue same as he deems in the best interest of the Body of Christ solely within the procedures set forth in BCO Chapter 43.  Further, following Officer Vows #5 and #6, the officer should not publicly comment upon the issues presented in the Complaint, as same are solely within the purview of the church courts.  To expose the congregation to such issues can only serve to bring disunity and conflict.

3. Should a church officer feel compelled to communicate publicly his dissatisfaction with or any opposition to a decision or action of the Session, he should first resign his office so as not to violate his Vow #5.

4. Transgression of the foregoing by any ordained active officer of Midway may be deemed a violation of ordination vows and, unless seasonably and publicly repented of, could result in dissolution of the official relationship between the officer and the church pursuant to the provisions of the Book of Church Order.

5. Any church officer who has transgressed the preceding interpretation of Vows #5 and #6 is called upon to repent of such conduct.
Whereas, on October 16, 2020, RE Don Barnett sent an e-mail to the Midway Session which included his study on why the September 21st resolution should be rescinded (Exhibit B);

Whereas, on October 19, 2020, RE Barnett made a motion at the Stated Session Meeting to rescind the September 21st resolution.  That motion failed;

Whereas, on November 18, 2020, Deacon Dan Crouse filed the following complaint with the Session in regards to the September 21st resolution:

The Session of Midway Presbyterian Church violated the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America by adopting the September 21, 2020, above-stated resolution;

Whereas, on January 18, 2021, the Midway Session heard the complaint at the Stated Session Meeting.  Deacon Crouse made several arguments stating why, in his opinion, the September 21, 2020, resolution is unconstitutional including:

• Nowhere in the constitution of our denomination does it say an officer must resign before publicly disagreeing with any court.  (Exhibit E, page 3).

• The Session, and all courts, certainly have the right as stated in BCO 11-4 to “resolve questions of doctrine and discipline”; but they have to do it within our constitutional standards and they certainly cannot add to our standards. (Exhibit E, page 3).

• A ban of this scope would be beyond the powers of a Session because that prohibition would have no basis in the general moral regulations of Scripture. (Exhibit E, page 4).
Whereas, after the hearing, the Session went into close meeting where it was decided to send the complaint to a study committee which members included RE Don Barrett, RE Paul Fish, RE Ernie Hawley, and TE David Hall; 

Whereas, on January 24, 2021, as requested by the study committee, Deacon Crouse responded to TE Hall’s January 13, 2021 e-mail concerning this complaint. 

Whereas, on February 3, 2021, the study committee reported back to the Session via e-mail that the majority of the committee voted to deny the complaint;

Whereas, on February 4, 2021. The Clerk of the Midway Session notified Deacon Crouse that the Session voted 12-2-1 via e-mail to deny the complaint;

Whereas, BCO 43-3 states: If, after considering a complaint, the court alleged to be delinquent or in error is of the opinion that it has not erred, and denies the complaint, the complainant may take that complaint to the next higher court.

Whereas, BCO 43-3 also states: Written notice thereof shall be filed with both the clerk of the lower court and the clerk of the higher court within thirty (30) days of notification of the last court’s decision.

Therefore, Deacon Dan Crouse hereby elevates his November 18, 2020, complaint to the Northwest Georgia Presbytery, the next higher court, for your consideration.

The SJC stated in their decision for case 2019-11:  “The right to seek redress of improper actions by complaint or appeal is foundational to our Constitutional system. Both due process and basic charity demand that no member or officer should be ostracized or penalized for the mere filing of a complaint or appeal. The filing of a complaint or appeal may never, standing alone, constitute proper grounds to deny any privilege of membership or office in our church.”

This complaint is not intended to be disrespectful to the Session or any member of it.  I filed this complaint because it is in the best interest of the congregation of Midway Presbyterian Church. If elders are prohibited from freely speaking to members of the congregation, it could make if difficult or even impossible, for those elders to properly shepherd their flock. As Christians, we must be Biblical. As Presbyterians, we must also follow our ecclesiastical constitution. If any one of us believe our leadership is violating either, it is our duty to bring it to their attention and, when necessary, to higher courts.

Dan Crouse